Jane Porcino, Ph.D., died on Monday, February 18, 2008. She was 84.
Memorial contributions may be made to:
Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104 (www.splcenter.org) Founded in 1971 as a civil rights law firm, which today provides national tolerance education program, fights for legal victories against white supremacists and tracks hate groups.
Catholic Relief Services, (Note HIV and AIDS education) P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090 (www.crs.org) Provides comfort and support for many of the world's poor, including more than 250 HIV and AIDS projects in the poorest and most vulnerable areas of the developing world.
Jane is survived by her husband, Chet, and six of her seven children and their families: Mary Porcino and partner Amy Klein, Ann Porcino-Greenwood, her husband Malcolm and their children Brooke and Ellie, John Porcino and his children Julian and Britney, Paul Porcino and his wife Marilyn, Jeanne Porcino-Dolamore and her husband, Dr. Michael Dolamore and their children Matthew, Christina, and Sophie and Victoria Savino, her husband Frank and son Dominick as well as her brother Allen, and sisters Virginia and Ann. Jane was pre-deceased by her son Joseph, sister Marilyn and grandchild Emily.
Jane was born on June 5, 1923 in Oceanside, NY to Alan and Gertrude Jacobs and was one of 5 children. She met and married Chet Porcino in NYC in 1951 and lived in a wide variety of locations including Norwich, Peekskill NY and Commack Long Island (25 years), New York City (1 year when 1st married and 1o years after Chet's retirement) Amherst and Easthampton, MA (for their most recent 13 years) and lived her final months at Ten Broeck Commons nursing home in Kingston, NY. They also spent their summers in their beloved cabin in Middlefield, Ma. for the past 35 years.
Jane Graduated from St. Joseph's college for women in 1945 with a specialty in early childhood education and taught nursery school and kindergarten for six years. She then took time out for motherhood, raising 7 children, while volunteering in the fields of civil rights, politics, foreign students and peace. She also did substitute teaching in the local public schools. Jane belonged to, organized and/or volunteered at numerous religious, women's groups and social service agencies throughout her lifetime. Some of these included the Christian Family Movement (CFM), The Teams of Our Lady (for which she attended the papal conference in Rome in 1964), was active in the Civil Rights movement, NAACP marches, "A Thing in the Spring" in Harlem NY, The Fresh Air Fund, and in later years working for a homeless shelter in NYC and for the Gay Men's Health Alliance. Despite her active career Jane and her husband, Chet were devoted to their seven children, saying that raising children was "both their greatest spiritual responsibility and their most wondrous privilege."
Jane believed she could help the world and she did.
After raising seven children, Jane returned to school at the age of 50 and obtained an M.S.W. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. and a Ph.D. in Gerontology from the Union Institute for Advanced Studies. Her first book, Growing Older, Getting Better (Addison Wesley), one of the first ever books on women in midlife and beyond, was published in 1983 on her 60th birthday. Jane was an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook for thirteen years, and was an adjunct faculty member at New York University and the New York Open Center. Jane was director of the National Action Forum for Midlife and Older Women founded in 1981, and editor of its international publication, Hot Flash. Ms. Magazine named her "One of the 80 Woman to Watch in the 80's."
By the 1990's, Jane had become an internationally known author, lecture and gerontologist and was considered an expert on women in their middle and later years. She has lectured in almost every state in the U.S. as well as Sweden, England, Holland, and China where she was one of two Americans keynoters at the first Sino-American Conference on Women's Issues "Holding Up Half the Sky" In Beijing, China in 1990. Jane's second book, Living Longer, Living Better: Adventures in Community Housing was published in 1991. Jane was appointed by Governor Cuomo to the Governor's Task force on Aging and to New York State's First Task Force on Midlife and Older Women. She was a leading consultant and appointee to President Clinton's 1995 White House Conference on Aging .
Jane has been featured in the New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, USA Today and Vogue. She served as consultant and writer to such publications as 50 Plus Magazine, MS, Generations, Perspective on Aging, Mature Outlook, The Gray Panther Manual, The Gerontologist, and for the National Council on Aging in Washington, D.C. She appeared on television with CNN News, Eye Witness News, HOUR Magazine and the David Suskind Show, the Phil Donahue show and on the radio with East Coast Public Radio and National Public Radio's "51 percent." She has held regional leadership roles with national organizations such as the Gray Panthers, OWL (Older Women's League), Eldershare Housing Group, and the Women's Health Alliance. She was a fellow of the Gerontological Society of American and the Brookdale Center of Aging at Hunter College.
In 1994, Jane suffered a major stroke, but continued to be an inspiration to us all. She wrote several published articles and lectured on One Women's Journey with Stroke and wrote and presented her memoir which will be a lasting legacy for all who knew her.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. John's Church, West Hurley, NY on Thursday, February 21st at 12:00. A luncheon and Memorial Service will follow.
---------------------------------------------------- St. John's Roman Catholic Church 12 Holly Hills Dr Woodstock, NY 12498 845-679-7696
Direction to the church: From NYS Thruway, exit 19, take the 1st exit off the round-about onto RT-28 W heading to US-209 (for 6 miles); turn right at RT-375 (for 1.5 miles); turn left at Holly Hills Drive (see sign on left); turn left to stay on Holly Hills Drive and see church on the right. ------------------------------------------------------
Jane Porcino June 5, 1923 February 18, 2008 Witness Talk for Cornerstone Women's Conference - 2000
The title of my witness talk is "Aging and a 77 year old spiritual journey." The hymn that you just heard "Coming For To Carry Me Home" was sung by a good friend - Dayspring. The words speak to what I fantasize happening to me when it is my time to go.
I was the first child of five, born to an Irish Catholic Mother & a Russian Jewish Father. When my father married and converted to Catholicism, his family sat Shiva for him, which meant they considered him dead. This deprived us of ever knowing about or meeting our grandmother and three aunts.
My father became an exemplary Catholic. One of my early memories of him was the sound of his footsteps outside my window as he said the rosary outdoors each night.
Christmas at our house was very special. No Santa Claus, just the birth of Christ. There was never a sign of a present or a tree at bedtime. When we were all tucked in, my parents started and worked late into the night preparing for Christmas day. No matter what time they finally got to bed, we all woke up early, about 7 am and jumped on their bed. We had a formal walk down the stairs, the oldest first, to view what seemed like magic to all of us. We sat around opening our stockings and one present each. Than we dressed in our best, and off to Mass, returning later to a big breakfast.
My school years were very happy. I loved learning and made friends easily. By state law, all Catholics were excused one afternoon a week to walk to religious instructions. In due time, I received my first holy communion and confirmation, receiving the name Patricia for saint Patrick. In high school, I belonged to a small club, the first of many women's groups throughout my lifetime. Few people in my graduating class went to college, but I had a burning desire to continue learning despite being from a lower middle class family.
My father died when I was eighteen, a great personal loss. He was the one person in the world most proud of me. In going through his papers, we discovered a bank book in my name, which even my mother didn't know about. It had just enough money for me to start college. My mother helped me decide, finally, on St. Joseph's college for women, in Brooklyn, a one hour train ride away, and a half hour walk on either end. At first, in classes, I felt the stigma of not having gone to Catholic schools, and not knowing what so many others took for granted - namely bible studies and catechism. But this was a good place for me. One of my favorite times of each day was to visit the small, lovely chapel. And I finally realized that all the walking to and from college was good exercise, and it didn't take me long to figure out that train time was good for doing homework. At St. Joseph's College, I matured into a women, a scholar, and a religious devotee. Eventually, I became a nursery school teacher in Queens, NY and continued to work towards my Masters degree at Columbia University. At my first visit to Columbia's Catholic Newman club, there were two assigned "greeters."
Each man took my arm, and led me in. I took an instant liking to one of them, who introduced himself as Chet. The two of us had a hard time getting rid of the other man. When we finally did, Chet and I went on to dance all night.
The very next night, I was on the NY city subway. When I looked across the aisle I thought "Isn't that the man I met last night?" - a most extraordinary event in NY city. I went over to make sure - and it was indeed Chet! He was reading a whole pile of those little pamphlets that you found in the back of many churches at that time on dating, marriage, & sex. We got off at my stop for a cup of coffee, and Chet invited me to a square dance that Saturday, and thus began a whirlwind courtship of six months.
We discovered a lot in common. We both came from large families, and envisioned such a family for ourselves. We both loved to dance, and he was very handsome. The following Christmas, with all my family around, he gave me a romantic music box with a diamond ring inside. He had asked my mother's permission two weeks earlier.
The Valentine's day before our wedding, six valentine's arrived to my house. They were all for me. What a romantic, and he still is today!!
We were married at our parish church on Easter Monday, and went off to a honeymoon in the Pocono Mountains. Chet had been living in a small apartment on west 60th street, sharing it with his brother and a friend. Somehow or other Chet got them to move out 2 weeks before the wedding. We immediately began decorating: painting, putting a straw rug on the floor, and making a chinz cover for the couch. Our cozy apartment was all ready for us when we returned from our honey moon. We had to share a bathroom in the hallway with our neighbor (not too easy).
We played a game with all of our visitors called "Find the Bathtub." It was in the kitchen, covered with a butcher block. No one ever found it, but taking baths was a lot of fun. Across the street from us was St. Paul's church where we went to daily mass. We prayed together every morning and evening and read spiritual books aloud to each other.
Our first pregnancy, ended in a miscarriage, much to our chagrin. We worried that we might never be able to have children. In the next ten years, we had seven children, two more miscarriages and a false pregnancy. I can never forget the joy of Joseph Alan, our first born; than followed Mary Jane, Ann Theresa, John Peter, Paul Francis, Jeanne Marie, and Victoria. People used to say "no one will have to guess what religion you are, with all those names!!" We could not have been happier - we had the big family we had both yearned for.
The more children we had, the more room we needed so we moved several times - first to Norwich New York, than to Peeksill NY. But we both felt lonely when we were far away from family, so our final move was to Commack LI, where Chet got a new music teaching job, and I was close to my family. Several times a year, we made the trip to Chet's big Italian family in Binghamton NY.
Chet & I were determined to raise our children as joyfully as Maria Trapp in the Trapp family singers. We celebrated not only birthdays but saint name days. For each of their first five years, the children had birthday parties, and than we started a new ritual. We would take each child out alone to dinner at a restaurant of their choice.
Joe always wanted to go where he could get the most food!! And Jeanne always wanted to go to a lovely restaurant on the Jone's Beach Boardwalk. After dinner we would buy her a pinwheel, and holding on to our hands, she would skip along singing. "Just Mommy & Daddy & Me.." I wish we could replicate those days now with each child (minus the pin wheel, of course. )
We spent almost every summer evening at Sunken Meadow beach, swimming & socializing & eating a dinner of fried chicken, warm rolls & crumb cake. The children were always annoyed that I made them all wear red bathing caps so that I could quickly count them when they were in the water. After supper, lying on our blankets, in our red hooded sweatshirts, we could hear the song of the sea gulls, and see the moon rising. There was no doubt in anyones mind that God was bringing us all of this beauty.
At bedtime, Chet often played violin lullabies to the children, after they had said their prayers and were tucked in. There are so many things I would love to tell you about each of our wonderful children, but this talk would go on for hours. Being parents was a great joy for Chet & me, and we believed that raising our family was both our greatest spiritual responsibility & the most wondrous privilege.
In Peekskill, NY we developed a strong support system. This was the Christian Family Movement (CFM), which encouraged Christ Like Actions and promoted Christian activism; thus beginning our involvement as Christian volunteers throughout our community. We believed we could help change the world - even just a little bit.
When we moved to Commack, LI our spiritual involvement continued. Chet attended Mass every day, with the children begging to go with him - not really for spiritual reasons, but because we drove and old Italian woman, Mrs. Perma to church and she always gave the children candy on the way home. Our Christian support community here, was The Teams of Our Lady , an international movement.
We were 8 couples with children, and a young priest as a spiritual advisor. Our small group along with several other groups in the area, became our social group as well. In 1980, I was one of many United States delegates to attend the papal conference in Rome, representing the Teams. That was a heady experience. People from all around the world, planning together the possible future of the Roman Catholic Church.
At about the same time, Chet and I became deeply involved and very active in the Civil Rights movement. It seemed natural that our deep spiritual background and involvement in the church would lead to greater social causes and community involvement. We formed the first human rights organization in our town. In our county, I organized a Sunday Morning when groups of people of all faiths shared a morning with people of color. This was an attempt to break down faith & racial barriers. We also were a part of the open housing reform, making sure that people were not discriminated against when they tried to purchase homes in our area. We prayed faithfully, and were sure that we were doing God's work.
Our parish priest was dismayed by our actions, and on more than one occasion at Sunday masses he announced from the altar, that there is a family in the Parish who wants to bring "Blacks" into our all white community and move them into our town. He even went as far as physically shaking our son Joseph one Sunday when he was serving as an alter boy. All of this was absolutely devastating to Chet & me.
Our first four children were also attending the parish school. One day our eight year old son John came home in tears. The pastor who gave out each report card individually, had scolded him in front of his classmates, calling him Stupid, and telling him how poorly he had done. The next day, we moved all four children to the public school behind our house. John was made class president within six months and his marks improved steadily. But best of all, his self esteem rose once again. Later, we discovered that dyslexia had been causing his reading problem, and were able to help him deal with this. Despite our strong religious feelings, we felt we were being pushed away from our church, and soon felt we had no choice but to withdraw from the parish. We hunted all around the area for a new parish. Unsuccessful with this, we began to go to home masses which were new at this time. They were in private homes, or under an arbor of trees. There was always singing to a guitar and the Masses were filled with families and young priests that were also feeling discouraged by the churches failure to take action in support of the current social causes. Eventually, going to church at all for Chet & I seemed to contradict both the religious and social beliefs that we held dear, so we gave up our search for a church but expanded our social causes.
