Roberto Tobias Jr. lost both of his immigrant parents to the coronavirus in a single month — but he’s not letting the tragedy halt his dream of healing others.
The family of the rising senior at Frank McCourt HS in Queens was among the hardest hit by the pandemic. His father, Roberto Sr., died after helping to treat an elderly neighbor with the virus.
His mom, Loida, died after working as a nurse and tending to her stricken spouse. Even even he and his sister got sick.
“I was just numb,” Tobias Jr. told The Post. “I didn’t know how to process it.”
Roberto has now raised more than $25,000 in just two days to help him pay the cost for the future costs of college and medical school, after appealing for help in the aftermath of his parents’ deaths.
“I want to live up to what they established,” he said. “I really admired what they persevered through to give their kids a foundation.”
Roberto’s father grew up destitute in the Philippines, before moving to America in 1990. He toiled for more than a decade as a bartender at the World Trade Center before 9/11.
With her husband unable to find reliable employment, Tobias Jr.’s mother, Loida Tobias, a nurse, was forced to extend her already long workdays to keep the bills paid.
“It sounds like a cliche,” Tobias Jr. said. “But their work ethic, their compassion for each other, their emotional maturity – it really inspired me growing up.”
When the coronavirus began ravaging New York, Tobias Sr. learned that an elderly upstairs tenant in their small Astoria home had fallen ill. Despite the risks, he assisted the ailing woman whenever she needed help.
He soon began feeling unwell.
“He self-isolated,” his son said, adding that he and his sister also got sick with milder symptoms. “He would sit in a dark basement by himself for weeks, just watching TV. It was really difficult.”
Despite his wife’s care, Tobias Sr.’s condition deteriorated quickly and he was eventually hospitalized in March.
“I remember holding his hand in the car on the way to the hospital, Tobias Jr. said. “I just told him everything was going to be okay. That his family was going to be alright.”
He passed away at age 72 roughly two months later.
Loida Tobias, who worked full shifts at a Harlem hospital before coming home to tend to her fading spouse, soon fell sick and was hospitalized with COVID-19.
She died a month after her husband at just 61. Both had pre-existing conditions.
But rather than let his dreams of medical school collapse, the high schooler said he focused on preserving what his parents had built for their family.
“I know that they would want me to push through,” he said. “That is what has kept me going.”
Tobias Jr. started a GoFundMe page to help with looming college costs.
In less than two days, friends, teachers, and complete strangers had raised more than $25,000. “It was overwhelming,” he said. “I didn’t expect much from it.”
Tobias Jr. said he hopes his story can uplift countless other city kids whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.
“Maybe this will give them some drive to press through,” he said. “To have confidence to pursue what they want to pursue in life.”
Tobias Jr., who maintained a 93 grade average last year, said he is more motivated than ever to earn admission to a top college.
‘My parents went through so many trials just to get a stable income and a house and raise a family,” he said. “I just want them to be able to rest easy now.”