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Family remembers 27-year-old artistic mother with ‘huge heart’ who died seeking recovery on Staten Island

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first part of two stories highlighting the life and tragic loss of Melissa Veltidi, whose shocking death occurred while being treated at Amethyst House, the only women’s sober living center from Staten Island.

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County died at age 27 on July 22, 2021, after losing consciousness at Amethyst House on Staten Island. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

STATEN ISLAND, NY – The family of Melissa Veltidi, 27 – who lost consciousness at Amethyst House in July 2021 and later died – said she was a “fantastic mother” with a “huge heart” and passionate about the arts and nature.

Veltidi from Haverstraw in Rockland County was on the verge of recovery and a fresh start in life when she died on July 22, 2021 at the University of Richmond Medical Center in West Brighton, according to her bereaved family. .

While Veltidi’s cause of death is listed as “undetermined”, the manner of death is “multiple drug poisoning”, according to the medical examiner. This is despite his death at a time when Veltidi was taking only prescribed, non-illegal drugs.

As family members continue to search for answers about Veltidi’s death while undergoing treatment at Amethyst House in Port Richmond, they don’t want their beloved daughter and sister to be defined by her addiction.

“She was a fantastic mother,” said Veltidi’s mother, Anita Newell, who declined to have her granddaughter’s name published in Advance/SILive.com. “The way she treated her daughter was with a very, very positive attitude. She never gave her daughter negativity, which I thought was wonderful.

Amethyst House closed its doors last year. Several whistleblowers previously told Advance/SILive.com that the 40-plus-year-old haven for women seeking sobriety has become a house of mistrust and neglect in recent years, alleging mismanagement, missing medications and a loss of confidence.

Staten Island’s Camelot said it plans to reopen the facility under new management.

“FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS”

For years before arriving at Amethyst House, Veltidi did not receive the help she needed for multiple issues that Newell says stemmed from the sexual abuse of her daughter as a child.

“She always slipped through the cracks,” Newell said. “She never received proper mental health care.”

Veltidi attended various mental health and addiction programs where she was prescribed excessive pills instead of receiving talk therapy or other help needed to overcome her issues, Newell said. Over time, Veltidi became addicted to prescription pills and street drugs, including opioids and sedatives, her mother said.

“The treatment is all pills, it’s [some medical professionals’] answer to everything instead of trying to find the root of this problem,” Newell said. “When you’re so drugged up, you’re in a fog.”

Veltidi learned to manipulate doctors and other providers to get drugs to feed his addiction, his mother said.

“She knew what to say to get what she wanted when she went to these people,” Newell said of the doctors and other providers. “I can’t even tell you how many drugs she was taking at once. It was so awful, and she kept trying to stop the pills. She would go to another treatment center and they would say, “Well, you need this medicine. It was just a circle.

‘HER DAUGHTER MISSED TERRIBLY’

Newell had to speak quietly because Veltidi’s school-aged daughter was taking singing lessons in an adjoining room.

“He misses his daughter terribly. I have to stop…” Newell said, bursting into tears before taking the time to regain his composure to continue an interview with Advance/SILive.com.

Veltidi “had a huge heart” and was a “very caring and loving” woman, said her sister, Jacqueline Zabrowski. “She was a wonderful mother and friend.”

Memorial for Melissa Veltidi, 27

A Chinese lantern and balloons were released during a memorial service held on the first anniversary of the death of Melissa Veltidi, 27, of Haverstraw in Rockland County, who died on July 22, 2021, after collapsing in Amethyst House on Staten Island. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

The 27-year-old mother loved to draw with her daughter and take her child to fun events, like fairs, said another of Veltidi’s sisters, Kristi Veltidi.

An amateur photographer who captured artistic images, Veltidi enjoyed attending electric light music festivals and dancing freestyle with friends, Kristi Veltidi said.

Even as an adult, Veltidi managed to maintain a childlike ability to see the good in everything and everyone, according to his family.

‘A FREE SPIRIT’

“Everyone who met Melissa saw that she was a free spirit, an open-minded thinker who never judged anyone she met,” her obituary said. “She was outspoken and passionate and had a love for music and creativity. Melissa has always seen the good in people and she made sure to raise her daughter with the same openness, positivity and strength.

Kristi Veltidi, who was a month younger than 16 when her sister was born: “She was very strong and very intelligent. She didn’t realize how smart she was. She never knew, she never gave herself enough credit.

Melissa Veltidi

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County died at age 27 on July 22, 2021, after losing consciousness at Amethyst House on Staten Island. It’s one of her baby photos. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

As a premature baby, Veltidi “had to kind of struggle early in her life,” and that likely gave her strength, Kristi Veltidi said.

Veltidi grew up in Congers in Rockland County, where she attended Lakewood Elementary School and Clarkstown North High School. Her parents divorced when she was a child.

“She was like my little sidekick,” said Zabrowski, who is about 11 years older than Melissa. “I took him everywhere.”

Melissa “was a quirky, adorable girl who loved to draw and paint, and she loved to ride her bike,” Zabrowski recalled.

“I always think of her as that little fairy,” Zabrowski added. “She was very whimsical. She didn’t do any acting or anything, but she was really like a little performer in life.

Melissa Veltidi as a young child

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County was about 4 years old when this photo was taken. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

Alan Veltidi recalls many idyllic days spent in Lavallette on the Jersey Shore with his deceased daughter when she was young. She seemed to feel free to swim in the ocean and play with her many friends from the beach community, he said.

Veltidi learned to play the piano and the violin with instruction from her stepmother, Janis Veltidi. Alan Veltidi said he remembers helping his daughter with many school projects, including one based on a fictional book about what would happen if rats invaded Staten Island.

Although Veltidi has participated in many treatment programs for her issues over the years, she has not been able to achieve peace of mind, let alone long-term recovery.

“She didn’t want to be the person she was,” Newell said of her daughter. “There was such hope for her and she struggled every day. She had demons in her head, but you would never know. Everyone who met her loved her. She was a beautiful young woman . »

Melissa Veltidi

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County died at age 27 on July 22, 2021, after losing consciousness at Amethyst House on Staten Island. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

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