A Voice For People With Disabilities

Tanasia Alamo, 25, had a gift for therapeutic hugs and a passion for pro wrestling

Sheila Alamo has a fond memory of her infant daughter Tanasia locking eyes with her and smiling.

“She stared at me intently and smiled,” said Ms. Alamo. “Almost like ‘Mommy, I’m going to be ok.’ It was comforting.”

Known for her hugs and unconditional love from the moment she met you, Tanasia, with smiling light brown eyes, offered that comfort to others for the rest of her life.  

When she first gave her mother that look, “Nay Nay,” as she is affectionately called, was powering through the first year and a half of her life. Diagnosed with Down syndrome, she was hindered by medical problems, and received the care she needed with an extended stay at NY Foundling. She returned to her home in Eltingville for good at 18 months old.

She was 25 years old when she died on March 31, 2020 in Staten Island University Hospital from Covid-19.

Tanasia Alamo, smiles and hugs

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Tanasia works on a project in creative arts, one of her favorite places at Lifestyles for the Disabled, Concord.

Mrs. Alamo remembers people coming up to her after Tanasia’s death to tell her,  “ ‘I could be having a bad day, and Tanasia would just walk over to me and hug me. She wouldn’t say anything. She would just come over to me and hug me and hold me,’ ” recalls the heartbroken mother. “And she would make their day better. She did that a lot.”

“She didn’t do it to everybody. She knew who to hug and when to hug,” she added.

Tanasia used sign language from three to six years old, but worked with a speech therapist and began to speak more.

“Tanasia spoke well, but not much,” said her mother. “She only had full conversations with me and her Dad.

“She would tell us about her day. She was a huge fan of wrestlers. 

“Between Roman Reins and The Rock, one of them one of them was supposed to be her husband,” laughed her Mom.  Tanasia was also a fan of women’s wrestling, and an original WWE Diva championship belt was one of her prized possessions. “She was definitely a WWE Diva,” added her mother.

Tanasia loved to draw and doodle, and she always had a file full of paper and drawings with her. (Family photo)

There was one time Tanasia was so inconsolable, even her mother was having a difficult time understanding what was wrong. She called Vanessa Whitehead, a habilitation specialist who ran the Creative Arts Program at Lifestyles for the Disabled where Tanasia attended a day habilitation program.

“Her mother said about the only word she could make out was Vanessa. I had noticed that Nay Nay left her papers, and I had put them aside. And leaving them was what upset her,” said Whitehead.

Tanasia, she said, loved to draw and doodle, and she always had a stack of papers with her. Creative Arts and Fine Arts were her happy places.


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In Eve LeBer’s Fine Arts class, Tanasia produced a folder full of drawings full of color and patterns.

“Nay Nay was so quiet and focused on her art work when she was in art room, said LeBer. “She would come into the room, sit down and create designs, and sometimes add words. 

She was quieter at Lifestyles than at home, but she was a hugger there too.

“She would hold on forever if she could,” said Whitehead.

In Library, Tanasia brought in “All Things Worked Together for My Good” the autobiography her mother wrote about her experience of nearly being killed in a house fire when she was 5 years old and the long and painful process of recovery from her burns.

“There was a whole chapter on Tanasia. She used to bring the book into Library so we could read it to her,” said Sharon Bottaro, staff in Lifestyles Library Program.

“Tanasia is self-sufficient, beautiful and strong,” wrote Mrs. Alamo in that chapter. She adds that Tanasia defied the predictions of professionals who “informed me of all she that she’d never be able to do.”

Among her accomplishments was to get a job at a local pizzeria. She was also quick to remind her mom, “I’m not a baby,” when she wanted to do things for herself, such as make simple meals and snacks.

With an older sister and two younger sisters, Tanasia was well taken care of, enjoying activities such as getting her hair and nails done and watching wrestling on TV. 

“She was almost never mad at anybody. If she was mad at you, it only lasted five minutes,” said her mother. “She didn’t like chaos and drama. That wasn’t for her. She was a peacemaker. Everybody has somebody in the family who maybe get on your nerves or whatever…. Tanasia would see what was going on and she would tell the family, ‘Leave her alone. I love her.’”


In addition to her mother, Tanasia is survived by her father Jose Alamo, her sisters Takeiya, Mataya and Cyre Alamo; her maternal grandparents Patricia and Gerald Shelton and her paternal grandparents Valentin and Julia Alamo. Tanasia has six step-siblings La’Shawna, Elizabeth, Jose Jr., Emmanuel, Julisa, and Destiny. Her niece, Naylani, is named for her.

“You are sympathetic when someone loses a child. But it’s much more weight than you can imagine,” said Mrs. Alamo. “You hear ‘Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.’ I used to think that was cliché, but it’s an actual thing.”


SILive: Tanasia Alamo, nicknamed ‘The Minister of Hugs,’ succumbs to coronavirus




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