Gladys Angelica de Leon didn’t always have it easy. But she refused to let her hardships get her down.
“She was a survivor. She was able to overcome a lot of things,” said her daughter, Lizette Romulus, of Great Neck. “But the things that she overcame didn’t define her. It was how she lived her life that defined who she was.
"She was a very strong woman, and she would want to be remembered that way. She would say that she lived a great life surrounded by love.”
De Leon, of Uniondale, came by herself from El Salvador to the United States in the mid-1970s. She settled in Queens, where she met her future husband, Leonel Fernando de Leon.
In 1992, the couple bought a house in Uniondale, where they raised three children. They would have celebrated their 42nd anniversary on May 27.
On May 4, Gladys de Leon died of complications from COVID-19 at age 71.
The next day, Gladys’ seventh grandchild was born to daughter-in-law Jamie and son Fernando de Leon of Westminster, Colorado. The baby girl is named Clara Gladys de Leon.
“It made us happy in the most bittersweet way you can be,” said Gladys’ son Samuel de Leon, of Uniondale. “That’s how I’m going to view it: My mother passed so my niece could come into the world.
"I feel like that’s the last unselfish act that she did. It was special. It was crazy, to say the least, that it happened the next day. For that moment, it kind of brought a calm over us.”
Gladys de Leon’s mother died in childbirth in El Salvador when she was 12. She and her three siblings were split up and raised by different family members.
Gladys went to live with her grandmother. She told her grandmother that she wanted to move to the United States for a better life, but promised to wait until after her grandmother had passed. Her grandmother lived into her 90s. Gladys kept her promise.
Gladys de Leon was a cancer survivor, having overcome non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She liked doing crossword puzzles, dancing and taking walks on the beach with her husband. She was a Mets fans who would text play-by-play to Samuel during day games when he had to work. She was her daughter’s best friend.
“She was a mom’s mom,” Romulus said. “She was a very loving woman. She cared about everyone.”
Other survivors include her sister, Ana Martinez of Uniondale; and brothers, Mauricio Martinez of San Salvador, El Salvador, and Alejandro Rivas of Los Angeles.
A private funeral was held in Uniondale.