To all of you who sent your condolences and support, through emails, flowers, cards, thoughts and prayers… thank you so much for helping me move through a rough week after losing my mom. Painful as this is, the burden’s a bit lighter because all of you reached out. Thank you.
But as my mom would tell me, it’s best to look forward. That’s always been her philosophy, and I’ve tried to make it mine. On that note, I’d like to honor her, one last time, on these pages, republishing her obituary and the eulogy I wrote and read at her funeral yesterday. And then, it’s time to get back to work–a decision that I know my mom would wholeheartedly endorse.
Eva M. Picerno
AGE: 94 • Spotswood
Eva Marion (Waite) Picerno, 94, of Spotswood, died on Monday, May 19, 2014 at JFK Hartwyck at Edison.
Born in Hubbardston, Mass., Eva was raised in her hometown and surrounding area. She was a bold and adventurous traveler who enjoyed seeing new places. A licensed beautician with a successful career in Worcester, Mass., she gave it all up and traveled alone to California in the 1950’s and, while there, married her sweetheart, Joseph, after he came out to San Diego to be with her. After marrying in California, they moved to Elizabeth, NJ, then settled in Spotswood, NJ, in 1957. Eva loved tending to her flower gardens and her Massachusetts pine trees, cooking and entertaining. Keeping in touch with all of her family was very important to her, and she made sure she reached out to all of them, as much as possible. She was a long-time member of the United Methodist Church of Spotswood and the NJ Order of the Eastern Star.
Predeceased by her husband, Joseph, in 2011 and, all nine of her siblings, she is survived by her son, James Picerno and his wife, Elizabeth, and, her grandchildren, Pamela and Alison Picerno.
Visitation will be on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at Trinity United Methodist Church, 70 Manalapan Road, Spotswood, with funeral services to follow immediately after visitation. Interment will take place on Friday, May 30th at 12:30 PM in Greenwood Cemetery, Hubbardston, MA. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Spotswood Funeral Home, 475 Main Street, Spotswood.
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Eulogy For Eva Picerno
May 24, 2014, Trinity United Methodist Church, Spotswood, NJ
Thank you all so much for being here today, and supporting me and Liz and Pam and Ally.
When I think of my mom now, the first image that comes to mind is a caring, loving and tireless supporter of yours truly. It’s hard to put into words what I feel right now, but having lost someone who, for so long, made me feel so special in a wonderful way, well, this is tough. Really tough. As her brother, Uncle Ernie, once told me, in the early 1970s, when we were visiting and I was giving my mom a hard time as only kids know how to do: you never really miss the well until the water runs dry. I knew what he meant, of course, but I’ve never really felt the power and sting of those words until now.
But I know what my mom would say if she was here. It would basically go like this: don’t wallow in sadness. Pay your respects, do what you have to do, what you need to do, and move on… live your life. My very good friend Tim reminded me of what my mom’s basic philosophy was. He was chatting with her last year and she gave him a bit of advice, as he recently told me: Just keep walking.
That’s what my mom did, in so many ways. Perseverance. Determination. Confidence. And love. Lots of love. That’s how I think of her. She wasn’t much for talking about what she was doing or why she was doing it. But she was always doing. Just keep walking.
Looking back on her life I can see clearly now that actions—her actions, and all our actions—really do speak louder than words. Even at the end of her life, when she was hobbled by pain and discomfort, she was always thinking about tomorrow and inspiring me, thinking about me, and putting my interests ahead of hers. And making plans. Earlier this month at the rehab facility, she told me one afternoon when I brought her outside to sit in the sun for a few minutes: “Pick up a thank you card to send to Owen,” one of her favorite rehab aides. Oh, ma, you don’t have to do that, I said. But she insisted and there was no chance of convincing her otherwise.
For Eva Picerno, there was nothing extraordinary about that. That’s just who she was: always thinking about others and doing what she could, in ways big and small, to reach out and help. And it wasn’t just me. Whether it was my dad, a friend, a neighbor, or a relative, she was always looking for ways to help. Saying no or making excuses wasn’t part of her repertoire. One of the more vivid stories I treasure from years ago, sometime in the mid-1960s, was her decision to drive an uncle who was getting on in years—Uncle Charlie—from New Jersey to Massachusetts so that he could see his sister, my mom’s aunt—Aunt Ethel. I asked my mom recently about why she did it. Well, she answered, they hadn’t seen each other in many years. Simple as that. Helping family, helping friends, and doing so with minimal fuss.
As the hearty product of relatively poor but an intensely proud and large New England family, my mom learned to make do with what she had, and not worry about what was beyond her reach. There were material limitations in terms of money and resources, but her spirit and ambition were forever boundless. Whatever she did have, as she often told me, she worked for it. And that was all that mattered. Not how much, or little, she had accumulated, but the fact that she earned it. The joy and satisfaction of working, earning, and achieving—even if the end results were modest—were key parts of what gave her happiness and satisfaction.
What I’ll remember most about her, other than her deep love for me, for family, for friends, was her intrepid spirit. As a young woman in the early 1950s, with a successful career as a beautician in Worcester, Massachusetts, she decided to leave it all behind and move to California, by herself, documenting her trip westward on the train in a diary and with photographs. That took courage in those days… it still does. To leave everything and everyone you know and start anew. But that was Eva Picerno, and in some ways it’s the American way.
In the end, though, her greatest passion was people. Relationships, friendship, family. And the church—this church. My mom loved to talk with people, interact with them, and stay in touch, and try to make a difference in her own small way. Recently I was looking through her many notebooks that accumulated through the years and I found countless names, addresses and phone numbers of relatives, friends, and acquaintances from all over the country, in several notebooks and old-fashioned personal phone books. How could she possibly stay in touch with so many people? She couldn’t, of course. In the pre-Facebook era, there was a practical limit to your circle of friends and family members. But she tried. She couldn’t help herself. Wherever she went, somehow she’d find a new friend… or ten. She just couldn’t bear the idea of not conversing, interacting. Even in rehab, in the last months of her life, she had no trouble developing friendships with a few of the aides.
As an only child, it’s hard to give up someone who was my first, last, and best supporter. She made me feel special, every day. I’m going to miss that. The pain of her passing hurts deeply, far more than I expected. But in her own pain, including losing my dad, she taught me a valuable lesson: Just keep walking. Don’t complain; just keep moving forward, help others, and in the process ease your own private suffering.
I love you, Mom. As tough as this is, seeing all of you out there and helping me honor my mom, helps… a lot.
God bless you.