Grandma’s Courage by Adelaide G. Nardone

This is the heart of America …
“Nanna Linda” was the embodiment of the (most ot the time) widow in black. From Fondi Italy, she resided in Mount Vernon, New York  for over sixty years.

Grandma w Grandpa Joe and a smile

Her image will remain tattooed in my mind and more importantly in my heart forever: the silver white hair, often in a fine “hairnet”, the weary face, sad brown eyes surrounded by black rings and the occasional course whisker on her chin and cheek. Then of course there were the heavy black garments worn from neck to knee with the orthopedic shoes accompanied by her cane (il bastone).
Lastly was her smile….. When it did crack it was rather beautiful, warm and telling. She had near perfect teeth for an octogenarian; a tribute to her only son, an orthodontist and oral surgeon.

With Gino. Nana not wearing black.

I got to know my grandmother rather well because when she became a widow in her mid 70’s, it was I who slept over her house on a weekly bases to give her company. On those many “overnights,” I was the benefactor of many of her fascinating “stories” told to me in Italian. Among them:

My grandmother was illiterate when she went to school in Italy. She cried so consistently for her mother that the nuns insisted her mom take her back home, which of course she did. There were no mandatory education laws in Italy, she never learned to read or write. However, she did help run the farm and manage the servants on their property. Then the war came and everything changed.
Eventually she came to America. What is most remarkable is how did an illiterate immigrant manage to land gainful employment in New York City during the depression and even become the “Leader” for her Union Workers?

With Domenic and Caroline. Proud grandparents.

My grandmother had NEVER been in a hospital or to a doctor. She had lost four pregnancies both as miscarriages and as stillbirths … all managed by midwives. Therefore, the birth of her son, Dominic Eugene Nardone, was a absolute miracle. He almost died as a child of 6 from “pneumonia” and even underwent the “iron lung” treatment. Imagine the fear of losing yet another and only child? Fortunately, he did survive that ordeal and managed to have 11 children of his own with a most kind, beautiful and loving woman, Carol Buonocore, my mother.

Then there was true tragedy. Her only son died instantly from a massive heart attack at the premature age of 57. Nanna Linda, a widow herself and in her late eighties, had to endure the loss of her only child. The pain and emptiness this caused her was unspeakable. But somehow she remained the patriarch for her 11 grandchildren for another four years.

While I was in college I visited my grandmother often. When I arrived to her house that particular day she did NOT answer the door, and yet I knew she was home as I could hear faint cries from within. I found an open window, broke the screen and crawled through the living room to find my dear Nanna lying on the floor, disoriented and frightened.
That was the first time she was admitted to a hospital where she was found to be in atrial fibrillation, a cardiac arrhythmia. That was the beginning of her short down fall, and she eventually passed away on July 4,1979 at the age of 93.

I often think of my Nanna and how she not only survived but even thrived in the face of tremendous obstacles and grief. While she had many wonderful qualities there are 3 traits that I believe sustained her:
Regimentation, Tenacity and FAITH.

If I have a fraction of these qualities. I am forever grateful for her example and strength.

By | 2018-09-23T14:20:50+00:00 September 24th, 2018|Guest Author, Stories of the 1940's and 1950's|15 Comments


  1. Peter Voccio JR. September 24, 2018 at 3:13 pm - Reply


    A remarkable woman, a remarkable granddaughter to keep her memories alive. They should pass on to the family tree.

    • Ed September 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Yes, I agree.

  2. Natalie L McKenna September 24, 2018 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful history! You are so blessed to have had a grandmother as wonderful and loving as yours. Keep writing those memories for your posterity.

    • Ed September 24, 2018 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      I agree, Natalie. Adelaide has written a nice memory. Keep writing indeed!

  3. Regina September 24, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you Dr. Adelaide Nardone the 7th cgrandchild of Linda Grossi Nardone. You wrote a smart and touching short biography of a uniquely talented Italian woman..
    She had many Gifts She was a skilled seamstress, a factory manager,
    , gardener, farmer. and no one has been able to make crab sauce, zeppoli and homemade pizza the way she did.
    Thank you and we look forward to the next biography.

    • Ed September 24, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Regina.

  4. Val ceccarini September 25, 2018 at 3:27 am - Reply

    This story touched my heart as it brought back so many memories of my Italian grandmother who lived with my family. My grandmother lost a 6 month old baby (my moms twin) and then years later her 23 year old daughter. Such heartache and she, like your grandma, continued to care for their families. Thank you Adelaide for writing this heartwarming story and thank you Regina for sharing.

    • Ed September 25, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

      A recollection of strong women who made a difference.

  5. Patricia September 25, 2018 at 11:57 am - Reply


  6. Beautiful! September 25, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply


  7. Vin DiBiasio September 25, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    A wonderful story of your Nanna Linda. My dad was born in Fondi and came to the US in 1912.

  8. Howie Weldon September 27, 2018 at 11:15 am - Reply

    I have read this story 4 times because it hit a chord within me and reading it the last time, I found my answer….FAITH. Unable to read, no television so what does one do at rest and that is to think and be in your closet with God. Truly the Holy Spirit was with this extraordinary woman. When we are lacking something, God will provide for us in many ways and deliver His gifts through the Holy Spirit. If someone loses a limb or has another type of loss, God strengthens other parts of our body to compensate. As it is written in Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”. This woman was truly Blessed and Blessings flowed from her down on others that knew her and she changed lives. Well written and caused me to pause and raise a glass of Thankfulness.

    • Ed September 27, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      A good glass to raise.

  9. Marlaine October 8, 2018 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Beautiful recollection of a family matriarch

    • Ed October 8, 2018 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Yes, nicely done by Adelaide

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