In October of 1927, the 15th child of two Irish immigrants was born. Her father was an Alderman representing the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. He also ran for United States Congress during the Tammany Hall years. To further help support his large Irish family, he wrote a column for the old Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. When PL was born, her oldest sister was 35 years old. Life in PL s house was always an adventure. People were coming and going constantly.
Brooklyn had been good to this Irish immigrant, so he felt compelled to help other Irish immigrants settled into their new homeland. It was not an uncommon occurrence for him to bring home unannounced three or four Irish immigrants who had no place to eat. His loving wife wanted to kill him, but always made sure that there were a couple of extra place settings for the unexpected guests. That was the custom that was passed on to all of their 15 children and they in turn passed that custom on to their families.
When PL was eleven, her mother died from diabetes. All of her older siblings pitched in to help their baby sister. Their father was a man of deep faith and impeccable character and integrity. He raised his children by the power of his example. His generosity of spirit and compassionate heart were legendary in his old Flatbush neighborhood.
PL went to Catholic elementary school and high school and for a brief time college. As she started her professional career, she worked as an administrative representative for the Bell Telephone Company. During this time, through her older sister, she met her future husband, who is from a large immigrant Italian family.
They instantly connected. After a few years of dating and growing together, they were married. Her husband was an ex-Marine who fought on the Pacific front during World War II.
After the war, he opted to support his mother, because his father had died and she could barely speak English. So, instead of going to college, he became a skilled plumber.
Shortly before they were married, he landed a job in a growing plumbing and heating supply company. He started as an entry-level employee, quickly rose through the ranks and became the manager of this company.
After the honeymoon, they lived in Brooklyn for a brief time. That s where their first son was born. They then moved to the Five Towns area to be closer to PL s husband s job. In the early 1950 s, they built a home and settled in a small town on the South Shore of Long Island. There they had four more children and raised their family until retiring to New England in the early 1980 s, where they still reside today.
All of their five children became teachers. The boys taught, coached and have become school administrators. The youngest son was an extraordinary educator and coach. As a high school student, he attended St. John the Baptist Diocesan high school in West Islip. He was captain of the football team and a Lacrosse All-American. He went to college on a full Lacrosse scholarship and led his college lacrosse team to the National Championship.
After graduation, he sought to become a physical education teacher and football and lacrosse coach. It was hard to land a full-time teaching position at the time that he graduated. He initially was a full-time sub and coached lacrosse and football in a number of school districts.
He was finally hired by a high school on the South Shore in Suffolk County to teach physical education and coach varsity football. After a few years in the trenches, he was appointed the Director of Athletics for that district. They were small, so they allowed him to also teach and coach, which he loved.
By the age of 36, he had contracted the deadly disease known as ALS-Lou Gehrig s disease. Initially, he was misdiagnosed with Lyme disease. As his condition deteriorated, he sought a second opinion in New York City and was immediately diagnosed. He was also told that he had the progressive strand of this fatal disease. Within months, his speech was impaired, as well as his walking. By the next school year, he was in a wheelchair, and by the second year, he couldn t speak at all.
He battled this horrible disease with great courage and dignity for six years; ultimately communicating through a voice activated computer, which only his pinkie could use, and by blinking.
During the six years, he battled this debilitating disease, he taught all who knew him not about dying, but about living. He never complained. He always welcomed visitors and was willing to listen to his colleagues talk about the challenges of being teachers and dealing with difficult students.
For the six years that he was sick, his mother commuted back and forth from New England to take care of her youngest son and provide support for her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
This lady only learned how to drive in her 60 s. Her Italian husband felt it was best that she not drive while raising their five children. In her 70 s, she started making this weekly commute to the South Shore. She always came with goodies and was always there to clean, make a bed or just be a listening ear.
Being the youngest of 15 children, PL s mother was buried when PL was eleven, her father the week before she was married and all 14 brothers and sisters. Her greatest burden was that April day that she had to bury her youngest boy. Her courage and compassion on that day were phenomenal, her faith was an inspiration. She never uttered a bitter word or expressed an ounce of resentment for the burden she had to bear. For her, it was always about God s plan and praying for the strength to live with that " and that she has done for more than 80 years.
When her children were babies, she would ride a bicycle to the local food store. She would always bake a cake and leave it on the front step of a new neighbor s home. If she heard you were sick, she would make a pot of soup and leave it at your door.
Her life has been a wonderful tapestry of love, compassion, empathy, friendship and service to others. I feel so honored to know her and call her my mom.
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