September 28, 2021


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Argentine surgeon, husband, young daughter die in Surfside


Argentines Fabián Núñez, left, Andrés Galfrascoli and their daughter Sofía were in Miami to get vaccinated and look for surrogacy options to have a new baby.

Photo via WUSF Public Media

Andrés Galfrascoli, a renowned Argentine plastic surgeon with an office in the elegant Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires, and his husband Fabián Núñez, a theater director, lived amid the glamour of artists, models and influencers in Argentina’s high society.

Galfrascoli, 44, was friends with Argentina’s first lady Fabiola Yáñez and cared for the faces and bodies of top actresses, singers, politicians and business leaders in the Andean nation. Núñez, 57, built a successful career in theater, directing plays and musicals that featured Argentina’s top talent.

But in their personal lives, they looked for simple pleasures in the company of their daughter Sofía, 5, for whom “they fought an incredibly fierce battle,” according to a friend. Sofía was conceived via surrogacy and the couple had to fight in Argentinian court for the right to become parents, paving the way for other cases in recent years.

Their best moments were spent away from the excitement of exclusive events and sophisticated dinner parties; the couple would rather take Sofía to the playground or watch family movies together.

“They were humble and good people; they never had it easy and had to fight for everything they achieved,” Nicolas Patoka, an Argentinian friend who was hosting the couple in his Hollywood home, told the newspaper Clarín, the country’s largest. “But their biggest dream was to have children and they fought for their little angel.”

Galfrascoli, Núñez and Sofía were among the 98 people who died in the Champlain Towers South collapse a month ago. They were planning on staying there for just one night, taking advantage of Patoka’s offer of his family’s beachfront apartment to spend a day playing in the sand and splashing in Surfside beach’s calm waters, he said. That decision will haunt him for the rest of his life, he told the newspaper.

“I wish we had told them no,” Patoka said.

Miami-Dade police recovered their bodies on July 8, although police did not identify Galfrascoli and Sofía by name, saying the family had requested their names not be disclosed. Friends and family members have posted tributes to them, however, on social media.

The family had traveled to Miami to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to get a break from Buenos Aires, where long-running restrictions due to the pandemic had made it difficult for them to keep working, Patoka said.

But they had plans to return the week following the building collapse because the couple was in the middle of their biggest project since welcoming Sofía: finding a surrogate mother in Argentina to have another child, Galfrascoli’s family said in a post on Instagram.

“This loss has left a huge hole in our lives,” members of the Galfrascoli’s family wrote on the plastic surgeon’s Instagram account. “It’s extremely difficult for us to face the sudden loss of Andrés, Fabián and Sofía.” The post was followed by dozens of comments by nurses, anesthesiologists, artists and colleagues and friends who wrote about the couple’s love for their family, their generosity to friends and their professionalism.

The word “lucha,” or fight, is used in many posts to describe how the couple came from humble origins and worked hard to achieve success in their careers. They also battled adversity to become a gay family in a predominantly Catholic and conservative country.

Galfrascoli was born in Goya, a small town in the northern province of Corrientes, near the border with Paraguay and more than 600 miles away from Buenos Aires, Argentina’s political and cultural center. He studied at the university in the city of Corrientes and moved to Buenos Aires when he was accepted into a residency program in reconstructive plastic surgery at Hospital Argerich, a public hospital in the city’s working-class district of La Boca.

While operating on low-income women who needed reconstructive surgery after mastectomies, burn and accident victims, he built his private practice focusing on cosmetic procedures. The practice grew in recent years and the surgeon in 2017 expanded to an office in an elegant neoclassical building on Santa Fe Avenue in Buenos Aires’s wealthy Recoleta neighborhood, home to Recoleta Cemetery where former first lady Eva Perón is buried.

The office has a large waiting room decorated with neutral colors and accent pieces like Louis XV-inspired sofas, while white orchid arrangements placed on tables add a romantic touch.

On his website, the doctor talks about his philosophy of favoring prevention rather than major invasive procedures, and discusses what he considers the role of plastic surgery: to make patients feel better about themselves and to give them confidence.He promises to always give patients his “honest and truthful opinion” about treatments.

Núñez, an accountant by training, fell in love with theater even before going to college. After a few years working in different companies, he decided to invest all his savings in a play, according to a 2013 interview posted on YouTube.

He was born in Quilmes, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a town that’s home to two of Argentina’s oldest soccer teams and the beer of the same name that was first brewed there in the 1880s by German immigrants. Núñez worked for several years in theaters in Buenos Aires doing small jobs but privately writing plays and adapting Argentine classics for the stage.

His big break came in 2013, when Núñez produced and directed his best-known play, a musical called “Camila, our love story,” which is based on the true story of Maria Camila O’Gorman, an aristocratic woman who fell in love with a Catholic priest in the 1850s. She was 23 years old and allegedly eight months pregnant when she and Father Ladislao Gutiérrez were executed by a firing squad. Núñez was celebrated for the richly researched musical, according to reviews in Clarín.

While friends lamented their deaths, they also expressed gratitude that the family was together in their final moments.

“I can only think that this was destiny,” said Julia Zenko, a singer and actress who was a longtime patient of Galfrascoli’s and Núñez’s muse in several plays. “What gives me some consolation is to know they were together, and they are now light in our universe,” she said in an interview with local news show Gente.

Follow more of our reporting on Condo Collapse: Disaster in Surfside

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Profile Image of Adriana Brasileiro

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.