Thank you for
your kind words of condolences regarding the passing of my mom
on June 23. Copying here the remarks I made to family and
friends who were able to attend the church service on Staten
I think who we admire tells a lot about the person. I
recall that mom admired President Roosevelt and first lady,
Eleanor; John Kennedy, Jack Parr, and her good friend Nora
Kelly, a professor of Literature at SI Community College.
She loved conversation, the meaning of last names, baseball…
the Mets. She’d know more about the life of a neighborhood in
a day than we’d be “up” on in years – just be engaging people
she met on a walk.
Mom, Mildred (Helene), was a city kid. She was born in 1918
in New York City.
Her mom died of breast cancer when Mildred was very young.
Reinventing themselves (their history and background), the
family moved to their summer bungalow in Midland Beach, Staten
Island, which became a place of great family joy. … Aunt
Vi, Uncle Jack, dad, Uncle Raymond, Aunt Millie, George
Gillespie, Stanley and Rhoda, the kids, the beach, the
woodlands. Small as our bungalow was, it was a big place to be.
Mom had her share of troubles. About that she’d say “Be
patient. Know that you won’t feel as sad the next day or the
day after that. Your mind will adjust. Remember this when you
are feeling overwhelmed.”
Marriage to our dad didn’t go well, but not for lack of
love. He was a machinist, inventor, artist, problem solver …
but, tragically, he could not solve the drinking problem. Here
mom taught us (by example) about making hard choices; how to end
something that just wasn’t going to work. She made the decision
without ever demonizing dad – or asking us to take sides;
without heated arguments in front of the kids.
We “Latch-Key” kids did alright. As a single and working
mom she trusted us, or she had to. She’d get the shopping done
on her lunch-hour break. She’d prepare meals the night before.
“I like to roast two chickens at once: the second for the next
meal,” she’d say. She’d cook up a Stew (with chuck steak) on
Saturday - pork chops on Monday with mustard and soy sauce. She
planned our meals to have together as a family.
She had rules and rule one was that she expected us to get a
quality education so we’d be prepared for our lives. Mom had
her preferences, like “there’s nothing like a city job,” because
you could rely on it to be there for you.
How did she do ALL OF THIS on a secretary’s salary? She had
much to say about everything it seemed, but never much to say
about that. Most importantly, you didn’t want to
Mom was, maybe, 5 foot tall. We heard of her comings and
goings from friends in the neighborhood. “Saw” your mom – her
head barely above the steering wheel of the Chevy Nova. She
needed a pillow to drive that car.
She’d take you anywhere and back in it – to the Little
League game, or to Fort Lee NJ, to pick up my ride back to
Finally, she liked a good debate. On the question of
“Nature versus Nurture” she’d say: “our genes mattered the most
– that children were very different in temperament – and this is
a first-hand, observed fact.”
But on the lower rank she gave to Nurture, I did not realize
until now that she was just being modest.