From left, William Ayala, Zaida Ayala and Carmen Milagros Ruiz in an...

From left, William Ayala, Zaida Ayala and Carmen Milagros Ruiz in an undated photo. Credit: Courtesy Sylvia A. Diaz

About two years ago, Carmen Milagros Ruiz was living in Odessa, Florida, when she came to visit her family in Medford. 

Ruiz, who was known as Millie, ended up moving in with her sister, Zaida Ayala, and brother-in-law, William Ayala.

“She came for an extended vacation,” said their niece, Sylvia Diaz of Smithtown. “And then she just never left. They were the 'Three Musketeers.'”

In a span of less than a month, this large and close family suffered an unthinkable series of losses, all due to complications from COVID-19, according to Diaz.

Ruiz died on May 22 at the age of 79.

William Ayala, who was known as Bill, died on June 13. Zaida, his beloved wife, died four days later at the age of 72.

“My aunt would want to be with her husband anyway,” Diaz said. “I don’t know how — if she had survived — how she would have survived knowing her sister passed and her husband passed.”

Zaida Ayala and Bill Ayala were married for nearly 51...

Zaida Ayala and Bill Ayala were married for nearly 51 years. Credit: Courtesy Sylvia A. Diaz

Of the couple, who were married for nearly 51 years, Diaz said: “Just wonderfully vibrant people who were very colorful and kind. People just loved them. They were drawn to them. So it’s been very hard for the community of people who know them. Everyone’s in shock.”

The couple’s anniversary was on June 21, which this year was Father’s Day. The Ayalas were the parents of six adopted children and had six grandchildren.

Ruiz, who worked until retirement at the housekeeping department of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida, is survived by her daughter, Carmen Lopez of Odessa, Florida, and her son, Daniel Sanchez of Tampa; four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

“She was devoutly religious,” Diaz said. “She was very spiritual. She was also very funny. She loved a good story and she found humor in most every circumstance. If she was around now, she’d figure out how to make us laugh in the time we were all grieving the most.”

Bill Ayala was an Air Force veteran. He worked for the New York City Transit Authority before retiring and finding a new career as the director of senior programs for Adelante of Suffolk County. He took care of those he called “his seniors” up until the day he fell ill.

Zaida (pronounced ZAY-da) Ayala was a retired branch manager of a Citibank in Brentwood. She was known for a flair for the dramatic.

“Zaida was born in the wrong century,” Diaz said. “She should have been born in the Victorian era. She just exuded the pomp and circumstances of that era. They were part of a Victorian club. They were regular people, but she just loved this. At my wedding, she was wearing a Victorian-era Spanish dress with a Spanish comb in her hair and it was red. When she walked into the church, everyone gasped. She was so vibrant and beautiful.”

The Ayalas are survived by their children: Emma Homan of Greenport, Jem Lopez of Central Islip, Donald Ayala of Medford, Eric Ayala of Shirley, Lucy Ayala of Shirley and Christian Ayala of Medford.

William Ayala is also survived by his brother, David Ayala of Trenton, New Jersey, and sister, Gloria Ayala of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Zaida Ayala and Ruiz are also survived by their sister, Ana Elba Diaz, who has lived next door to the Ayalas in Medford for 47 years. She is Sylvia Diaz’s mother.

Ruiz was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram. The Ayalas were buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Wading River.

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