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Updated: 12/11/2008 - 4:17 AM



No longer a stranger
Family sheds light on woman killed in Flanders
  11 comments below

News-Review photo by Barbaraellen Koch
Stella Arbelaez places flowers, candles and stuffed animals at the site in Flanders where her mother, Stella Tascon, was killed last week.
In life, Stella Tascon was twice featured on television news programs, not only as a street vendor who sold locally famous Colombian pastries, but for her self-appointed role in helping emergency vehicles maneuver through the crowded streets of Jackson Heights, Queens.

"She became quite a colorful character," one of her daughters, Stella Arbelaez of California, said this week. "She would wear these neon vests and while the ambulances would try to pass Roosevelt Avenue, she would stand in the road with a whistle, spread her arms to the side and stop traffic so the emergency vehicles could get by.

"She would stand out there on call, as needed."

News-Review photo courtesy of Stella Arbelaez
Stella Tascon was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Flanders Road last week.
Though hundreds of people, including other street vendors and scores of locals, police and firefighters, attended her wake Friday at St. Joan of Arc R.C. Church in Jackson Heights, Ms. Tascon remains a stranger to the Riverhead community.

And her killer remains at large.

According to police and relatives, Ms. Tascon, 71, was living in Flanders temporarily, tending to an ailing family friend, when she was mowed down by a hit-and-run driver Nov. 22 at the intersection of Flanders Road and Cypress Avenue.

'We just want whoever did this to come forward and face the music.' ¬­¬­-- James Brown, fatal crash victim's son-in-law
Relatives later learned that she had gone out for an afternoon walk.

"One of the things, for me, that is so tragically ironic," said Ms. Arbelaez' husband, James Brown, "is that she fought traffic for 15 years, being literally inches from all types of cars and trucks as a street vendor. Then she goes out to an isolated area of Long Island and gets gunned down by a single car.

"We just want whoever did this to come forward and face the music and clear their name and move on," Mr. Brown said. "Otherwise, they'll have to live with it the rest of their lives."

To commemorate Ms. Tascon's life and death, family and friends from Flanders, Queens and Long Island gathered Sunday morning under steady rain to retrace her final moments.

Carrying flowers, candles, ribbons and photographs, some 35 people met about 11:30 a.m. at the place where Ms. Tascon was killed and then walked to the Flanders Riverside Volunteer Ambulance station on nearby Evergreen Road, where her body had been immediately transported after the accident.

"My goal was to make it known that she was here," Ms. Arbelaez said of the vigil. "This wasn't just an unknown person. Her body was claimed. Her body was loved. I didn't want her life to go unknown."

Ms. Arbelaez and her siblings also said that they hoped the emotional outpouring might compel anyone with information on who killed their mother to contact Southampton Police detectives.

The children are especially motivated because their father, a graduate of Yale University, was killed in Colombia some 20 years ago.

Like their mother's, his death also goes unsolved.

"We're on a mission now," Ms. Arbelaez said, adding that she lost another sister to cancer some 10 years back.

According to her family, Ms. Tascon married at 27 after rising to the top of an insurance agency in Colombia -- unheard of for a woman at that time. She later moved to New Haven, Conn., where her husband was pursuing a doctorate in public health.

After he graduated, the couple ran a medical laboratory in Colombia. But she later moved to Queens, with two daughters in tow, to make a better living.

Her husband was making plans to work in a lab in Connecticut when he was killed in Colombia in 1988, leaving Ms. Tascon to care for four children, all of whom later graduated from college, and one of whom also went through medical school, family members said.

Ms. Tascon supported her family first by driving a taxi and working in a spaghetti factory, and later by selling her homemade cookies.

"Her joy was to see people happy and to help people," said Ms. Arbelaez, a cartoonist and Fashion Institute of Technology graduate. "About two years ago, she was given a plaque from the Colombia Civic Center as a citizen of the year because she was involved in helping new Colombian immigrants find jobs, apartments, clothes. She would also send used clothes and such to Colombia.

"She had a very, very large heart. And she was very proud both to be Colombian and American. Oh, when she became a citizen, she was just so thrilled," her daughter said.

Although Sunday's vigil helped the healing process for Ms. Arbeleaz, her younger sister, Carolina Arbelaez of Pennsylvania, emphasized that peace for the family will not be achieved until the hit-and-run driver is captured.

"We always speak to our advanced judicial system in the U.S. and due process," Carolina Arbelaez said. "I can't fathom the fact that the people who killed my father went uncaught and justice was never served. To have the same thing happen here I feel is completely unacceptable and incomprehensible.

"There is no real reason for that to happen in such a small town... where everybody knows everything about everybody," she continued. "It is just not OK. It is not OK for a community to just let things go. At some point, the people that live in that community need to take ownership of the good and the bad and really start to make a difference."

But the family is grateful for the condolences and words of support they have received from some residents here.

Ms. Arbelaez said it was important that she and others who attended the vigil Saturday visited the ambulance station on Sunday.

