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Contributed Photo

Anastacia Martins as a child

Family of Teenager
Struggles With Loss

By Jeanne Sager
MILESES — December 12, 2003 – Tish Martins has lost her rock.
The mother of three girls who were made in her likeness – with Martins’ dark brown hair and soft features – is living a parents’ nightmare.
Last Friday she received a call at work from her father.
“You have to come home right now,” Pat Fredo said. “Anastacia has been in an accident.”
Martins didn’t ask any questions. Her heart was in her throat when she went to her boss to say she had to leave her job as a nurse at Catskill Regional Medical Center.
And when she arrived home in Fremont Center, her worst fears were realized.
Anastacia died that Friday afternoon shortly after school on a twisty road near her neat, white house.
Her small Ford Escort had struck a tree, cutting short an already short life – her birthday was just weeks away.
On Christmas Eve, Anastacia Martins would have turned 18.
She left her small family in Mileses feeling “empty,” said sister Amanda, at 16, Anastacia’s “little sister.”
“It’s like not having a hand or a leg or something,” Amanda explained. “I just keep walking around the house expecting her to pop up . . .”
“Or walk in the door,” Tish added.
“It’s a major void in all our hearts,” said Patti Lambrigger, Anastacia’s godmother and Tish’s sister.
The Martins family hasn’t been alone since Friday when cards, letters, flowers and food began pouring into the home.
The funeral at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Obernburg brought 400 people out on Monday morning. It drew four busloads of students from the Sullivan West school system.
The New York State Police had to stand on the county route outside the small church and direct the traffic of grieving residents who felt as though they’d lost one of their own.
“She touched so many people,” Tish said. “She touched everybody’s heart – she would even talk to strangers.”
That was just Anastacia’s way.
As a small child, Tish remembers her eldest daughter standing up and saying, “Mom, I want to be a doctor.”
She was attending classes at the New Visions Health Academy in Liberty this semester while working as an x-ray transporter at Catskill Regional Medical Center – the hospital where she was born and the place where she’d hang out after school, visiting her mom and chatting with others in the medical field.
Anastacia had already begun looking at colleges where she could pursue a degree to become a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.
An honor roll student, she had her eyes on St. John’s or Quinnipiac.
But she also had her heart in the very essence of teenage life.
She loved the prom, and she insisted on having everything “just so” to go out to the grocery store.
She was excited to be a senior and going to college next year, Tish said.
Anastacia loved science and was looking forward to spending her first few days in the new Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington next year, taking a college-level biology course.
“She loved school and loved her friends, and it was a real, sincere, true love,” Lambrigger said. “She wasn’t fake – she loved her car and her Italian background and her Brazilian/ Portuguese background.
“She really loved her life.”
“She was good at telling stories,” Amanda recalled. “All she would do was tell stories – they were horrible, stupid stories, but she was so flamboyant she made them sort of good.”
“A 15-minute story would take an hour,” Tish added.
Anastacia was the family videographer. She whipped out the camcorder in time for the Christmas morning unwrapping ceremony, Thanksgiving dinner, even the first snow.
“She even narrated them,” Amanda said.
In part it was Anastacia’s love of the holidays. Last week when Sullivan West closed its doors because of a snowstorm, she spent a day baking cookies and planning to deck the halls for the season.
“My sister and I always teased her that she was another Martha Stewart,” Tish said.
“Her room was always the neatest,” Amanda added. “She’d come into my room if there was a sock out of place and yell at me to clean my room.”
The sisters were close, Amanda noted, as close as two girls a year apart could be living in one house and sharing a bathroom.
“We’d get into fights, but she was always there for me,” Amanda said. “She’d always come into my room and plop down on my bed and say, ‘There’s this guy.’
“I never thought of her as this big, wonderful older sister, but she was always there, and last week was the worst week of my life,” Amanda added.
It was perhaps hardest on Tish, who has seen her worst nightmare come to life.
“She was my rock – she would do anything for me,” Tish recalled. “And it’s been unbelievable – how many friends I had and how many friends she had who’ve come out.
“The flowers, the food baskets, it’s been . . . not overwhelming, but just unbelievable,” she continued, tears starting to well in the eyes shaped just like those that shone brightly from Anastacia’s face. “The cards and . . . I don’t know how to express it.
“It’s unbelievable how many people she touched,” Tish continued.
“She was very giving and loving to everyone – she was a radiant and loving person,” Lambrigger added. “She brought smiles to everyone, and she was always there for her sisters, taking care of them when her mom had to work.”
Her aunt, Tish’s sister-in-law Dawn Fredo, likened Anastacia’s life to a candle that might flicker but burned brighter after one of life’s trials.
“Stacia was a warm glow of love and life when God brought her to us, and it was not hidden in any sense of the word,” Fredo noted. “In times of trials, I am so glad she came to me to share, receive wisdom and reflect on those times in quiet moments of love.
“They were a gift to me from God,” Fredo added. “I am amazed as I look back and see how God allowed her to do more things in her short life than most people can ever say, to burn bright in the hearts and lives of many people and to live on forever in our thoughts.”
Tish wants people to remember her daughter as a girl who loved life, who had a bright smile and a beautiful face, who loved her birthday and never quite got over losing her grandmother Arlene Fredo four years ago.
She wants people to know about the little girl who always ran to her daddy, Chico Martins, and begged him to rub her legs. Amanda wants people to remember the girl who thought her sister telling a story about her on-air on WJFF was the coolest thing.
They want other kids to remember the happy girl they knew in Catholic Youth Organization, SCIL, Quiz Bowl, soccer, basketball and band.
“All I know is that she was full of life,” Tish said.
And that life, cut short last week, will live on in the hearts of friends and family and Tish and Amanda Martins and little Anatalia, Anastacia’s 5-year-old sister, who will grow up hearing stories of a sister who had the smile of an angel and a heart that’s up above.

Contributed Photo

Anastacia Martins dressed up for her junior prom in May

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