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Democrat File Photo by Nathan Mayberg

FLORIKA DIMA, CENTER, and her family leave the White Lake Reformed Presbyterian Church in November after the funeral for her husband, Catalin, the county’s first direct casualty of the war in Iraq.

Dinner to Benefit
The Dima Family

By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO — December 17, 2004 – There’s an old Army motto – leave no man behind.
Florika Dima and her three children have been left behind.
Dima’s husband, Sgt. Catalin Dima, died in a mortar attack in Iraq last month.
Now the people who have traditionally worked to “support our troops” are pulling together to help support a family wracked by tragedy.
Stephanie Johnson, head of the local chapter of Operation Support Our Troops, has organized a dinner, set for Monday evening, to help raise money for the Dima family.
The Elks Lodge on North Street in Monticello will open up shop at 4:30 p.m. and keep serving supper until 8 p.m., hopefully bringing in enough money to help Florika Dima give her sons Christian and John and daughter Angela some kind of Christmas.
Johnson said she had never met the Dima family before tragedy struck. But he was a soldier from Sullivan County – a White Lake resident for the past five years.
“This was a soldier I never got to send a box to,” she said.
So now she, and the Elks, are taking it upon themselves to provide the same sort of goodwill to the Dima family that the boxes sent by OSOT to the soldiers in Baghdad have always brought.
For Florika, it’s hard to put into words what the community has meant to her in the weeks since her husband’s death.
“It eases the pain a little to know so many care for someone they don’t even know,” she said.
Dima wants people to know about her husband, the man she met on a blind date and married a few months later.
He was truly the love of her life – she even proposed.
And after two years of trying to have a baby, they finally conceived Christian five years ago.
His birth cemented their link to Sullivan County – Florika’s parents had bought a home out of the city, and she was visiting when labor pains started and she headed to the hospital in Harris to give birth.
With a child to raise, the family decided the city wasn’t for them, and they settled in White Lake.
“It’s a better environment for kids to grow up in – compared to the concrete and the high rises,” she said.
In Sullivan County, the family found a nice place to raise their kids – Angela, now 4, and John, now 3, quickly followed their eldest brother into the world – and they discovered kind neighbors.
But Florika Dima didn’t know how wonderful those neighbors could be until tragedy struck.
“I knew people were kind here,” she said. “I didn’t expect this kind of kindness.”
Cards and letters of support have been pouring into her home – she’s tried to keep up, writing thank you notes, but it’s been tough.
With three young children at home and the holidays at hand, she’s afraid she’s missed some people she’d like to thank.
She’d like people to know what it meant to see them at Catalin’s funeral, how good it’s made her feel to see a sign erected by the gas station in memory of her husband.
“It’s given me some comfort, I don’t feel so alone,” she explained.
Florika said it’s been getting harder – she just received a box full of Catalin’s belongings, and his unit returned from Iraq this month without him.
She can’t bear to start looking through the box, and she doesn’t know how to answer her children’s questions.
Daddy promised to take them for ice cream when he got home – they don’t believe Mommy will know the way.
The hardest times are the mornings, when she wills the phone to ring.
Catalin’s calls always came in the early hours so he could catch Christian before he went off to school.
Even on the weekends, he called in the morning, like he did the Saturday he died. He called to tell his children he loved them and to tell Florika he’d be home soon.
“He promised to baby-sit to give me a break,” she recalled, her voice quavering. “He loved them so much.”
That’s why the Romanian immigrant chose to join the United States military.
“He didn’t want to die, he wanted a better future, to better the kids’ future,” she explained.
“Whatever he did, he always told me, ‘Make sure the kids always have what they need – don’t be cheap’.”
Florika will be attending the dinner Monday night to share the stories of a wonderful husband and a wonderful father.
She’ll be there to say thank you to as many people as she can.
Johnson said Dima hasn’t asked for anything.
“She doesn’t say, ‘We need such and such,’” Johnson said.
But Johnson hopes people will offer up their hearts as well as their donations.
“They can come, they can participate, they can help serve, they can come eat dinner with us,” she said. “I hope it gives them an opportunity to show their support.
“You can’t just support the troops,” Johnson explained. “You need to take care of the people who are left behind.”
The dinner will be held from 4:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, at the Elks Lodge on North Street in Monticello.
Dinner will be $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12, and free for kids under 5.
Donations made out to Florika Dima can also be sent to the Wal-Mart branch of the First National Bank of Jeffersonville, 33 Anawana Lake Road, Monticello, NY 12701.
For information, call Stephanie Johnson at 796-2339.

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