By Amaris Castillo
October 20th, 2010
Neri Rosa found him seated on a tree trunk, felled by the recent tornado, with a friend just outside Maria Hernandez Park. Jaime Bergollo, 75, was playing old Puerto Rican bolero music on a radio. Rosa sat beside Bergollo and as the sun descended, he remembers cheerful conversation and laughter.
After some time, Rosa got up to leave. The retired botanica owner remembers Bergollo gathering his belongings to do the same.
“He asked me if I was going to the center on Monday,” Rosa said. “I said ‘Yes, we’ll see each other on Monday.’”
Shortly after they parted ways on Saturday, Oct. 2, Bergollo was struck by a speeding car and died.
Police reported that Bergollo was crossing the intersection of Knickerbocker Avenue and Melrose Street when he was hit by a 1973 Mazda. The car, driven by a 20-year-old man, was heading northbound on Knickerbocker. Bergollo was unconscious when police responded to a 911 call. He was taken to Woodhull Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Two weeks after his death, family members and friends are still struggling with grief over the loss of Bergollo, who was well-known by many in his neighborhood for his cheerful disposition and for being a hard-working man who provided for his family.
Bergollo was born on Jan. 12, 1935, in Manatí, a town located on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, and raised in nearby Barceloneta. His son said he worked as an electrician in Puerto Rico and later joined the U.S. Army. After his stint in the military, Bergollo moved to New York to live with his brother and worked in the garment industry until retirement.
“He was always with his cane,” remembers Randy Rolón, 41, who lives across the street from Bergollo’s home in Bushwick.
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