The New Jersey cancer nurse who died after being violently shoved by a homeless maniac in Times Square was remembered at her wake Sunday for being “full of life” and deeply nurturing.
Known to friends as “Ning Ning” — which her family said means “bright star” — Maria Ambrocio’s mission in life was to take care of everyone, from her patients to her family.
“We were living in the Philippines and she took us in to give us a better life,” Ambrocio’s stepdaughter, Lehrie Ambrocio, told The Post during the wake at the S. Fryczynski & Son Funeral Home in Bayonne.
“Her nickname means bright star, and that’s what she basically is, a bright star,” she said. “She took us in like she was our mother. She cared, she was patient.”
When Ambrocio, 58, wasn’t working as an oncology nurse at the Bayonne Medical Center — where she’d spent 25 years — she was scrolling through Facebook, shopping and traveling.
Ambrocio’s aunt, Fidela Daniel Javate, said her niece was “full of life.”
“She loved Facebook,” she said. “Every two days she was posting one of her activities. Sometimes they were of dancing at a park in Bayonne. She was full of life.”
Ambrocio lay in a walnut brown casket, dressed in white with a pearl necklace and fingernails painted powder blue, her hands gripping a rosary.
“It still feels surreal to me,” her stepdaughter added, recalling an August visit. “We were talking, talking about my dad, and all of a sudden this thing happened. It was very heartbreaking for all of us.”
Ambrocio was walking with two friends around 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 when a deranged homeless mugger who’d just stolen a cell phone barreled into her while bolting through Times Square.
Ambrocio fell to the ground, smashing her head on the concrete.
“Immediately, she was comatose,” friend Norma Lardizabal, 75, who was with Ambrocio at the time, said during Sunday’s wake. “She never recovered. It broke my heart.”
Ambrocio never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead 30 hours later after her family took her off life support.
Jermaine Foster, 26, was arrested on felony assault and robbery charges — but charges against him were upgraded to murder after the beloved nurse’s death.
“We were together for so long,” Lardizabal said. “We were like sisters. She was always calling me, ‘Auntie Norma, Auntie Norma, we have to go out.’ My heart is really broken.”
The slain woman’s younger stepdaughter, Lalia Lilia, said she has struggled with telling her own children about “Lola Maria’s” death.
“I was telling my kids, ‘I have to tell you something. Lola Maria is in the hospital and she’s in a coma right now,’ ” Lilia said. “I had to explain to them what that is. They’re still young so it was very hard for them to understand.
“The next day I don’t even have the heart to tell them that Lola Maria is gone,” she said. “They were asking me, ‘Is she going to be OK?’ I don’t know. They can’t grasp that she’s gone.”
A funeral mass is scheduled for Monday at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Bayonne.
Ambrocio’s family held a memorial service for her last week.
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