Maria “Mary” (Mauro) Ficara was my maternal grandmother. She was born in Gallina, Reggio di Calabria, Calabria, Italy, on January 13, 1900. She was married on April 19, 1923. She emigrated from Italy to the United States on June 23, 1928 on the S.S. Duilio and arrived in New York on July 2, 1928. She had with her Brigida Theresa “Bea” Ficara, her oldest daughter and my mother, and Concetto “Jo-Jo” Ficara, her oldest son. She lived at various addresses in the Bronx for the rest of her life. She was Naturalized in the U.S. District Court, New York City, New York, on April 4, 1944.
On February 10, 1966, while she was walking to work, she was hit by a truck. She was taken to Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. She was in a coma and they performed a tracheotomy so she could breathe. I don’t remember how long she was at Jacobi, but at some point she was transferred to Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Welfare Island, where she remained until she died on August 8, 1966. Some of you may be familiar with Goldwater Memorial Hospital without even knowing it. A scene from the movie “The Exorcist” was filmed in one of the wards at that hospital.
I was only 10 when my grandmother died, so I don’t have a lot of memories of her, but the ones I do have are good. She was an amazing woman. Her husband never took care of his family, so she raised 5 children on her own. I don’t remember where she worked, but I do remember that she assembled puppets. I still remember the puppets that she gave to me (one of them was Deputy Dawg). One of the best memories I have of her is when I was in the 3rd grade, around 1964. She was down visiting us. I had a crush on the prettiest girl in the school. Her name was Sandra Bielinski. My mother told my grandmother about her, and in her heavily accented English she asked me, “Is she a Polack?” Now, I had never even heard the word Polack before. I thought she asked me if she was black, so I replied, “No, she’s a white.” My grandmother and mother laughed so hard they had tears in their eyes.
Another great memory I have of her is one time when we went to the Bronx to pick her up from her apartment. She gave me a little plastic piggy bank stuffed with pennies that she had saved for me. There had to have been at least $3.00 in pennies in that little bank, which was a lot of money at the time. I’m sure I spent every penny of it, but what I wouldn’t give to have that little bank with the pennies right now.