As a lifestyle photographer, Graciela Cattarossi has seen many beautiful places – sunny beaches, glamorous hotels. However, she found the most beautiful sight in the world in Surfside, because that is where the center of the universe lived: her 7-year-old daughter Stella.
Argentine-born Cattarossi, 48, who started her own photography business, was a single mother who did everything with a single purpose to improve her daughter’s life.
“Her devotion to her child was unprecedented,” said Miami-based friend Kathryn Rooney Vera, who Cattarossi has known since they were neighbors at the Grand Venetian in Miami Beach in 2008.
Cattarossi, Stella and Cattarossi’s parents Graciela and Gino lived in Unit 501 of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, which collapsed early Thursday morning. The Uruguayan consul confirmed that Cattarossi’s mother, after whom Cattarossi is named, is a Uruguayan citizen and was a diplomat in Uruguay in the late 1960s.
Cattarossi’s sister Andrea, whose husband stayed in Argentina, was visiting the family at the time of the collapse. All five family members are missing.
Vera, whose children are visiting Montessori with Stella von Wedell, said Cattarossi’s generosity has expanded to both friends and family. The photographer took Vera’s maternity photos and gave them to her as a gift in memory of Vera’s last child. Then Vera became pregnant with her fifth.
“She was so looking forward to seeing me,” said Vera. “She said, ‘I’m thrilled!’ She worked hard for all she had and she was so generous. “
She describes Cattarossi as “down to earth” and “a bit bohemian”.
“She was aware that she was a healthy person in every way – mind, body, soul, emotionally. She was very fit. She played tennis and was aware of the need to raise her daughter holistically and healthily. “
She was also an immigrant who fully embraced her adopted home.
“She loved everything we stand for,” said Vera. “She always said, ‘Americans need to understand what they have, hold on to it, and fight for their freedom.’ She just loved the essence of America. ”
But Stella always came first. Mother and daughter were close; they shared a bed. Vera wonders if her friend had time to wake up before the accident, to reach Stella and pull her close.
“I hope she put her arms around her little girl,” she said.