BACK OF THE YARDS — A family dealing with a heartbreaking tragedy is inviting Chicagoans to mourn the loss of their two sons at a memorial this week.
Neighbors, family and strangers have all shared their condolences with Eduardo Sanchez and Clementina Vargas. They lost their sons — Abelardo Sanchez, 24, and Pedro Sanchez, a 16-year-old Lane Tech student — in a house fire last week in Back of the Yards during one Chicago’s coldest days on record.
The family will host a memorial for the brothers at Szykowny Funeral Home, 4901 S. Archer Ave., from 1-9 p.m. Wednesday.
Since the fire, the family has been staying with friends in Little Village. On Sunday night, close friends and family gathered to pay their respects and offer comfort and food to the family. An altar has been set up in the home to honor the two brothers.
The brothers are survived by their parents and three siblings, Raul, Eduardo and Chavita Sanchez.
“We couldn’t save them. We tried and did everything we could,” Eduardo Sanchez said. “But we couldn’t save them.”
The family plans to stay at the friend’s home for another week before moving into an apartment.
Last week Catalina Gamino, a cousin of the two brothers, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to cover the cost of the family’s funeral expenses. As of Sunday, the campaign raised $26,333, surpassing its initial $20,000 goal.
“From all of our hearts we’re so thankful for all the help we’ve gotten,” Eduardo Sanchez said.
The deadly fire broke out last Wednesday the family’s home in the 2000 block of West 53rd Street. The brothers were trapped by a heavy fire in the back of the building, according to the fire department.
Eduardo Sanchez says he, his wife and one of his sons tried to get to the brothers trapped in the attic but were unable to get to them.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known last week.
“We still don’t know what happened,” Eduardo Sanchez said.
Some people who knew the brothers posted their condolences on the campaign’s page.
“Pedro was my student last year. He was such a kind, respectful, and bright young man,” wrote teacher Daina Matusaitis.
Irma Blancas wrote that she donated because the last thing the family should be worrying about while they mourn is money.
“I am a friend and classmate of Pedro. He was an amazing friend, and I miss him very much,” Grace Herning wrote. “He was so kind, funny, and strong willed. My sincerest condolences for your loss.”
Abelardo liked movies and to hang out with his friends, but he was always “very tight” with his family, Gamino said.
Abelardo and Pedro often read comic books and watched superhero movies as a family, said their brother, Raul Sanchez, 22.
“Pedro also liked video games, martial arts. He was a black belt in Taekwondo,” Raul Sanchez told Block Club last week. “Everything, we did it together. We were always together.”
The Lane Tech Alumni Association identified Pedro Sanchez as a student at the school who was set to graduate in 2021.
“Our collective sympathies go out to the Sanchez family, friends and teachers,” association leaders wrote in a Facebook post.
Gamino said when she launched the fundraising campaign, the family thought $20,000 was going to be enough to cover funeral expenses. But they soon found out it’s not enough.
“It’s closer to $35,000,” she said. “We’re still short, even with all the cash donations and the GoFundMe.”
She’s now asking people to keep donating so they can meet that goal and said she is grateful for the enormous generosity that will allow for her aunt and uncle to put their children to rest.
The family is also looking for their dog, Rocky. Their two-year-old pitbull ran away during the confusion following the fire and the family is hoping to reunite with him.
“He’s dark brown and he’s basically a little puppy, but size wise he’s pretty big,” said Citlalli Toledo said, the Sanchez family’s neighbor.
The family is asking anyone with information on Rocky — who has distinct white markings on his face, neck and belly — to call 312-887-2614.
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