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  • Joanna Madloch

Kate Muccino Gandhi



My maternal grandmother, Jean Ann Genarro, née Dugan, was born in 1919. She was Irish and came to the U.S. via Scotland when she was only eighteen months old. I have seen the names of both her parents listed on a display on Ellis Island. Jean Ann had two sisters and a brother. For a long time, the family lived in the Down Neck section of Newark.


When she finished school, Jean Ann worked as a secretary for the IRS. This is where she met my future grandfather. They had a rather stormy relationship. They dated, then broke up, and she started to date someone else. When she was seeing this other man, my future grandfather enlisted in the Air Force as a navigator. It was during WW2 and he was quickly sent to a training camp in Florida. From there, he called Jean Ann’s mother with a marriage proposal and she accepted on behalf of her daughter. I still wonder how this was possible that her mother accepted on her behalf. Nevertheless, my grandmother broke up with the guy she was dating and went down to Florida. They had a very casual, quick ceremony with a cafeteria girl as a witness. Following this, my grandfather went to war and remained stationed in England. Eventually, he came back, and they were reunited.


I think that they had a happy marriage. They produced six children, three girls and three boys. My mother, who is portrayed in this photograph as a baby was the oldest of them. When she was sixteen, the family moved to North Caldwell.


My grandmother was a homemaker and she enjoyed the domestic life. She loved her house and adored the garden. Mostly, she liked her little routines and domestic rituals, like having her tea and cookies at the same time every day. She did not have any desire for adventure, or if she had it, it was completely fulfilled by reading Agatha Christie mystery novels. Religion was an important part of her life and she was a practicing Catholic.


I was lucky to know her. She lived in North Caldwell until the age of ninety-two and died only in 2013. From my childhood I spent a lot of time with her. In many ways, she was a very typical grandmother. She allowed my brother and me all the forbidden foods. It was with her we watched all the TV shows that my parents strictly banned us from watching. I remember watching “Family Feud” on her couch, eating cookies and drinking tea, like proper adults.


I was her first grandchild and I think I was always her favorite. I am also a lot like her. She liked her life to be simple and consistent. For me, consistency is a key word of my life, a key word for happiness. I miss her very much and think of her almost every day. I would watch “Family Feud” with her any time.

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