CORTEZ – The Cortez Kitchen and the friends of longtime employee Delmar Apolonio held a fundraiser on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The money raised will help grant Apolonio’s final wish: to be returned to his Brazilian homeland.
Apolonio, 54, was recently hospitalized and his short battle with cancer ended on Friday, Dec. 14. The fundraiser was planned prior to his passing. The remaining funds will be used to aid Apolonio’s family.
A funeral service will be held on Friday, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. at St. Jude Catholic Church, 3930 17th St. in Sarasota. Apolonio’s body will then be sent home to Brazil.
Apolonio’s sister, Dagmar Apolonio and her daughter Ashiley Livingston (Delmar’s niece) live in Sarasota and attended Tuesday’s event.
“Thank you for everything,” Dagmar said of the fundraising efforts.
“We’re going to fly him back home. My mom, my brothers and all my family want to see him. They can’t believe what’s going on. Everything happened in two weeks,” she said of the sudden turn of events.
Apolonio’s longtime friend Linda Ames and her husband Gene helped organize the fundraiser. Ames, a local business owner, met Apolonio more than 20 years ago when Pete Barreda opened the Cortez Kitchen.
“His last wish was to get back to Brazil and that’s what this is about. He was a beautiful soul and he will be missed. I think we’re going to make our goal and then some,” Ames said during the event.
“It was an amazing turnout and the business community gave so much. The community came together to cover the cost of Delmar’s last wish,” she said later in the week.
A friend remembered
Earlier this year, Apolonio and Marisela Vega started their Sarasota-based M&D Residential Cleaning service. Prior to that, Cortez Kitchen manager Nancy Taillon-Alloe worked with Apolonio for more than a decade.
“I worked with Delmar from day one, when I first started here almost 13 years ago. He was here when the previous owners Pete Barreda and Marisela Vega had it. He’s been an icon here in the village and he’s going home to Brazil. That’s what this fundraiser is all about. Initially it was to assist with his treatment,” Alloe said.
Barreda spoke highly of his friend and former employee.
“Delmar was an incredible individual and somebody we could all learn something from. He worked for me for many years. He was always even-keeled. I never had to tell him what to do and he always did the dirty work. It’s amazing how many people’s lives he touched, which I never realized until last week when we started putting this together. I’m proud to be his friend and see all these people come together whose lives were touched by Delmar. He’s touched my life immensely. The guy was just unbelievable,” Barreda said.
Cortez Kitchen owner Joe Oelker said Apolonio worked for him off and on for 14 years: “He was dishwasher, sushi roller and cook. Whatever you wanted done, he’d do it. He was good at everything he did. He had a great work ethic and he was a real good friend. We’re definitely going to miss him.”
The fundraiser included two 50/50 drawings, a silent auction and raffles for several items donated by local businesses, including restaurant certificates, limousine rides, fishing trips and more. Tim Chandler and TH&C both performed free of charge and contributed their tips to the fundraising efforts.
Swordfish Grill General Manager Bob Slicker met Apolonio more than 10 years ago and served as Tuesday’s master of ceremonies.
“Delmar was probably the nicest guy I ever met. He gave one of his kidneys to his brother years back and we had a fundraiser here for that when Pete owned it. I called him ‘Delmar the Magnificent’ since the day I met him because he was always happy and up,” Slicker said.
Local artist Rose Lipke was among those selling raffle tickets and assisting with the fundraising.
“When Pete opened The Kitchen, Delmar, me, Pete, Marisela, Kris Vingelli and Misty Smith were part of the first crew here. He was one of the most fun and easiest people to work with. He never had a bad word. He’d do anything for you and he was the first one in and the last one out,” Lipke said.
Lipke said Delmar had only been sick for a couple weeks and his cancer metastasized rapidly, including into his remaining kidney.
“He was a sweet guy. It’s sad,” said longtime Cortez resident Jane von Hahmann.