By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
I was saddened, as were many others, to hear about the death of Alirio Rodriguez.
He died May 11, aged 70, at Niagara Health System’s St. Catharines site, a victim of COVID-19.
Mr. Rodriguez was a parishioner at St. Kevin Church, Welland. We often attended the same Sunday morning Mass, 8:30 a.m.
He came to church almost always in suit and tie. A fashion statement on his part? No. I took it as a sign of his deep respect for the space he was in. A sacred space.
He greeted others with a smile and handshake, both were warm and winning.
His verbal greeting was short but sweet: “Good morning, brother.”
He and his wife had a favourite pew. You could find them in it Sunday after Sunday unless for some reason they were delayed and arrived later than usual, at the cost of losing their place.
He was one of the volunteers who carried collection baskets from pew to pew for the weekly envelopes or cash donations from the faithful. He also participated in the offertory procession with gifts to the front of the church after the collection. After Mass, without fail, he stood in the foyer distributing the weekly bulletin to parishioners on their way out.
I asked why all this was so important to him. He answered with a smile that stretched from ear to ear and just a few words, many were not needed: “Because it is work for God.”
Now, a sentence in the well-crafted death notice on the funeral home site amplifies that answer: “He spent his life serving the Lord and volunteering.” The link to the death notice is: Obituary of Alirio Hernan Rodriguez | Welcome to the George Darte F… (dartefuneralhome.com)
Some Sundays, our paths crossed in the afternoon. On those occasions he was at church as a participant in the Hispanic Mass celebrated in mid-afternoon, I was there waiting for the 5 p.m. Mass to begin. Mr. Rodrigues was one of the organizers of the weekly service for the local Hispanic community.
He was one of the last to leave, staying behind with his wife, talking with families, especially young families who were in attendance. He loved joking with the children, making them laugh.
He was a long-time volunteer at St. Kevin food bank and he made visits to parishioners who were patients in hospital, taking Holy Communion to them. There is much, much more in the death notice.
He left Colombia years ago for a chance to have a better life in Canada. Mr. Rodrigues, who loved his new country, was forever proud and grateful for being able to call it home.
Although Mr. Rodriguez’s wife, Dora Maria, also had COVID-19 she survived but is in poor health. A fundraiser has been organized to help her with her husband’s funeral costs and other expenses. For more information (be sure to read the part about his employer) here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Support-for-expenses-due-to–Alirios-decease?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1
Mr. Rodriguez will be missed by many. But memory will make him a lasting image at his post in the sunlit foyer, bulletins in hand waiting for people to walk past.
“Thank you, brother,” we would say as he gave us one. He liked that.
(Lasting Image is a recurring feature on the blog. Some others in the series: Caesar Hajdu, Never One To Miss A Game, October 21, 2020; Fred Turner, Forever A First-Class Guy, March 29, 2020; Gerry Berkhout, He Shone His Light On Others, January 4, 2019; Augusto Macoritto, Gifted Lensman, August 21, 2018; Ivan Zecchini, His Countenance Glowed From Wide-Eyed Appreciation, July 18, 2018; Keith Hornibrook, Opening Doors to Addictions Recovery In Dignity, July 11, 2018; Steve Krar, Neighbourhood Nostalgia Buff, Visionary Leader, July 11, 2018; Mother Alba Puglia, Tireless Trailblazer, June 18, 2018; Michael Santone, A Barber Of King Street, January 23, 2018; Marjorie Hannah, July23, 2015; Rosie Smith, June 26, 2014; Bob Fralick, May 7, 2014; Frank Addario, February 24, 2014.)