Positivity and the ability to inspire others do not often come out of personal tragedy. Yet, Milagros (Millie) Maldonado-Diaz is living proof that one can overcome many hardships and still have an optimistic outlook. Millie is originally from Puerto Rico and is an unfortunate victim of hurricane Maria that hit the island hard in 2017. This became the most deadly hurricane to impact Puerto Rico since 2004. Devastatingly Millie recalls the flood waters rose in the house all the way up to her chin. The disaster resulted in Millie losing everything in her house and garage including her car. However despite this traumatic event, Millie pushes through life with a positive disposition.
Millie says that leaving her culture and moving to Rochester certainly had its difficulties; however she chooses to be happy. Her daughter works at RIT and helped Millie move closer to her in Rochester. Although she especially misses rice, beans, and her specialty chicken stew with colored peppers, Millie enjoys life at St. John’s. “The people at St. John’s are good, gentle, and sweet.” She loves attending bingo and usually comes out a winner. “I’m a lucky lady when it comes to bingo,” Millie says with a smile. “They call me the 21 lady because any time the number is called I tell them that’s my true age.” Jazz and live entertainment performances at St. John’s are also a favorite.
Family is very important to Millie. She grew up with five sisters and one brother. Three of her sisters are still living in different parts of Puerto Rico. While in Puerto Rico she lived in Levittown a suburb of San Juan the capital. Millie says living in Puerto Rico is the best because, “you can go to the beach any day with the weather, even if it is raining you can go!” According to Millie one of the most fascinating sights in Puerto Rico is Bahía Bioluminiscente or as it is commonly known- Bio Bay. Tiny organisms in the water glow at night when agitated as a defense mechanism. Residents and tourists are able to kayak or boat out into the bay to see the glowing at night. Millie appropriately deems it as, “one of the most amazing sights in the world.”
Although Millie is now living in a different culture here in Rochester than her native Puerto Rico she still celebrates Three Kings Day on January 6. This holiday commemorates the three Magi visiting Jesus after his birth. In many Hispanic cultures this is when children receive their Christmas gifts. Millie remembers “putting grass in boxes and passing out gifts,” the grass is for the camels of the Magi to snack on.
Millie is an inspiration to all who come to know her. She is constantly complimenting the staff members of St. John’s who take care of her and transport her to activities. If you are up on Reservoir 2 you will hear a lot of, “I love you and you’re beautiful” comments from Millie to various team members. Millie gives us all hope and reassurance that it is possible to move beyond life’s hardships.