Nobody could blame Sharon Weiss if she wants to hide in a closet or a bunker when her next birthday rolls around.
Over the last three years, Weiss’ Oct. 3 birthday – and sometimes the weeks surrounding that date – have been ravaged by one tragedy or calamity after another.
This year, it was an apartment fire that destroyed most of the meager possessions of Weiss, 57; her husband, Garry, 55; their daughter, Jessica, 21; and Weiss’ grandson Santana Santiago, 4. They lived in the apartment on Leddy Street, in the Buffalo neighborhood known as the Valley.
On the two previous Oct. 3rds, two of Weiss’ dearest relatives died. And a few days after her birthday last year, her husband fell in a parking lot and broke his leg so severely that he had to be put into an induced coma for a month while the leg healed.
And while Garry Weiss was in that coma, two of his closest friends died, both unexpectedly.
“It’s gotten to the point, when my birthday is coming up, when the month of October comes up, I get real scared,” said Weiss, who works as a cleaning woman. “I actually get sick to my stomach worrying about what could happen next.”
The fire on Weiss’ latest birthday occurred while her husband was out buying flowers for her, in an effort to make her feel a bit better about the difficulties she has encountered on her birthday.
“I was at work. My husband went out and took the bus to Tops to pick up some flowers for me, so they’d be waiting when I got home,” Weiss said. “He was gone about an hour. When he got home, the Fire Department was there, putting out the flames.”
Her son called her at work to tell her about the fire and, thankfully, to inform her that no one was in the apartment when it happened. Fire officials blamed the blaze on a faulty electrical fixture.
“Everything we owned was either burned or got real bad smoke damage,” Weiss said.
“When my son called me at work about the fire, I just started screaming, ‘No, no, no, it’s my birthday again! My birthday curse!’ ” Weiss said.
Two years ago, on Weiss’ birthday, her aunt, Gloria Woods, died of cancer. She was in her late 60s.
Last year, Weiss lost her mother-in-law, Loretta Weiss, 76, to a heart attack. And a week after that, her husband snapped his leg in two. While he was in an induced coma at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, his close friends Terry Kuwik and James Bush died.
“It was so sad when we had to tell Garry that his two friends were gone,” Weiss said.
The Buffalo woman has endured other hardships in recent years. She spent years taking care of her mother, Eudora Wasielewski, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She lived with Weiss and died in July 2010.
But some wonderful things have happened to Weiss’ family, too. In July, Garry Weiss Jr. and his wife, Jennifer, had twins, Madison and Mason. They also have a 4-year-old son, Preston.
“Thank God for my grandkids. They are the joy of my life. I hug those twins every chance I get,” Weiss said. “The grandkids are what got me through the past couple of years.”
Weiss and her family have been living with relatives since the fire, while looking for a new apartment. She said she, her husband, her daughter and her grandson recently found an apartment on Euclid Place in the Valley and will be moving there within the next few weeks.
Weiss works for Held’s Janitorial Services, a company that cleans buildings downtown and elsewhere in the Buffalo area. Her husband is a former moving company employee who receives disability benefits because of a back injury.
Family members, neighborhood friends and Buffalo News employees where Weiss works have donated hundreds of dollars to the family and are now trying to collect clothing, furniture and appliances to help the family in their new home.
These people, Weiss said, “have been wonderful.”