Joaquin Rivera was supposed to play a gig in New York today, but the beloved Latino community leader didn't get to belt out any holiday songs this year.
The 63-year-old died Nov. 28 in the waiting room of Aria Health's Frankford campus, minutes after he walked in and complained of pain in his side and arm.
Many of Rivera's longtime friends, including members of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (NCPRR), will gather at the Frankford hospital at 1 p.m. today to remember a man they considered a hero.
The event, called "Parranda Para La Justicia," will center on the biggest staple of Rivera's life: music.
"It's going to be more of a celebration, a time for us to enjoy his favorite songs," said Joe Garcia, president of NCPRR's Pennsylvania chapter, which Rivera cofounded in 1981.
"If you knew Joaquin, that's what he would have wanted us to do. Singing, playing guitar, that was his life."
Garcia said he hopes it will be cathartic for Rivera's friends to join together at the place where he died.
But he acknowledged that being near the hospital, at Frankford Avenue and Harrison Street, will be difficult, especially when Rivera's friends think of the indignities he suffered after he died.
The shameful details are widely known across the country: Rivera sat dead in the hospital's small, fairly empty waiting room for almost an hour, and was preyed upon by three homeless people who stole his wristwatch, authorities have said.
The case is being investigated by the state Department of Health. City Council members voted unanimously earlier this week to hold hearings about the incident.
The investigations are of little comfort to Rivera's friends. They want answers from Aria Health, Garcia said. But most of all, they just miss their pal.
"He was so humble," Garcia said. "He loved being Puerto Rican, loved his culture, loved making people happy. It's going to be tough to replace him."