Residents from throughout Oceanside are in mourning after 5-year-old Sophia Smaragdas died Aug. 23 owing to health complications, family members said. She would have been 6 on Oct. 12. Sophia will be remembered for her love of music and singing.
Katie and Christopher Smaragdas, Sophia’s parents, did not wish to offer specifics on their daughter’s medical history, but said her death shocked the family. Katie Smaragdas said she brought Sophia to the emergency room at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside because of symptoms of dehydration. The family said they were only at the hospital for about an hour before they received the horrifying news.
“She was a little superstar,” Katie Smaragdas said. “She was a very large personality, and if someone was shy in school, she would be their friend.” Smaragdas said her daughter always wanted to be on stage and wore a rock star T-shirt for career day.
At Sophia’s service on Sept. 3 in Wantagh Park, Flowers by Mike owner Michael Graham provided a variety of floral arrangements. Graham made sure to make most of the arrangements purple, as it was Sophia’s favorite color.
Rachel Arianne, owner and founder of Royal Events Princess Parties Inc., learned the song “I Choose You” by Alessia Cara in less than a week and performed it at the service at the request of Smaragdas family friend Dana Sivak. The song had special meaning to the family, as it was from one of their favorite Netflix movies, “The Willoughbys.” The Smaragdases said Sophia loved singing the song around the house.
Arianne said she met Sophia in 2018 at a birthday party where she portrayed Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” and remembered the energetic little girl dancing and singing along with her.
“It was an honor to be a part of the service,” Arianne said. Sophia “reminded me of myself at that age. In the videos at the service, I felt connected to her in those moments.”
But out of this tragedy came some light, as friends of the Smaragdas family, Melanie Litt and Brooke Filosa, started selling purple bows to be hung up at Sophia’s school, with the proceeds going toward a surprise gift for her little brother, Tristan, 3.
Sophia and Litt’s daughter Jordyn were best friends and would hug each other goodbye when leaving school at the Kindergarten Center last year. Litt said it was a difficult conversation to have with her daughter when Sophia died, but it started the community response. Litt said Jordyn immediately wanted to do something to remember Sophia and cheer Tristan up.
At press time, Litt had sold more than 1,200 purple bows meant to help the community celebrate Sophia. When asked if she expected to sell that many bows, Litt replied, “Never in a million years.” She and Jordyn sat at the computer together just a few days after the news broke and ordered 200 bows, thinking that would be plenty. In one day, they sold close to 400 bows.
“The first morning the bows were ready, we looked outside and there was a line of people walking up my steps to pick their bows up,” Litt said. “It was so nice to see how quickly people jumped at the chance to do something.”
The bows can be seen around the community, including at School No. 4, where Sophia would have attended this year.
The community’s response meant a great deal to the Smaragdases. “For a 5-year-old to reach so many people, so powerfully, as her parents, it means a lot,” Katie Smaragdas said. “It means that the town knew her and appreciated her and they’re feeling the loss, too.”