By Elaine Almonte, Niece of Bienvenido Reina
Many people want to leave a legacy behind after they are gone, and sometimes people leave us not knowing how much they mattered and what exactly their legacy was.
I want to thank you for all your stories. You could often be found at the epicenter of a household, most likely in the kitchen (or other small crowded nook) telling us about some funny [thing] that happened to you, or funny [thing] you noticed. People don’t get enough credit for noticing things. My uncle, you noticed a lot. Whether it was gathering crumbs from the far most corner of the table and skillfully wiping it clean in one swoosh, or noticing that we were kids in need of candy and trips to the bodega. Thank you for the times you gave us a dollar in the 90s to buy chips and Now & Laters.
Thank you for teaching us how to be of service and to speak well.
Thank you for taking the time to make things beautiful — from the garden in your backyard to the chandelier you picked out and installed in my mother’s living room.
Everywhere you went, you noticed. I want you to know that people noticed you!
We all have that one uncle that always wears a suit. You were always decked out, like you were ready to meet the president at a moment’s notice. That’s how I remember you, tall, elegant in a suit and a hat, always at your service.
You are probably a good reason why we don’t think twice about doing someone a favor: FE ESPERANZA Y CARIDAD (Faith, Hope and Charity), words written on the water tank at your mother’s house in your motherland. Words I know you never forgot after you left from there and came over here to start a better life.
Though you were not a religious man, you were a man who worked hard and never gave up. You fought to make it in America, while never forgetting where you came from. There was never a shortage of food, laughter, and good stories amid our family, and that was because of you.
I want you to know that [your] stories, big and small, they all add up. Over our lifetime, we will remember them and tell them again and again, each time probably adding a thing or two for good measure, just as you did. You will always be a part of us. You will continue to enter our conversations and stories anywhere we are and inhabit them comfortably because you will always be, “bienvenido” [his name means welcome].
Bienvenido Reina passed away on March 4, 2017, he was 72. He is survived by his wife of 46 years Maria Reina, his daughters: Claribel Reina, Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, Denisse Reyna, and Damarys Reyna, 9 grandchildren, 14 nieces, and 14 nephews.