"The volunteers who were there were the first ones who came to my mother's aid," she said. "It was very important to us to thank them because not only were they with her, but they were volunteers, and so was my mother.

"A volunteer paramedic on her way home found her body and called 911," she continued. "She told us our mother did not die alone.

"She died in her arms."

Police have so far been unable to locate any witnesses to the Flanders crash. Anyone who might have any information that could help in the investigation or lead to an arrest is urged to call the police department at 728-5000 or the tips hotline at 728-3454.

mwhite@timesreview.com



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11 comments found

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HwzUxDSzWklBTUFp : 6/15/2012
Sally Kwekel - You don't know me, but we know Lola's wonderful gma & gpa (John and Cindy DeYoung) at Rogers Heights CRC. The pitcrue of precious Lola with the tear coming down breaks my heart. Yet, I know that Jesus is there with her (and the whole family) as she journeys through this awful disease and treatment. Know that our prayers are with you all as you do your very best to embrace the life you lead joy love peace to you!




Forever loved : 5/13/2012
Mom, you are forever loved and forever missed. I am forever grateful. Thinking of you specially on mother's day and tomorrow, your 75th birthday. I atill hope that some day, I see your smile again.




Stella Tascon : 12/6/2008
Thank you for giving the community a glimpse at what our mother was. Thank so much to the community members and local law enforcement that have been so caring and sympathetic towards us. Carolina Arbelaez




Asesinato de una bella tía : 12/4/2008
Mi nombre es María Victoria, pero mi familia me dice Vicky. La muerte injusta de mi tía Stella Tascón nos ha dejado muy impresionados y con un inmenso vacio en el corazón. Mi tía amaba su familia, a sus hijos, hermanos, sobrinos, toda la familia en general y a sus amistades, nunca criticaba a nadie y siempre estaba pendiente de ayudar a quien lo necesitara y para nosotros es una gran perdida, porque fue y seguirá siendo un orgullo de haberla tenido como un miembro más de nuestra familia. Yo, personalmente, solo tengo bellos recuerdos de mi tía. Ella era una gran persona y un excelente ser humano. Mi tía daba lo que tuviera por una persona que lo necesitara, siempre tenía una palabra de consuelo cuando uno más solo se sintiera. Era de las que le daba de beber al sediento, de comer al hambriento, y techo al desamparado y no se merecía una muerte tan cruel, por una persona sin conciencia, un criminal sin sentimientos y sin caridad humana, porque matarla y dejarla abandonada, sin intentar prestarle ayuda o al menos hacer una llamada para que recibiera la ayuda necesaria, no tiene perdón de Dios y se merece la cárcel de por vida, esa persona es un ser despreciable, miserable, un asesino que no merece vivir. Deseo que descanses en paz y que brille para vos la luz perpetua, que Dios te tenga en su santa gloria. Tía, siempre vivirás en los corazones de quienes te quisimos y admiramos verdaderamente, no es una despedida final sino un hasta luego, te adelantaste un poco a nosotros, pero algún día nos reuniremos nuevamente y hasta ese día, se que donde estés, también estarás ayudando a quien lo necesite. Tía, te habrás ido, pero te juro, que jamás serás olvidada. Tu sobrina que te quiso, te quiere y siempre te querrá. María Victoria "VICKY"




Stella Tascon's article : 12/4/2008
Thank you for your time and effort in helping us tell our mother's story. We appreciate the work of all involved in the publishing of this article; specially Michael. Sincerely, Stella Arbelaez-Brown




Stella Tascon : 12/4/2008
My heartfelt condolences go out to Stella's family. I grew up on the very corner that this accident took place. My Mom & Dad operated a Deli from 1947-1951 & later Dad built a small Venetian Blind Factory @ that location 735 Flanders Road. In 1963 while on leave from the Navy I was sitting on the front porch with my Dad, when all of a sudden we heard a crash. It was a head on collision just west of Rosie's Deli. Dad & myself immediately ran to the scene to see if we could help with the passengers in both cars. The driver that caused the accident was "DWI" & had come over the center into the other cars lane. The car that was law abiding was a Family of four. The Mom & Dad were both in the front seat, & the two Children were in the rear. The Children both wound up in the front seat & the mother was pinned in unable to be removed until the FFD came with the appropiate equipment. The Mother Died and all the others were hospitalized. My Dad and myself did go to CSH to visit them the next day. The Father advised me that his Wife had passed shortly after being removed from the wreckage. He had not told the Children yet of their Mom's passing. He was a Steeple Painter from Queens finishing a project in Bridgehampton & on the way home. He had his Family with him for the week long project. I never saw this Family again but, their loss has remained with me all my life. I hope that Stella's Family receives some resolution & that the driver of the auto causing this accident is brought to justice. They will all be in my prayers. May God Bless them all. Stella is in a better place now joining her Husband & the Childrens Father.




Hit and Run : 12/4/2008
A touching story by Michael White. He shows how much there is to life beneath surface appearances. Such a lovely person. Such a tragic life! What is it about the Flanders Road that so many lives are still being lost there? We hope the crass drive who left this poor woman to die is caught soon.






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