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Rebuilding Lives After Husband and Provider’s Death

Posted on January 13, 2015 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

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Leukemia took Jean Carlos Ocasio in November, but the apartment he shared with his wife, Yaresly Cosme-Alicea, and their daughters, ages 4 and 7, still vibrates with his presence.

It is in the walls he painted in warm earth tones, the steel kitchen shelves he custom made, the dividing wall he built in the apartment’s one bedroom, which is only half-finished, beams and Spackle still visible. Mr. Ocasio, a 28-year-old who worked in construction, could be found building, tools in hand, until the very last months of his life. He remodeled his family’s apartment, using recycled cabinets and castoff supplies from work sites…

With Mr. Ocasio unable to work, and his $1,600 in monthly disability benefits unable to cover the rent, food and utilities, Ms. Cosme-Alicea realized she needed help in becoming the primary breadwinner. In 2014 she enrolled in professional development classes at the Grace Institute, a Catholic Charities affiliated nonprofit organization for economically disadvantaged women. On Oct. 27, the day of Ms. Cosme-Alicea’s graduation from the Grace Institute, he suffered a stroke. A week later, he died.

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