The matriarch of the large New Jersey family died Wednesday night without ever knowing that her two oldest children had died before her.
Grace Fusco — mother of 11, grandmother of 27 — would sit in the same pew at church each Sunday, surrounded by nearly a dozen members of her sprawling Italian-American family. Sunday dinners drew an even larger crowd to her home in central New Jersey.
Now, her close-knit clan is united anew by unspeakable grief: Mrs. Fusco, 73, died on Wednesday night after contracting the coronavirus — hours after her son died from the virus and five days after her daughter’s death, a relative said.
On Thursday, another child who had contracted the virus, Vincent Fusco, died, the relative, Roseann Paradiso Fodera, said.
Three other children remain hospitalized, two of them in critical condition, said Ms. Paradiso Fodera, the family’s lawyer who is Mrs. Fusco’s cousin and is serving as a spokeswoman.
Mrs. Fusco’s eldest child, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, of Freehold, N.J., died Friday; after her death, the family learned she had contracted the virus. Her eldest son, Carmine Fusco, of Bath, Pa., died on Wednesday, Ms. Paradiso Fodera said.
Mrs. Fusco, of Freehold, died after spending Wednesday “gravely ill” and breathing with help from a ventilator, unaware that her two oldest children had died, Ms. Paradiso Fodera said.
Nearly 20 other relatives are quarantined at their homes, awaiting test results and praying in isolation, unable to join together to mourn their deep collective loss. Friends are doing what they can from afar.
“If they’re not on a respirator, they’re quarantined,” Ms. Paradiso Fodera said.
“It is so pitiful,” she added. “They can’t even mourn the way you would.”
As of Thursday afternoon, nine New Jersey residents had died after contracting the virus, which has infected at least 742 people statewide.
But the virus’s devastating toll on a single family is considered as rare as it is perplexing.
New Jersey Health Commissioner’s Warning
The state’s health commissioner, Judith M. Persichilli, has said Ms. Fusco-Jackson had no underlying health problems.
Ms. Paradiso Fodera said the woman’s younger siblings were also in good health before contracting the virus.
“They’re young and they don’t have any underlying conditions,” Ms. Paradiso Fodera said.
She and four of her children were being treated at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, about an hour south of Manhattan, relatives said. Mr. Fusco died at a Pennsylvania hospital near his home, Ms. Paradiso Fodera said.