Sunday, September 26, 2021

Obituary: Maria Popa, Mihai Radulescu die in Surfside collapse


Mihai Radulescu and Maria Popa Radulescu lived in Champlain Towers South, which partially collapsed on June 24, 2021, killing 98 people. They loved music, dancing and celebrating life.


The occasion was festive — a Christmas party with friends and live music.

But Mihai Radulescu was serious about following the slow, quick, quick footwork timing while dancing to the bolero-mambo “Sway” with his wife, Maria Popa. He was so focused on the rhythm that he kept looking down at Popa’s feet.

As he prepared to do an open break with an underarm twirl, Popa turned the wrong way, her black lace cardigan flapping about over a long black dress. He looked at her sternly, signaling with his hand to correct her move.

She cheekily shrugged her shoulders and raised her arms like a ballerina, smiling and closing her eyes as if to say: Let’s forget the bolero steps and just have fun.

The video of the couple dancing was posted by Gabrielle Emerson on Facebook earlier this month with the caption, “Dancing in Heaven, together forever.”

Maria Popa Radulescu, 79, and her husband, Mihai, 82, lived in unit 404 of Champlain Towers South in Surfside and perished in the collapse in the early hours of June 24. Their bodies were recovered on July 9.

Funeral services were held at the Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church in Hollywood on July 31, on what would have been Radulescu’s 83rd birthday. The Radulescus are survived by their son, Alexandru, who lives in Mastic, New York, according to a family friend.

Emerson, who posted several photos of the couple on her Facebook page, said they were “beautiful souls” who loved music and dancing. In one of her posts, Emerson is seen dancing with Radulescu, who is wearing a pink shirt with a black bow tie and a golden paper crown at a party celebrating his birthday. Popa can be seen dancing with friends on the other side of the dance floor, smiling and waving her arms.

The couple bought the apartment in 2009, after owning a house in Long Island, according to property records.

Friends say the Radulescus were caring and generous people who loved music and dancing.

Music was part of their lives.

Emilie Triot, a manager at the Publix pharmacy in Surfside where the couple regularly went, said she bonded with Mihai over songs of different genres. He would record several mixes of songs which he shared with friends.

“I think I have a mix tape (well, mix CDs) for every year Mihai lived,” she wrote on the condolences wall with tributes to the couple on Caballero Rivero’s website. (They were buried at Caballero Rivero Southern Memorial Park in North Miami.) “Mihai was a lover of music, and he knew I was as well. We bonded over mixes he made, and even some of his favorite CDs which he let me ‘borrow,’ ” Triot wrote.

The pharmacist said the couple was always a treat to her day. “When I was at my lowest of lows and most exhausting of days, it was like they had the foresight to show up — and when they did, they picked me up.”

Popa and Radulescu were regulars at Flanigan’s on Harding Aveune in Surfside, just a few blocks from the Champlain Towers.

Teresa Sepetauc said they cheered her up every time they went to the pub.

“They were such a good team and so lovely. I am so heartbroken. I was so happy to feed them and take care of them,” Sepetauc wrote on the funeral home’s online memorial page. “I know they are at peace together in the next chapter. I feel lucky to have known them even just a little bit.”

Follow more of our reporting on Condo Collapse: The victims’ stories

See all stories

Adriana Brasileiro covers environmental news at the Miami Herald. Previously she covered climate change, business, political and general news as a correspondent for the world’s top news organizations: Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones – The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, based in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Santiago.

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