BU Parents United — a Facebook group for parents of Boston University students — started a GoFundMe Wednesday to place memorial benches on the BU Beach for two university custodians who died from COVID-19 complications in January.
The fundraiser, in memory of Juber Lopez and Jose Ferreira, exceeded its initial goal of $5,000 to raise more than $5,600 from more than 100 donors and is set to close Friday.
BU Parents United founder Alessandra Kellermann said the group intends to place two benches — one for Ferreira and one for Lopez — engraved with their names, birth and death years as well as the phrase “A life that touches others goes on forever,” in accordance with their family’s wishes.
Kellermann said the group started the GoFundMe as a way of supporting the families of the two former employees, and added that funds left over from the cost of the benches will go directly to their loved ones.
“I didn’t see anything that was clear that had been done for the families yet,” Kellermann said. “I thought that it would be nice if we did something for the families, because it’s been such a tough year for everybody.”
She said the two custodians’ deaths were a major loss for the BU community, and they needed to be remembered for their contributions to the university.
“It’s also a tragedy,” Kellermann said, “because these were the gentlemen who were on staff cleaning up and keeping the environment safe for everybody else.”
The families asked for the benches to be placed at the BU Beach because both Ferreira and Lopez regularly took breaks there, she said.
“They would walk down there and see all the students,” Kellermann said. “They talked to their families when they came home at night about how the students were managing to get breaks, too, even though they were studying really hard, and that made them happy.”
BU Parents United chose memorial benches, Kellermann noted, because students could “enjoy” them while still honoring Lopez and Ferreira. The GoFundMe also had a wide reach after being shared extensively on social media, Kellermann said.
“It’s important to know that just the entire Boston community and even alumni from all over the world have learned about it,” she said.
Kellermann said she is coordinating with Ferreira’s son-in-law Michael Florio, a BU custodian at Warren Towers, who is planning on helping to set up the benches.
Teresa Florio, Ferreira’s daughter, said she is grateful and appreciative of the group’s gesture.
“It means a great deal,” Teresa Florio said, “and I’m very thankful for these parents to reach out to me in honor of both custodians who have worked really hard and have given their all for this university.”
Teresa Florio said she donated to honor the dedication of both men, and noted her father had kept working while battling cancer.
“These guys have dedicated their lives,” Florio said. “My dad with lung cancer and trying to fight for that and things got really worse, but he kept working and that’s how much he was dedicated.”
Bianca Lopez, daughter of Juber Lopez, also said she also appreciated the gesture.
“It makes me proud because he worked for BU for 23 years,” Bianca Lopez said. “He really appreciated his job.”
Kellermann said Juber Lopez and Ferreira’s dedication to their work is what touched her and motivated her to start this fundraiser.
“They have no regrets, they knew the risk and they were careful,” Kellermann said. “They wanted the environment safe for Terriers and the students they really cared about, and they did it with pride.”
The University could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.