My mother, Eleanor M. Curry, lived in Middle Village for over seventy-eight years. She was the only child of Jerome and Julia Freslone. Her father was born in Italy and her mother was third generation Brooklyn Irish. She moved with her parents, two bachelor uncles and her grandfather from Bushwick to 75th Street and 66th Drive when she was five years old.
She loved school, especially P.S. 87, where she was the editor of the school newspaper. She later enjoyed working for an insurance company in downtown Manhattan. As she would say, she “liked having her own money”. She loved musicals and was a frequent attendee of the big Broadway shows. When she was sixteen, she met her husband-to-be, Thomas Curry, at the Arion Theatre on Metropolitan Avenue. They were both at the movies alone and my father struck up a conversation with her in the lobby. He was tall, good-looking, read the New York Times and was an avid Yankee fan.
Eleanor and Thomas began married life in 1945 in an apartment near Cooper Avenue, where their two children were born: Thomas Jr. in 1946, and me in 1950. In 1952, they happily moved back to 66th Drive to live in a two-family house down the block from Eleanor’s parents. The unexpected death of my father in 1956 necessitated that my mother return to work. In 1957, she got a job in the dentist’s office around the corner on Metropolitan Avenue. At that time, the dentists were Dr. Dicker and Dr. Satz, and the office was on top of Dilbert’s grocery store.
During the late 1960s, when my brother and I were older teenagers, my mother took her friends’ advice and started dating. She went to Roseland where she enjoyed the dancing and developed a wonderful relationship with a gentleman from Brooklyn named Hy Katz. They enjoyed many happy years together, which included dancing at Roseland followed by cheesecake from Lindy’s. Hy became a member of the family. Sadly, he died in 1985 after an almost 19-year relationship with my mother.
After 37 years at the dental office, my mother retired. One of her favorite things to do was to go to Atlantic City with her cousin, Gloria Simile, who had accidentally gotten into the computer as a “high-roller”, which afforded them the opportunity to get free lodging at The Claridge Hotel. Although neither of them were serious gamblers, they did enjoy the shows and the food at the Claridge, and they went a couple of times a year for as long as they were able to make the drive.
In 1975, after the death of her father, my mother moved back into the house on 66th Drive that she had left in 1945 to marry my father. After her mother died in 1985, she lived alone in the same house that was too crowded when she was a young girl. In Eleanor’s later years she would often reflect on how long she had lived on the same block in Middle Village. She would laugh and say she had had the same mailman for over 40 years. Love of the neighborhood was the reason my mother became a member of the Juniper Park Civic Association.
Her friends and family will remember Eleanor as a woman of great humor, fierce independence and a broad interest in and knowledge of the world. She came of age in an era when women sometimes took the backseat. But my mother never did, partly because life wouldn’t let her, but mostly because of the strength of her character. I often said it wasn’t the women’s movement that taught me my assertiveness skills; it was my mother in a restaurant, or on the phone. She had a clear, wonderful voice filled with wit, charm and intelligence. She was never rude but always effective.
In the later years of life when she was diagnosed with a form of incurable cancer, multiple myeloma, she never gave up. She accepted every treatment that was available to her and maintained independence in her own home. Up until a year ago she drove herself to Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in Manhattan for outpatient treatment, and was often received like a celebrity by the parking attendants who loved her and her old Chevy. She had a zest for life and remained interested in food, politics, sports, and celebrities, but most of all in the lives of her friends and family.
Just this last Christmas when she was extremely weak from complications of her illness she got on the phone and ordered truffles for all of her loved ones. She fully embraced her life and one of her favorite lines in those last years was “nobody wants to leave the party”. And for all of us who knew her and loved her, nobody wanted to see her go.