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  • Joanna Madloch

Brigid Burke





In this picture, there is my parental grandmother, Dorothy Elizabeth Burke. My grandfather died when I was only two years old and grandmother lived in the little house just next to ours for my entire childhood. My father built our house there in order to stay close to her. As kids, we played a lot outside and always run to grandma Dorothy’s house when we wanted something. She was a perfect indulger in every sense of the word and she was always giving us things forbidden at home. All one had to do was ask or simply open the freezer or a kitchen cabinet. She had everything we ever craved: ice cream, popsicles, you name it. Many family dinners were spoiled like that and my mother, who was much stricter than grandma, did not appreciate this little habit of ours.


She was probably 9-years old when this photograph was taken. She used to ride a pony on a farm near Whippany, New Jersey, where she grew up. Grandma Dorothy was one of the nine children of Edmund Burke, who was an Irish immigrant. Her father died, leaving the family very poor when she was still a kid and she had to take a job at the young age. In fact, she worked various jobs all her life. She started in a box factory. Then for years she worked as a waitress. However, after my grandfather died in 1974, she kept a job at Epstein Department Store in Morristown, where she worked as a switchboard operator. She eventually retired when she was 77-years old.


In her days she was a very beautiful woman. Even if I do not know her when she was young, everybody always praised her for her looks. She even won a local beauty contest. Grandma Dorothy always stands out in those old pictures. She was also physically fit and healthy. Only in her last years, grandma Dorothy developed Parkinson disease and slowly withdrew from any social life. I think that eventually she got very lonely and just gave up. She was a dedicated Presbyterian and even if during her entire life she went to church diligently, in her old age she stopped doing it. In her house, she kept reading papers and doing puzzles, but her mental state declined rapidly, and she died in 2002.

I think I have many things in common with her. She was a strong, free-spirited woman and through most of her life she lived independently. She never liked vegetables and I despise them as well, so there, my connection with grandma Dorothy has been legally sealed. When I changed my last name, I picked hers.






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