Ortellado said she started the fundraiser out of a personal obligation to help her close friends. “When you see a family like this going through this, it’s tragic for so many people,” she said. “If you knew him, you’d want to be his friend. He would go out of his way to help anyone.”
After Hurricane Sandy, she recalled, Frantoni’s Restaurant, in East Meadow, delivered free pizza to Ehmer’s BP station. Instead of keeping it for himself, he gave it away, along with hot coffee, to people who were waiting on line for hours to get gasoline. “This is what he did for his customers,” she said. “It’s because he’s just a genuinely nice person.”
Ehmer co-owns the station with Jim Nikolai, who, along with his brother, Mike, has been friends with Ehmer for more than 30 years. “He touches everybody he comes in contact with,” Mike Nikolai said. “Most people have a handful of lifelong friends … people you know you’ll be friends with forever. Bobby is like that for many people.”
Mike said he visited Ehmer on Monday, and that he was taking steps again with the help of a walker. “The improvement that he’s made … from what [doctors] thought to what he is now, is pretty amazing,” he said.
Ehmer and his family enjoy traveling, including regular trips to Maine, Ortellado said. He is an avid photographer and bike rider, and a big fan of Jimmy Buffet.
The fundraising goal, she said, is $300,000. “This fundraiser is honoring our dear friend, amazing husband, loving father, devoted son, and loyal brother,” Ortellado wrote on the fundraising site. “We are hoping to help the family with the ongoing costs associated with hospital expenses, rehabilitation bills, medications, prosthetics, necessary home modifications, and other day-to-day expenses they incur. Please help spread the word by sharing this with your friends and to donate what you can.”
Donations can be made online at www.gofundme.com/3iof6s, or mailed to Joanne Ehmer, P.O. Box 402, Greenvale, N.Y. 11548.