Sheryl Fabi taught art, raised her sons, met a contractor

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Loved and Lost is a project about memorializing those lost to COVID-19 in NJ.

NorthJersey.com

This story is part of Loved and Lost, a statewide media collaboration working to celebrate the life of every New Jersey resident who died of COVID-19. To learn more and submit a loved one’s name to be profiled, visit lovedandlostnj.com.

It was a friendship that began, like so many, with two mothers waiting for their kids outside a kindergarten door.

The door was at Warren Point Elementary School in Fair Lawn. The year was 1983. The moms were Sheryl, who was waiting for her son Matt, and Paulyn, waiting for her Mark.

The boys burst out of school together. “This is my new friend Mark!’’ Matt told his mother. They wanted to have a play date. The mothers were left to work out the details. 

Sheryl Fabi (Photo: Courtesy of the Fabi family)

As they talked, “our relationship just snapped into place,’’ Paulyn Hoffman recalls. “We became the best of friends.’’

That friendship lasted almost four decades, ending only with Sheryl Fabi’s death April 9 at age 67.

Sheryl Mae Mankofsky was Bronx-born and Queens-raised. She attended the High School of Art and Design and Queens College. She married shortly after graduation in 1974, and settled first in an apartment in Teaneck and later a house in Fair Lawn.

She taught art to special education students at Leonia and Fair Lawn high schools. After her marriage ended in divorce, Sheryl raised her two sons, Matt and Daniel, as a single mother.

But she needed some work done on the house, and hired a contractor named Angelo Fabi — also divorced and raising two sons, Michael and Angelo Jr.

Paulyn could see that contractor and client shared a strong sense of family, and an attraction. “They just fell in love,’’ Paulyn says. 

They married, blended their families, and had a son of their own, Jordan. 

“She was the matriarch,’’ Paulyn says. “For every problem, they all ran to her.’’

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In 1999 Angelo collapsed while visiting his mother in Italy. When he returned home, he was told he had a brain tumor. A year later, he died.

In 1998 Angelo collapsed while visiting his mother in Italy. When he returned home, he was told he had a brain tumor. He died in 2000. 

Sheryl had a health problem of her own — sarcoidosis, a lung disease that made it difficult to breathe and required monthly intravenous treatments.

Then, early this year, she fell in the bathroom, injuring her ankle. She underwent surgery, followed by in-patient physical therapy. After she contracted COVID-19, Sheryl’s lung problems made her a poor candidate for a ventilator.

The hospital was closed to visitors, so not even her son Matt  — the boy at the kindergarten door who was now a top emergency physician at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore — could see her before she died.

“She had a lot to live for,’’ says Paulyn. “We always used to say, ‘We don’t feel like we’re in our 60s.’ She couldn’t come to my 70th birthday party, but I told her, ‘When you turn 70, we’ll have a big one for you.’’’

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