Port Richmond and Fishtown come together to give

Fol­low­ing the tra­gic death of a young moth­er of eight, some kind-hearted loc­als are work­ing to­geth­er to provide her hus­band and chil­dren with a Christ­mas to re­mem­ber.

On the even­ing of Aug. 31, life for the Gbay­or fam­ily of May­fair took a tra­gic turn. 

Nilsa Gbay­or and her hus­band, Ben­jamin, along with four of their eight chil­dren, were driv­ing home from a chil­dren’s foot­ball game when Ben­jamin stopped the car at Jasper Street and Al­legheny Av­en­ue be­cause he had seen a friend quar­rel­ing with a stranger. 

The ex­act de­tails of what fol­lowed are un­clear, but at some point, the stranger pulled out a gun and began fir­ing. 

Ben­jamin Gbay­or was wounded, and three bul­lets had struck Nilsa while she sat in the car.  Nilsa Gbay­or was pro­nounced dead sev­er­al hours later at Temple Uni­versity Hos­pit­al.

Nilsa was just 39 years old.  She was a re­gistered nurse and worked as a unit health­care co­ordin­at­or at Al­bert Ein­stein Hos­pit­al.  Pri­or to mov­ing to May­fair, the Gbay­or fam­ily lived in Port Rich­mond.  It was there that Nilsa met and be­came great friends with Aman­da and Phoebe Cow­ley, two young wo­men who worked at Premiere Pe­di­at­rics at Ara­mingo and Al­legheny av­en­ues. 

Phoebe Cow­ley, 29, is the of­ficer man­ager and med­ic­al as­sist­ant.  Aman­da Cow­ley, 22, is the of­fice re­cep­tion­ist. Two of the Gbay­or chil­dren have ser­i­ous health is­sues — a one-year-old has pe­di­at­ric can­cer, and a three-year-old has a con­gen­it­al heart de­fect, so Nilsa was prac­tic­ally a fix­ture at the pe­di­at­ri­cian’s of­fice. 

“She was an ex­traordin­ary per­son and a won­der­ful moth­er who al­ways put the needs of her chil­dren first,” said Phoebe Cow­ley. “She worked the night shift at Ein­stein Hos­pit­al and would bring her kids in­to the of­fice early in the morn­ing, look­ing so tired.  She was such a kind per­son that I al­ways looked for­ward to see­ing her and her beau­ti­ful chil­dren.”

Know­ing that the Gbay­or fam­ily was in a dif­fi­cult fin­an­cial situ­ation this year, Phoebe and Aman­da Cow­ley wanted to do something to make sure that Nilsa’s fam­ily would not have to go without on Christ­mas.

“We wanted to make the chil­dren’s Christ­mas not fo­cused so much on los­ing their moth­er, but more on what Christ­mas is about, presents that you put on your list for Santa Claus, and spend­ing time with the ones you care for,” Aman­da Cow­ley said. “That’s why we de­cided to try and raise money by bak­ing and selling cook­ies.” 

The girls began bak­ing cook­ies in the even­ings and selling them dur­ing the day at Premiere Pe­di­at­rics and at Johnny B’s Pizzer­ia on Al­legheny Av­en­ue. They already have made more than $350, and they said they are not done yet. They plan to con­tin­ue bak­ing and selling cook­ies right up un­til the week be­fore Christ­mas. 

Mean­while in Fishtown, Kenny Hep­worth, own­er of An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute;,  Ox­ford Street and Gir­ard Av­en­ue, was work­ing on a plan to col­lect toys for chil­dren hos­pit­al­ized at Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al of Phil­adelphia.  Kenny came upon a short mes­sage of thanks to the Cow­ley sis­ters from a friend in the Nov. 14 is­sue of Star.

“When I read about what those girls were do­ing, I was in­cred­ibly moved,” Hep­worth said. “For a moth­er to die so young and leave be­hind eight chil­dren is just about as bad as it gets. I knew im­me­di­ately that I wanted to get in­volved.”

Hep­worth, who has sev­en chil­dren of his own, wanted to take care of Christ­mas din­ner for Ben­jamin Gbay­or and the eight chil­dren.  Hep­worth also wanted to make sure that the fam­ily had a nice Christ­mas tree and plenty of presents to open on Christ­mas day.

So Hep­worth con­tac­ted the Cow­ley girls and told them that he wanted to help.

“When we got the phone call from Mr. Hep­worth, my sis­ter and I were com­pletely at a loss for words, which doesn’t hap­pen that of­ten,” said Phoebe Cow­ley. “It was one of the kind­est things that we had ever heard of.”

The team from An­thony’s Cafe already has met with the Cow­ley sis­ters and they are now put­ting their col­lect­ive re­sources to­geth­er to help the Gbay­ors. 

“This isn’t just me do­ing this,” Hep­worth as­serts. “This is the en­tire An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute; fam­ily. This is my bar­tenders, my cus­tom­ers, and my closest friends all throw­ing [in] a little bit so that these kids can have a merry Christ­mas.” 

Con­trib­ut­or Greg Pacana can be reached at gp­pacana@ya­hoo.com.

You can reach at gpacana@bsmphilly.com.

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