BELMAR — In a show of support for the families of Mitzi Hernandez-Nicolas, 13, and Emily Gonzalez Perez, 12, community members and borough employees attended a funeral service Friday for the two young cousins, who perished in the same drowning incident last week.
The two Belmar Elementary School students died four days apart after being pulled from the ocean near 9th Avenue on June 15. Their deaths have prompted an outpouring of grief in Belmar. A gofundme.com drive, for financial assistance to their families, was launched for the two “Belmar Angels.”
Despite the strenuous efforts of first responders, who pulled both girls from the sea on Thursday, June 15, Mitzi died that evening and Emily died Monday, June 19, after four days on life support at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune City.
The two cousins were in the sixth and fifth grades respectively at Belmar Elementary School, and June 16 would have been their last day of school before summer vacation.
Teachers from the school, as well as other children, were present inside St. Rose Roman Catholic Church on Friday, where a 10 a.m. public viewing was followed by a funeral mass at 1 p.m., conducted in Spanish and English. The girls’ obituaries had invited members of the community to attend.
Also present were Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty and borough employees, including police officers.
Rev. Msgr. Edward J. Arnister, pastor of St. Rose, referred to the two girls as “angels of joy” as he addressed their young friends during teh funeral mass.
“As you know, they had a lot of joy towards everyone,” he said. “They brought that joy to their family.”
Obituaries for Mitzi and Emily stated that they “were always together, whether it was playing, soccer spending time at the park or trips to the beach. Emily played the clarinet while Mitzi played the saxophone. They even enjoyed dressing the same. They could always be found with a big group of friends around them or at home, eating their moms’ cooking. They will truly be missed by all who knew and loved them.”
Mayor Doherty has announced that money from sales of tickets to tonight’s Mayor’s Ball, at the Taylor Pavilion, will be used to make a $20,000 donation to the families of the two girls, to help cover medical and funeral expenses.
Belmar reporter Connor Northrup contributed to this story.
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