Orlando Moncada pursued the American dream and grabbed it with both hands. When he came into the United States from Peru 40 years ago, at the age of 16, he didn’t know a word of English. He found his way, with his mother and two siblings, to New York, where they joined his father, who was already working in the city cleaning buildings.
Young Orlando, too, found work as porter and rose to the position of foreman for ABM Industries, a large company that manages office buildings and other spaces. He last worked at 450 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, where he oversaw the cleaning staff and handled administrative tasks, among other duties.
Moncada died April 8 at New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, New York. He was 56. The cause was complications of the novel coronavirus, his daughter Bonnie Moncada said.
Moncada was born near Lima on Dec. 27, 1963. He entered the country illegally through Mexico. The first time he and his family members made it to the U.S. side, they were turned back. But they found the coyote who had brought them and a second attempt was successful.
Over the years, he and the rest of the family gained citizenship and bought a home in Yonkers.
“The only way they were able to pay for the house was because everybody was pitching in,” said Bonnie Moncada, a schoolteacher. (Another daughter, Erika, is a nurse.)
The house was dilapidated when the family bought it, but they fixed it up and it came to contain three generations of the extended family, as many as 10 people in all, including Orlando Moncada’s parents, Hector and Hilda.
Moncada had a passion for fixing things, whether it was broken appliances at home, or taking things apart, like wristwatches. He loved Italian novelty songs like “Eh, Cumpari!” — “I have a lot of memories of sitting in my dad’s car, heading to the diner, laughing at him trying to sing in Italian,” Bonnie Moncada said. “I think he thought he had been Italian in another life.”
He never forgot his roots. When Peru suffered a devastating earthquake in 2007, Moncada raised money for relief efforts from those who worked in the office building where he worked. He collected so much that he was able to fly to Peru and charter a bus that he filled with food, water, blankets and other emergency goods. Working with local people and police, he brought the supplies to the hard-hit city of Pisco, where he helped hand them out.
A first marriage, to the former Brunilda Rosa, ended in divorce; Bonnie and Erika were their daughters. He later married Claudia Ibarra.
Ibarra also became ill with the new coronavirus; she had been working in another Manhattan office building largely emptied during the pandemic. She is now recovering.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .