Lafayette High School, 1951
Lafayette High School, 1952
Lafayette High School, Senior-Junior Prom, 1953
Lafayette High School, 1954
|The 2020 COVID pandemic postponed Jane's Memorial Mass until Sunday, May 16th, 2021 at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Kenmore, New York. The eulogy delivered by her granddaughter Rachel Reitano was a testimony to the love Jane gave and received throughout her life.|
Good morning. I am honored to be giving this eulogy today in my grandmother’s remembrance. For those who don’t know me, my name is Rachel Reitano and I am one of Jane’s 6 grandchildren - and although it was never explicitly said, she did used to answer the phone every time I called her with “it’s my favorite granddaughter” – although I have it on good authority she did that with all of her grandchildren.
As everyone who is here with us today knows, Jane Reitano was a beautiful, smart, strong, amazing woman. She was the daughter of Jane Gaglione AKA ‘’’’Goney’, another amazing woman. A sister to Jimmy and Marge and Aunt to Jimmy and Jeanie, Great Aunt to Ciera, Valerie, Kenny, Marissa and David.
She was a wife to my grandpa, Sam who met her one day at a wedding that he ditched his other date for, and later went on to marry her and stay happily married for 62 years. She was the mother to Sandy, Jayne, and Michael. And she was the grandmother to me, Tara, Rose, Jessica, Christy and Stevie.
Great grandmother to Lucas McKenzie and Haley.
Overall, she was the matriarch of our four-generation family. She was someone who lived for those she loved. She would do anything you asked of her. And she did a million more things you didn’t ask, just because. She was the one who took care of us, was our informant, our consultant, our seamstress, our accountant, our favorite cook. She brought us all together.
Hosted every family party. Gathered us for all the big life events like my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary in Disney. She organized travel even for the not so big but no less important things, like going to Stevie’s basketball games in North Carolina. She spent many summers at the cottage in Hamburg with the rest of the Gagliones. She raised her kids in the house on Congress Street with Goney next door, all as one big family and later on, in the house on Stillwell. Where I went almost every week. To eat dinner, watch Family Feud and do crosswords with her. She was a constant, devoted, loving presence in my, and all of our lives.
her legendary cooking. And her talent for sewing.
But to put it like that oversimplifies what she really did. She cooked for our whole family on every holiday, made ravioli for us on Christmas, took note of our favorite meals and braved the internet at age 83 to find the recipes for them online. She invited many of us to dinner on a regular basis and if we couldn’t make it, she would simply make it for us anyway to pick up or drop off. For the picky eaters of the family, including myself, and her great grandchildren, she would make us a separate plate of butter noodles or mac and cheese while the rest of the family ate pasta with sauce - despite that being blasphemous in an Italian family. She was the inspiration for Jessica’s love of cooking, and Rose’s first call when she had a random cooking question; she was my favorite food tester. She sent her grandchildren frozen meals to bring back to college with them. And much to TSA’s dismay, she packed a carry-on full of food to bring when she visited her kids out of state. And anyone she cooked for, no matter who you were, was sent home with leftovers. In a re-purposed Tupperware container. That she carefully labeled with masking tape.
The same goes for sewing. I don’t think anyone in my family doesn’t have an item that my grandma made or personalized for them. Pillows, dog bandanas, anything Bills-themed. She made Jayne, Sandy and my mom maternity clothes, made bridesmaid dresses, made siblings matching outfits, altered and hemmed countless items for my family and the Massaker family, but for some reason didn’t need to do much hemming for the Ruzalas. She taught Christy to sew. She made my curtains for my first apartment and when I couldn’t find enough material to make them, she called around probably 10 JoAnne Fabrics across the country until she finally found me some. She hand-stitched Christmas stockings, for Tara’s family (although after the 5th one she did tell Tara to stop having kids because they were a pain in the butt). She made the mask that I’m wearing today.
These things, the meals, the sewing, will be the things
we can see and touch
and serve as a physical, palpable reminder of her
as we encounter them
through our lives. But when we look deeper at
these things that will make us
think of her, what we are actually seeing, is her
thoughtfulness, her kindness
and her generosity. It wasn’t just food or pieces
of fabric. It was the time and
thought and care that she put into them, solely
to make us happy. Because
And my grandma did
A happy life, a happy marriage. Up until the end.
In the last conversation she
had with my grandpa. She wanted to make sure we
her selflessness. She was always thinking of
others. She would drop
everything if you needed her, no matter how far
away you were or what she
had going on. She was the type of person who
bought you a gift on your
sibling’s birthday so you wouldn’t feel left out.
She would cut out cartoons and
word searches that she thought you would like or
would make you laugh and
send them to you. She saved newspaper clippings from our childhood and
high school sporting and scholastic events.
Collected and kept birth
announcements, old photographs, my dad’s old
unfortunate things like a poem I wrote when I was 9 and
tried and failed to
rhyme the words ‘caring’ and ‘understanding’.
She saved all these things for us,
folders with our names labeled on them so that one day
we could have
never forgot a birthday or an anniversary.
She kept planners and
calendars with every single event or memorable
date inside, graduations, communions, start dates at new
jobs. And not only would she reach out to us
on important days or times when we accomplished
something, but she would
family up to date
going on with
Would take the time to know about our lives, asking us “what’s new” over dinner, or on phone calls over long car rides. And when you would ask her about herself, she was always positive. She never once complained - even in the last few years when she was in pain with her back and ankle. She was such a strong woman. And it was never ever about her. It was always about her family. This eulogy is probably the first thing that’s ever just been about her.
It is a real challenge to describe in writing the fullness of someone like my grandma. One thing that is recommended pretty universally when it comes to writing in memory of loved ones, is to look to the professional writers to find something that best encapsulates them. So of course, I decided to go in the complete opposite direction. And what I want to read for you all and close with today, is the aforementioned poem that she kept, that I wrote when I was 9 years old.
“Thanks for always being
there, thanks for always caring, thanks for always
respecting me, thanks for understanding (See, it
doesn’t rhyme) thanks for
loving me so much, thanks for all the hugs,
because even when you’re far
I can still
feel all your love.”
There are a lot of reasons why I chose this poem and think it best captures her. I think it’s safe to say that she wasn’t saving it because I was a wunderkind. So the fact that she saved this silly, pencil smudged piece of notebook paper for over 20 years, speaks volumes about the type of person she was, more so than the actual poem itself. The type of caring and loving grandmother she was, whose life revolved around family and whose family revolved around her.
This poem also repeats one word over and over again, and that is the word thanks. If I could see my grandma one more time, and say one thing to her, I think it would be that; ‘Thanks.’ I know I can speak for my whole family when I say we are all beyond grateful to have had such an important figure in our lives. How thankful we are for the countless things she did for us, for the people she helped us to become.
And most importantly why I chose to end with this today, is for that last line of that poem, “even when you're far away, I can still feel all your love”. When I originally wrote this, I’m sure the distance from Twyla Place in Tonawanda seemed like a million miles away from Stillwell Ave in Kenmore. But in the days after she passed when I found it among her things – when she was the furthest away from me, from any of us, as she had ever been, those words rang so true as I read them. “even when you’re far away I still feel all your love” I still feel her love and carry it with me every day, as I’m sure many of us here can too. We can feel it in remembering the things she taught us, the values she ingrained in us. Most importantly, and how I think we feel her love most deeply, is loving each other. She built the foundation for our amazing, supportive, loving family. She was the center of it. Our leader. The one we all turned to. It's no coincidence that I grew up surrounded by such caring, thoughtful, people who I can always count on no matter what. Because she is the one who taught each and every one of us how to love. She modeled it for us her whole life. That is the way we will continue to feel her love long after she is gone, in loving each other the way she loved us. We will be her legacy. And I am very proud to be a part of it. I know wherever she is, it is in a better place, and I hope she can feel our love as strongly as we can still feel hers, even if she’s far away.