Family remembers artistic mom, 27, with ‘huge heart’ who died seeking recovery on Staten

In Health

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of two stories spotlighting the life and tragic loss of Melissa Veltidi, whose troubling death occurred while she was being cared for at Amethyst House, Staten Island’s only women’s sober living facility.

Melissa Veltidi

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County died at age 27 on July 22, 2021, after becoming unconscious at Amethyst House on Staten Island. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The family of Melissa Veltidi, 27, — who lost consciousness at Amethyst House in July 2021 and later died — said she was a “fantastic mother” with a “huge heart,” and enthusiastic about the arts and nature.

Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County was on the cusp of recovery and a fresh start in life when she died on July 22, 2021, at Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton, according to her bereaved family.

While Veltidi’s cause of death is listed as “undetermined,” the manner of death is “multiple drug intoxication,” according to the medical examiner. That is despite her death coming at a time when Veltidi was only taking prescribed, and not illicit drugs.

As family members continue searching for answers about how Veltidi died while in treatment at Amethyst House in Port Richmond, they don’t want their beloved daughter and sister to be defined by her addiction.

“She was a fantastic mother,” said Veltidi’s mother, Anita Newell, who declined to have her granddaughter’s name published in the Advance/ “The way she treated her daughter was with a very, very positive attitude. She never gave her daughter any negativity, which I thought was beautiful.”

Amethyst House shuttered last year. Multiple whistleblowers previously told the Advance/ that the more than 40-year-old safe haven for women seeking sobriety became a house of mistrust and neglect over the last few years, alleging mismanagement, missing medications and lost trust.

Camelot of Staten Island said it plans to reopen the facility under new leadership.


For years before arriving at Amethyst House, Veltidi didn’t receive the help she needed for multiple issues that Newell believes stemmed from her daughter being sexually abused as a child.

“She always fell through the cracks,” Newell said. “She never got the proper mental health care.”

Veltidi was cycled through various mental health and drug-addiction programs where she was overprescribed pills instead of receiving talk therapy or other help needed to overcome her problems, alleged Newell. Over time, Veltidi became dependent on prescription pills and street drugs, including opioids and sedatives, her mother said.

“The treatment is all pills, this is [some medical professionals’] answer to everything instead of trying to find the root of this problem,” Newell said. “When you’re so drugged up, you’re in a fog.”

Veltidi learned how to manipulate doctors and other providers to obtain drugs to feed her addiction, her mother said.

“She knew what to say to get what she wanted when she did go to these people,” Newell said of doctors and other providers. “I can’t even tell you how much medication she was on at one time. It was so awful, and she kept trying to get off of the pills. She would go to a different treatment center, and they would say, ‘Well, you need this medication.’ It was just a circle.”


Newell had to speak quietly because Veltidi’s grade-school age daughter was taking singing lessons in a nearby bedroom.

“Her daughter misses her terribly. I’ve got to stop…” Newell said, breaking down in tears before taking time to regain her composure to continue an interview with the Advance/

Veltidi “had a huge heart” and was a “very caring, loving” woman, said her sister, Jacqueline Zabrowski. “She was a wonderful mother and friend.”

Memorial for Melissa Veltidi, 27

A Chinese lantern and balloons were released at a memorial service held for the first anniversary of the death of Melissa Veltidi, 27, of Haverstraw in Rockland County, who died on July 22, 2021, after collapsing at Amethyst House on Staten Island. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

The 27-year-old mother enjoyed drawing with her daughter and also taking her child to fun events, such as fairs, said another of Veltidi’s sisters, Kristi Veltidi.

An amateur photographer who captured artistic images, Veltidi liked attending electric-light music festivals and dancing freestyle with friends, Kristi Veltidi said.

Even into adulthood, Veltidi managed to maintain a childlike ability to see the good in everyone and everything, according to her family.


“Anyone who had met Melissa saw she was a free spirit, an open-minded thinker who never judged anyone she came across,” her obituary said. “She was outspoken and passionate and had a love for music and creativity. Melissa always saw the good in people and she ensured that she raised her daughter with that same open-mindedness, positivity and strength.”

Said Kristi Veltidi, who was one month shy of 16 when her sister was born: “She was very strong and very smart. She didn’t realize how smart she was. She never knew, she never gave herself enough credit.”

Melissa Veltidi

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County died at age 27 on July 22, 2021, after becoming unconscious at Amethyst House on Staten Island. This is one of her baby photos. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

As a premature baby, Veltidi “kind of had to struggle at the beginning of her life,” and that likely gave her strength, Kristi Veltidi said.

Veltidi grew up in Congers in Rockland County, where she attended Lakewood Elementary School and Clarkstown North High School. Her parents divorced when she was a child.

“She was like my little sidekick,” said Zabrowski , who is about 11 years older than Melissa. “I used to take her everywhere.”

Melissa “was an eccentric, lovable girl who loved to draw and paint, and she liked to ride her bike,” Zabrowski recalled.

“I always think of her as this little fairy,” Zabrowski added. “She was very whimsical. She didn’t do any theater or anything, but she was very much just like a little performer in life.”

Melissa Veltidi as a young child

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County was about 4 years old when this photo was taken. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)

Alan Veltidi remembers many idyllic days spent at Lavallette on the New Jersey Shore with his deceased daughter when she was young. She seemed to feel free swimming in the ocean and playing with her many friends in the beach community, he said.

Veltidi dabbled in learning how to play the piano and the violin with some instruction from her step-mother, Janis Veltidi. Alan Veltidi said he remembers helping his daughter with many school projects, including one based on a fictional book about what would happen if rats swarmed Staten Island.

Although Veltidi participated in many treatment programs for her issues throughout the years, she was unable to achieve peace of mind, much less long-term recovery.

“She did not want to be the person she was,” Newell said of her daughter. “There was such hope for her and she struggled every day. She had demons in her head, but you would never know it. Everybody who met her loved her. She was a beautiful young lady.”

Melissa Veltidi

Melissa Veltidi of Haverstraw in Rockland County died at age 27 on July 22, 2021, after becoming unconscious at Amethyst House on Staten Island. (Courtesy of Anita Newell)


>> Exclusive: Long-standing NYC safe haven for women shutters amid tragic death, allegations of abrupt resignation, missing meds

>> Staten Island safe haven for women, shuttered under controversy, on its way to reopening under new leadership

Read More: Family remembers artistic mom, 27, with ‘huge heart’ who died seeking recovery on Staten

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