This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Growing up in Trinidad in the 1940s, Monica Alexis was known in her family for a precocious sense of compassion.
Her older brother suffered from severe diabetes and she bandaged his swollen feet nightly. After a cousin became a doctor, she decided she wanted to pursue a career in health care one day.
When Ms. Alexis was in her 20s, a friend told her that she knew of Caribbean women who were finding steady work as health care aides at hospitals in New York City, and that the pay was much better than in Trinidad. By the 1970s, Ms. Alexis had settled in Astoria, Queens, and she was helping patients as a nurse’s assistant at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. After that, she worked at Reading Hospital in Pennsylvania for nearly two decades.
As a nurse’s aide, Ms. Alexis was responsible for the everyday tasks that allow hospitals to focus on saving lives. She brought meals to patients and made their beds. Standing 5-foot-2, she hoisted people twice her size to bathe them. When engaged in sensitive duties like removing catheters from elderly men, she reassured them with sass: “Why are you shy? Don’t be silly. I have three sons. You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.”
As years passed, hospital colleagues often encouraged Ms. Alexis to become a registered nurse, but she wasn’t interested.
“She wanted to stay a nurse’s assistant,” her daughter, Melissa Alexis, said. “She felt that becoming a registered nurse would take her away from what she wanted to do for her patients. The stuff you don’t think about. The little things. But they are the most important things.”
Ms. Alexis died on Jan. 28 at a hospital in San Antonio, where she had moved. She was 83. The cause was complications of Covid-19, her daughter said.
Monica Littrean was born on May 3, 1937, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Her father, Willie Littrean, was a farmhand. Her mother, Terina (Pierre) Littrean, was a homemaker. Her mother died when Monica was 2, and her father died soon after. Her older brother raised Monica with his eight children and she helped cook beef stew and chicken curry for the family on Sundays.
In her teens, she married Vincent Alexis, a salesman, and she went on to run a small market in San Juan, Trinidad. She had the first of their three sons when she was 18 and her husband later immigrated to New York to find work. Ms. Alexis joined him there in 1969 and their children followed several years later. They divorced in the mid-1970s while she was working at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
In the early 1980s, by which point Ms. Alexis also had Melissa, she moved to Reading, Pa., and she started working for Reading Hospital. She retired in 2002.
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Alexis is survived by two sons, Christopher and Trevor Alexis; four grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.
In her 70s, Ms. Alexis moved to San Antonio to be closer to her grandchildren. A serious gardener, she had a greenhouse built in her backyard, and she attended church several times a week. She learned in 2019 that she was experiencing kidney failure, and after weighing her options, she told her family that she didn’t want to undergo dialysis treatment.
“I think Mom was very accepting of death,” her daughter said. “She understood the inevitability of it even when it was upon her doorstep. She knew it was part of life.”