QUEENS — A man who died Saturday after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on his way to work was trying to help pay for his grandchildrens' college education, his grief-stricken wife of 39 years said Monday.
Kumar Ragunath, 64, of Jamaica, was on his way to his second day on the job at the Holiday Inn in Long Island City, where he worked as the hotel’s fire safety director, when he was hit crossing Northern Boulevard, at 41st Road, police and the family said.
A dark colored Chevy Blazer ran into him when he was walking outside of a crosswalk, police said.
After hitting Ragunath, leaving him with severe head injuries and a broken leg, the driver took off on Northern Boulevard, police said.
The victim was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition and died from his injures the following day, police said.
As of Monday afternoon, police were still looking for the driver.
Ragunath’s wife, Nasha, 57, said that it was her husband's second day of work, a job which he found recently, after being unemployed since August, she said.
The victim did not need to work, since he was approaching retirement age, “but he said: ‘I want to work as long as I have my good health and I want to work for my grandchildren — they will have to go to college soon,’” his wife added.
She said her husband would regularly send money to support their six grandchildren, ages 7 to 13, who live in Florida and upstate New York.
They emigrated from Guyana in 1987 with their three children, because her family lived in New York.
After living in The Bronx for five years, they bought a two-family house in Jamaica, near the border with Richmond Hill, sharing it with the Nasha Ragunath’s family.
The widow said Kumar Rangunath had numerous friends, and more than 300 people visited the house this past weekend to pay their respects during a wake that followed the Hindu tradition.
“Everybody liked him, he was very generous,” Nasha Ragunath said. “If he had the last penny, and somebody asked him for it, he would give it to them.”
She also said her husband did not pay much attention to material goods. Since they came to the U.S., he never bought a car and never had a cellphone, she said. “He was very old-fashioned and very humble,” she said.
Rangunath, who loved Indian music and to play cricket, would also volunteer to help friends and neighbors, cleaning their sidewalks when it snowed and planting flowers in their gardens in the summertime, his wife said.
She said she met her husband in Kilcoy, Guyana, where they both grew up. “One day he sent me a letter saying that he likes me,” she said. “And I responded.” They got married a year later.
His 13-year-old granddaughter, Cierra Pentayah, who lives in Clermont, Fla., and came with her family for the funeral, said she talked to her grandfather on the phone every week.
“We had that close connection,” she said. Cierra said he liked when she spoke using various accents. “He would always laugh at it,” she said. Her British accent was his favorite, she said.
“He was everything to us,” Nasha Ragunath said. “We miss him.”
The viewing has been scheduled for Thursday and Friday (March 13-14) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Leo F. Kearns Funeral Home at 103-33 Lefferts Blvd., South Richmond Hill. The funeral will begin on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Kumar Ragunath will be buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens.