by Bobby Sanabria

Again showing the reverence young artists had for him, Tito was ask to appear as a guest on vocalist Marc Anthony's recent blockbuster HBO special. He also began concertizing with local symphonies, featuring his orchestra on the same bill. This culminated with a recent performance in late April 2000 with the Puerto Rico Symphony that was filmed for an upcoming documentary on his life. It was during this performance that Tito began to feel the effects of a leaky heart valve that had troubled him over the last few years. After several weeks of recuperation and mastering a new recording project, collaboration with pianist Eddie Palmieri, he entered New York City's famed NYU clinic to have the problem corrected. Before going into surgery, Tito visited other patients and graciously signed autographs.

Farewell to the King

During the procedure, it was discovered that Tito also needed a quadruple bypass. The operation began at 9 a.m., passed the 14-hour mark. Tito's body could not take any more. At approximately 11:15 p.m. on May 31, 2000, the King of Latin Music said goodbye to this world in the presence of his family and closest friends. On June 4th and 5th over 15,000 New Yorkers, including a who's who of musicians, celebrities and politicians paid their respects to "El Rey". But most impressive were his "subjects"— the dancers, listeners, and just plain fans that showed their loyalty to this man's all encompassing reign. Tito was truly loved by those he touched. And, not enough can be said about the Puente family. His sons Ronnie and Tito, Jr., along with his daughter Audrey greeted every visitor in their time of personal sadness with appreciation for the public's love of their father. Margie Puente met close friends and family with the same accessibility and warmth that had helped make her well-known husband famous.

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Originally from Latin Percussion. | Reprinted by permission from Latin Percussion.
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