In a family photo, taken in 1965, Catherine Hawa is shown with her husband, Edward (r.), and her son, Michael
Grieving siblings say the Midwood hospital where their mother died kept her body in its morgue for seven days before telling them of her demise.
Catherine Hawa died on Nov. 16 at New York Community Hospital — but staffers at the 134-bed acute-care facility on Kings highway didn’t notify her children, Michael and Jeanette, until Nov. 23, the brother and sister charged.
Hawa’s corpse remained unclaimed for over a week, until an employee of a funeral home Michael hired picked it up on Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day.
“The thought that she laid there cold and dead — it’s a horror,” said Michael, 64, of Morrisville, Pa. “It’s just too sad to digest.”
There’s added anguish in their mourning of Hawa, an 89-year-old widow who lived on E. 5th St. in Kensington until going into a nursing home two years ago.
Jeanette, 66, of downtown Brooklyn, said she was headed out to visit her mother at the hospital on Nov. 23 — just when she got a call from someone there telling her Hawa had been dead and in the morgue for seven days.
Michael said a hospital employee phoned him that day, too, and apologized for the delay in contacting him.
“I really don’t know why we didn’t call you,” he said she told him.
Hawa’s wake and religious service took place Monday at Herbst-Trzaska-Waldeck Chapels in Bay Ridge. She was buried Tuesday at The Evergreens Cemetery.
The Indianapolis native moved to Brooklyn after her 1946 marriage to Edward Hawa. Her husband, an official in a Penn Central railway clerks’ union, died in 2000 at age 87.
For years, Hawa, whose friends and family called her Kay, sold greeting cards at downtown Brooklyn department store McCrory’s. She was involved in neighborhood groups like the Friends of Kensington, a Kensington Library fundraising group of which she was president.
Her son has early childhood memories of Hawa telling him about going to downtown Brooklyn immigration offices to sign papers vouching for Jewish refugees from Europe.
“She would tell me she felt sorry for the Jews who had been in concentration camps,” Michael recalled. Hawa was a Catholic who joined the Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Church when she got married.
A New York Community Hospital exec, Una Morrissey, said its records contradict the sibs’ account of when they were first notified of their mom’s death. A staffer phoned Jeanette at 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 16, just 15 minutes after her mother’s death, and talked to Jeanette about Hawa’s passing, the records indicate.
Normally, New York Community Hospital notifies relatives within three hours of a patient’s death, said Morrissey, the senior vice president for operations and chief nursing officer.
Jeanette insisted no one from the hospital spoke to her, early or late, on the day her mother died.
“Why would I lie?” she said.
That night, she was sleeping over in a Borough Park nursing home where family friend Laura Cacace is staying. Cacace, 70, had fractured her shoulder, and Jeanette has been helping her out.
Cacace said she didn’t hear any predawn phone conversations that night. Jeanette showed a Daily News reporter her two cellphones. The lists of received calls stored in them didn’t show any 2:45 a.m. calls on Nov. 16, or any other night, either.
Other relatives of Hawa’s are upset by how the hospital handled her death.
“It hurts to know they let her lay there for a week,” said her sister Mary Jane West, 87, of upstate Cobleskill. “She’s at peace now with my mother and father — that’s what I pray for.”