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Carmelo’s Café

A one-of-a-kind Shriners Hospitals employee leaves a memorable legacy

Carmelo Flores, a beloved employee of the café, passed away last spring.

Carmelo Flores worked for years as the dishwasher and a hospital nutrition services team member at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago. He was widely known among the staff for his friendliness and personable nature. When Flores passed away suddenly in May 2020, the staff was shocked and heartbroken by the loss of such a kind and dedicated co-worker.

After Carmelo’s passing, dozens of co-workers signed cards and a poster with memories of Carmelo for his family – but they wanted to do more. “Members of our staff actually suggested renaming the (hospital’s) Skyline Café after Carmelo. We took it to our hospital Board of Governors who unanimously supported the change,” Mark Niederpruem, hospital administrator, said. The dining destination was officially renamed Carmelo’s Café at a socially distanced ceremony.

“This is a very special moment in the life cycle of our hospital,” Niederpruem said to attendees of the ceremony. “Carmelo was really a part of the fabric of this place for many years.”

Pamela Patt, MS, RDN, CSP, LD, CNSC, director of nutrition services, worked with Carmelo the entire 30 years he was with the hospital. She recalled his gift for making people feel special. “He knew everyone’s birthday and everybody’s name. I had nurses come up to me and say, ‘He knew my children’s birthdays.’ He would always say, ‘Suzie’s birthday is coming up. Make sure that you tell her happy birthday.’”

The number of Carmelo’s relatives who could attend the ceremony in person was limited because of pandemic precautions, so his sister, Norma, broadcast the event live on Facebook. She shared the family’s overwhelming gratitude for this gesture and the support they received after Carmelo’s death. “You all should be proud of yourselves working like that, as a group, as a family. Many places cannot say they are a family. But to literally say it, for my brother, this was a second family.”