Jan. 14, 1914 – Jan. 10, 2018
My grandmother, Antoinette Cona, passed away on Jan. 10, four short days away from her 104th birthday. She was far more than just a grandmother; she was like a second mother, the matching bookend to our grandfather who together cared for all of us like parents. Their love and support was constant and unwavering. To say that she will be missed is a huge understatement, to say that we are all beyond grateful for her amazing and long life is even more so. She was many things in this life: a valued daughter, the mother of three children, Charles 82, Paul 79, Antoinette 76… a grandmother to Selena 56, Donna 53, Arthur 47 and myself, Raymond 42. Beyond that, she left five wonderful great-grandchildren, Christopher, Zachary, Douglas, Emma and Julia.
Born in Port Washington as the fifth of seven children. Her parents, Marcelina and Amato, who emigrated from Avellino, Italy, managed a farm in Flower Hill. My grandmother told us many stories of life on the farm all very centered on the simplicity of life back then and how prevalent poverty was especially in the first half of the 20th century. The family persevered and grew, taking on all of life’s challenges in stride and working hard and diligent passing along those values to the ensuing generations. On Nov. 12, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, at St. Peter of Alcantara in Port Washington, my grandparents were married. The newlyweds moved into the house my grandfather bought at 76 Willowdale Ave., where they would raise three children.
As her children grew, grandma went to work as a cook for the Salem School, Weber School and eventually the Main Street School. She worked for 15 years side by side with her sister Angelina doing what she loved to do most. She spent her first paycheck on a gold watch for my grandfather and clothing for my mother. She always put everyone first and nothing made her happier than providing for others. From the school children that she cooked for to the ones she raised, she treated everyone with love and respect. Everyone commented her bright smile and sunny disposition.
She would see two World Wars and 18 U.S. presidents. One can only imagine what she truly felt as she aged past a century and witnessed the world change from the early days of modern industrialization through a Great Depression and to the chaos of today. Through each stage of our lives, every milestone, every challenge and every day in-between she was a constant presence. Her deep sense of pride, grace, selflessness, generosity, and compassion are unparalleled and I speak for an entire family who remains grateful for this amazing woman. If our human life is the accumulation of these memories and experiences, the wisdom we achieve by age, then I know in my heart she passes into the next world as an angel. We will love and miss her always and forever.