GREENPORT, NY — Gary Roth, Jr., is just 22 years old. But when his father died on March 23, he left Gary and his three brothers, 17, and 13-year-old twins, orphans. Now Gary Jr. is stepping up to fill the shoes of both his parents — navigating the heavy weight of grief with the firm resolve that above all, he needs to keep his family together.
A GoFundMe, “Gary Roth”, was created by Daniel Welch of Riverhead.
“It is with my deepest condolences that I announce the passing of Gary Roth,” Welch wrote. “Not only does he leave us and all our Flanders family and friends, but he also leaves behind his five children” — Gary, Jr. also has an older stepbrother — “one of whom now, at the age of 22, must assume the responsibility and care for not only himself but his brothers. Because unfortunately, they lost their mother not too long ago — and are now without the love and guidance of both parents.”
The GoFundMe, Welch wrote, is for Gary Jr. and his siblings. “We ask that you please help with whatever amount you can afford. Our goal is $10,000 but with your help, together, we can crush that goal, so please donate. Big or small, every bit counts and is greatly appreciated from the bottom of all our hearts.”
To Gary, he wrote: “May we one day meet again in heaven, ‘G.’ You will be greatly missed.”
Speaking with Patch, Gary Jr. said his mother died four years ago of a heart attack when she was 32. His father also died of a heart attack, he said, sobbing.
Now, Gary is left to raise his brothers; he filed for custody Thursday. He feels blessed by the tremendous support of his uncle, his father’s brother, who lives in Riverhead, and his older stepbrother, he said.
The gaping loss echoes. He’s still numb, he said.
His father was a stay-at-home dad, Gary said. “He was there every day, constantly. And then, he was just gone.”
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The death of his father was unexpected, a cruel and unimaginable blow.
“That morning, when I called the ambulance, I can’t get it out of my head,” Gary said. His father woke up and couldn’t catch his breath. And then, he began turning blue, he said.
“I called the ambulance. He passed out on the steps. They laid him on his back and took him from me — and that was it.”
Gary never spoke to his father again. Because although he was told he had a pulse all the way to the hospital, in the end, he was gone.
His brothers are devastated and he is their sole caretaker, he said.
Despite the overwhelming sense of grief and despair, he knows that his parents would want him to keep the boys together. “Absolutely,” he said. “My mother and my father didn’t care about money. As long as we were together, that’s all that mattered.”
His family lived in Mastic and just recently moved to Greenport, Gary said.
Remembering his mother, Gary’s voice again filled with tears. “She loved us boys,” he said. “Oh, my goodness — we were her everything.” His mother was giving, caring, and would help everyone and anyone, he said.
Gary also reflected on his father: “Oh, man, my dad, he was a heavy-set guy. From the outside, he was a really tough and scary-looking dude. But he had the biggest heart, if you got to know him. He would do anything for us.”
When his mother died, it was “really, really rough” for his father and their whole family, Gary said. “I helped him with the boys. He used to call me his ‘Ace Boon Coon.’ He was a wonderful man.”
Asked if he feels his father would be proud of him, doing all he can to protect his brothers, Gary said softly, “I hope so.”
The days ahead loom, but Gary is determined to forge forward. “My dad always used to have a saying, ‘Grin and bear it,'” he said. “I live by that.”
His voice serious, he said his goal is to raise his brother to be like their father. “That’s what I want,” he said. “My parents would want us to be together, that’s why I’m doing this.”
Since his mother died, Gary has assumed many responsibilities for the boys. “I’ve kind of been taking care of my brothers my whole life,” he said. “I never left home. They already looked up to me — but of course, we had our dad.”
When asked what life lessons his parents had imbued him with, what well of strength he draws from when the days daunt, Gary said simply: “It’s just love.”
Love is his guiding light. “You’ve just got to love them. Love everyone. Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you.”
To donate to the GoFundMe, click here.
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