When he took over in 2014 as pastor of Second Samaria Christian Church in the Bronx, the Rev. Ruperto Garcia Gonzalez focused on growing the church’s membership.
“He took a church that had maybe 20, 25 members to 200 within a few years,” said his son, Jason Garcia of Brentwood. “Just the way my dad preaches — you could even YouTube it.”
There are several videos of the Rev. Ruperto Garcia preaching on YouTube. There is also a moving tribute video posted by his church on May 21 entitled “Celebramos la vida de nuestro Pastor Reverendo Ruperto Garcia.”
Garcia, a Brentwood resident, died on May 3 at 75. He was hospitalized in late March after contracting the coronavirus. After 20 days on a ventilator, Garcia was released from Huntington Hospital to a rehab facility. But he suffered a heart attack soon after and died, according to Jason Garcia.
“He was my role model,” Garcia said. “He was everything to us. I even got messages from Germany on Facebook when he passed away.”
Ruperto Garcia was born in 1944 in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. He went back to the island in the early 2000s after the death of his mother and helped build a church. It’s something he did many times, including last year in Honduras.
“Everywhere he went he was involved with the churches,” said son Jose Rosario, also of Brentwood. “My father was very giving to people. And he was always there for us when we needed him. He was the ideal father.”
Garcia’s first church he led as pastor was in Camden, N.J., when he was 21. He later was a pastor in Puerto Rico and met his wife of 42 years, Gloria Garcia Melendez. They had 10 children — nine of them sons.
Garcia loved his family. He loved his church. He loved gardening. And he really loved a good meal.
“He loved his food, man,” Rosario said. “That was one of his hobbies — to go and find places where he could find good food and enjoy life.”
Other survivors include sons David and Ricardo Rosario, also of Brentwood; sons Abner, Samuel, Jabes, Juan Garcia and Ruperto Jr., all of Buffalo; daughter Deborah Garcia of Palm Beach, Florida; sisters Noemi, Milca and Rosita Garcia, all of Orlando, Florida; 18 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A private funeral service was held in Bay Shore.