HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Hempstead community has responded with overwhelming care and love after COVID-19 took the parents of two Long Island siblings.

The coronavirus claimed the lives of a couple deeply in love, Ernesto and Sandre Lemus, leaving their grief-stricken children — 22-year-old Johalmo and 18-year-old Sandra — parentless.

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“There are only two people who had the luxury of being their children, and that was me and my sister. They were awesome parents,” Johalmo said.

“The house just feels really empty, and then you kind of feel lonely,” Sandra said.


Sandre was a vivacious stay-at-home mom, and Ernie was a hard-working, beloved chef at a Mineola restaurant.

Both tested positive on the same day and felt sick enough to go to the hospital.

The siblings, both local college students, never dreamt it would be the last time they’d see their parents alive.

“In theory, I didn’t even get to say, like, goodbye,” Johalmo said.

Soon, they received distress calls from the medical staff.

“I was on the phone with the doctor and I just started crying,” Sandra said.

Sandre had slipped away.

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“I’m over here crying my soul out over Mom,” Johalmo said.

They relied on their deep faith and overwhelming response from their church and former high school community, Kellenberg.

Yet two weeks later, another unexpected loss — Ernesto’s organs shut down.

“That was the eighth day of the rosary for my mom, so a lot of people were coming because it was towards the end, and they found out, so at least we had someone to comfort us,” Johalmo said.


“Ernie was just part of the family here. It’s just a rough, tough time for everyone here. We decided to do this GoFundMe and try to make something good out of it,” said Joseph Vetrano, at Spaghettini’s of Mineola.

They are fundraising for funeral expenses and the children’s futures.

“At times it’s like, you’re just angry ’cause you’re like, they’re not even here and I’m 22 and my sister’s 18,” Johalmo said.

Ernesto will be buried Monday at the Queen of Peace Cemetery next to his beloved wife, Sandre.

“And other times it’s like alright, well, they did pass away, but look at all the people helping us,” Johalmo said.

“The community and, like, the love that it’s given us is really nice,” Sandra said.

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Strength to overcome agony.

Jennifer McLogan