CHICAGO (JGL) – Asteria Glimane Bhandari, a Filipino American dual-citizen nurse, died in a car accident on Jan. 17 in New Delhi, India. Her husband, Indian American businessman Avatar “Ben” Bhandari, who was with her, sustained deep wounds in the head and also in the forehead but survived. The accident happened shortly after they arrived at the airport while on board a Toyota Innova van, which was totaled.
“My wife sustained a single deep wound from a metal in her forehead and died instantly,” Bhandari told the Journal GlobaLinks in an exclusive interview during the funeral wake at Malec & Sons Funeral Home in the far northwest side of Chicago on Jan. 24.
When asked how the vehicular accident happened, Bhandari, who is still sporting bandage on his forehead and a couple of inches of fresh stitches in his head, said, “I have no idea because of the fog, there was zero visibility at about 4 a.m., I did not know what hit our van”. He also did not know what happened to the driver of the van, who was seated at right, and the driver’s assistant, who was seated at left.
Bhandari’s wife was seated behind the driver while he was seated behind the driver’s assistant. Both he and his wife banged their foreheads on the metals in front of them inside the car.
It was not known if all of them were wearing seat belts.
Bhandri said the van involved in the accident was the same van, owned by a friend in New Delhi, that was provided to them during their previous visits.
Although a fulfilled woman at 71, Ben, 74, said Aster “is a woman on a mission. She just wanted to help other people after taking care of our family.”
A graduate of the nursing program at Southwestern University in Cebu (class ’64), Aster came to Chicago in the 60’s where she met Ben. They got married in 1967. Their 47 years of marriage produced three doctors, Angelina, Amy and Umesh, one lawyer, Aileen, one nurse, Ashe, and one businessman, Sunil, according Aster’s first cousin, Malou Salabsab.
WANTED TO CARE FOR INDIA’S SACRED COWS
“Because cows are sacred animals in India roaming the streets, my wife wanted to put up shelters for these cows, which are malnourished and are not properly taken care of,” Ben said. “She raised $100,000 and offered to provide shelter to 150 cows in a 30-hectare farm in Chandigarh, a city in Punjab (a northwest state in India) that was the reason for our trip last week.”
“We planned to stay in Chandigarh for three to four months to set up this shelter before returning to Chicago and the Philippines.”
“In the Philippines, my wife helped build schools, planted 500 mango trees and helped provide for the poor,” Ben said.
They visit India three times a year; they also travel to the Philippines twice a year.
After retiring as nurse at the Loyola Medical Center in Chicago from 1988 to 2007, Aster decided to help her kababayans (fellow countrymen) in San Benito. She applied for dual citizen and returned in 2007 to run for mayor and won. She served for one term (2007-2010). She decided not to run for re-election so she can take care of her growing number of grandchildren in Chicago.
Aster was not new in politics in her hometown. Her father, Alejandro Glimane, was a mayor in San Benito in early 80’s.
“She planned to run for Congresswoman in her Surigao del Norte district and give up her U.S. citizenship. Because I still keep my U.S. citizenship, I can always file supporting documents, so she can be given a re-entry visa to the U.S. whenever she wanted to visit her children and grandchildren in Chicago,” Bhandari explained.
Aside from having talented children, the Bhadaris also have three girls, who became Miss Philippines in the community organizations.
Daughter of Alejandro and Presentacion Glimane, Aster is survived by her daughters Angelina Bhandari, MD (husband of Vijay Pallekonda, MD); Asha Bhandari, RN (husband Paul Moreno, JD); Amy Bhandari, MBBS; Aileen Bhandari, Assistant State’s Attorney (husband Sam Davis, Jr., Businessman); sons, Umesh Bhandari, MD (wife Holly Kinget, MD) and Sunil Bhandari; grandchildren Anand, Viraj and Chandrika Pallekonda; Amara and Vincente Moreno; Christopher, Basant, Maya and Shaan Davis; Saniya Bhandari; nieces and nephews and friends.
Thelma Fuentes, a retired registered nurse and active community leader and a friend of Aster, said, “Aster had a magnetic smile, a zest for life, and a heart of gold.” Aster hobbies included cooking for everyone, dancing and helping others.
Another Filipino American registered nurse, Jean Tablizo, wife of Johnny Tablizo, has nothing but kind words for Aster, who was active in community events.
Veronica Leighton, local publisher-editor of Via Times and producer of Chicago Philippine Reports TV, said Aster will be dearly missed and is a big loss to the community.