Bonnie and David Epstein were supposed to head to Brooklyn to visit their son in late June.
David Epstein was recovering from a shoulder injury and their dog, Chance, was sick, so the couple, who retired early to their condominium in Champlain Towers South just outside Miami, delayed their trip and stayed at home, a circumstance that ultimately cost them their lives.
They were among the victims in the Surfside condo collapse on June 24. Bonnie Epstein’s body was found on June 30; her husband’s was found two days later. Bonnie was 56, and David was 58.
According to the Associated Press, the couple, who were Jewish and had been married for 31 years, lived on the ninth floor of the building.
“It was where they were supposed to live the best years of their lives,” Jonathan Epstein, the couple’s son and only child, said to the Bucks County Courier Times.
Jonathan Epstein, 26, knew in real time what had happened to his parents.
“I texted my mom, ‘Hey, are you guys OK?’ And then, the message went from blue to green; it hadn’t been received. I’ve spent so much time in their apartment, and I saw which part of the building collapsed and I knew there was no way,” he said to 6ABC on July 7.
David Epstein was a real estate investor. The couple, both Northeast Philadelphia natives, lived in Bucks County for 15 years before moving to New York, then Florida; they had long summered in Ventnor, New Jersey, where they owned a townhouse on the beach.
“I open my front door, and I look right at their deck at the shore,” said Sharla Feldscher, a public relations professional and the Epstein’s neighbor in Ventnor. “It’s a real sense of loss because I really like seeing Bonnie every year, and David. The whole thing is a shock.”
Feldscher has been neighbors with the Epsteins for more than a decade, but their connection spanned far longer.
Bonnie Epstein’s aunt grew up on the same block as Feldscher’s husband. When the Epsteins moved next store to the Feldschers, it felt like a reunion: “We had a family connection; that was very special.”
The Epsteins loved the ocean, spending seven months of the year in their Florida condo; they spent a recent wedding anniversary snorkeling together.
To honor his parents, following the couple’s July 12 funeral, in lieu of gifts or flowers, Jonathan Epstein set up a fundraiser for Saving the Blue, a marine wildlife conservation nonprofit that his parents had long supported. As of this week, family and friends had raised almost $8,000.
“My parents were just kind people to everyone, whether they just met you or if they had known you for a long time. They were generous and sweet; they lived life on their terms,” Epstein said.
Jonathan Epstein said he was close to his parents.
“They were just the absolute coolest,” Epstein said to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I feel so grateful to be their son.”
He has been keeping loved ones appraised on the “Friends of Bonnie GWHS 82” Facebook page, where the family has received an outpouring of support.
“Thank you all so much for the kindness over the last week — my parents were amazing people and would be touched by the outpouring of love and support we’ve received,” he wrote.
Several other family and friends remarked on the ways the Epstein family had touched their lives.
Joey Feldman, Bonnie Epstein’s cousin, said he had some of the best moments of his life with the Epstein family.
“Growing up, Bonnie was the closest I had to a sister. We were both only children. She is directly responsible for so many things in my life. From my first curse word to my first concert. She introduced me to all the music I would still love to this day,” Feldman wrote on Facebook. “David was one of the best guys around.”
Feldscher described the Epsteins’ lives as peaceful and quiet.
“You hear people talk about their dreams all the time,” Feldscher said. “They really lived their dreams. They had such a wonderful life.”
Hoping to connect with the families of other victims of the collapse, Jonathan Epstein plans to travel to Miami at the end of the month, according to the Courier Times.
“Victims of something as bizarre and tragic as this need to stick together and find comfort in each other,” he said.
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