Instead of going to church on Sundays, we often joined in NAACP marches as a family, singing We Shall Overcome, and Peace marches singing "Let There Be Peace On Earth." One event that exhilarated our family was a day in NY's East Harlem called "A Thing in the Spring." One block in NYs Harlem was trying to upgrade their neighborhood. They needed help. So with the aid of Monsignor Robert J. Fox, an invitation went out to all the suburban areas of NY and New Jersey, asking for volunteers to come in to the city and help.
Chet and I organized a couple of hundred people from Suffolk County. When the day arrived, people thronged from many towns. Whole families were invited. We worked with the men of that community - to clear out cellars and back alleyways, for play grounds and office space. A group painted a mural on a blank wall of a store. We painted doorways. All of the women spent the day cooking and setting up the whole street for a Spanish fiesta. Our family loved every minute. We made many new friends.
We decided to invite all of 103rd street to have a picnic in our backyard on long Island. A whole bus load pulled up at our house. The men and boys headed right out to the school baseball field behind our house. What a time we had, some neighbors joined us but many more declined our invitation. When our new friends, reboarded their bus, we parted with many songs and hugs.
The next summer we reissued our invitation. This time 2 busloads arrived on a sweltering hot day. We decided to have them cool off at our town beach, and had a great time. But in a few days we heard from a town councilman - that the local beach goers were disturbed that someone brought black people to the beach - and not to do it again! Can you believe that.? Two weeks later, we were surprised by eight of the men from 103rd street arriving with scrappers, ladders and paint. They had noticed our house paint was flaking, and knew Chet had broken his leg. Well, our house had never received such TLC, as they painted it from top to bottom.. We knew then that the bible verse saying "Those who give will be given to" was true. Our lives were so enriched by this reaching out. We continued this special relationship with the people of 103rd street for many years to come. With all my children out of the house (the empty nest), I felt quite lonely, and wanted to begin building my own life. I decided at age 50 to get my Master's degree in social work.. It was so exciting learning new things - that I continued on to get a PHD in Gerontology. I was almost 60 years old when my career suddenly began to take off. My major work for my doctorate was writing the first ever book on women in mid-life and beyond called Growing Older, Getting Better.
This was followed by a book on how older people could live in community- not alone. Called Living Longer, Living Better. These books were responsible for the next steps in my new professional career. I was invited to speak in almost every state - and in Sweden, England, Holland, and even China.
At the same time, I was teaching at the state university of New York at stony brook. I loved teaching. The jump from nursery school to college was quite a challenge. A group of us, decided to publish a newsletter for mid-life and older women, called Hot Flash - its purpose to connect women in all areas of the world. I was also very proud to be chosen by MS Magazine as one of the "80 Women to Watch in the 80's.
A sad period of our life, began with our oldest son's death, soon after he graduated from college. He died of a brain tumor from widespread Melanoma, that took his life in three short months. The family spent almost every minute of that time by his side. After a sad but short battle with the disease, he died on New Years Eve. But before he died, Joe had managed to give a gift of a joyful Christmas week. - even making us a Lobster dinner and enjoying all of his favorite Christmas activities (especially stealing Christmas cookies from the freezer.)
Joseph loved yellow roses, and cookie dough of all kinds. Every year on the anniversary of his death, we put yellow roses and Christmas cookies on his tombstone. He never leaves my thoughts for long. One fond memory that never leaves me is of Joe at age 3 - with his red hair sticking out of a pile of autumn leaves.
Before we fully recovered, another tragedy came our way. Our daughter Jeanne's first child, and our first grandchild, was stillborn after a full term pregnancy. We flew to England to just once hold beautiful little Emily in our arms, and we stayed for a month to support Jeanne & Michael's intense sorrow - echoing the intensity of the grief that followed for months and years following Joseph's death. Chet & I decided to follow a dream once again. When our last child went off to college, we moved to a lovely apartment in NY City - back to where our relationship began. There we lived happily for 10 years. Our grandchildren loved to visit, to ride on city buses and in the subway, playing in our playyard & walking to a nearby helicopter launching pad.
In New York , we organized a monthly shared dinner followed by lively discussions about world events. I also formed a women's support, as was my mainstay wherever I lived. I also began to teach graduate students at New York University, and Chet & I also spent one night a month volunteering in a homeless shelter, sponsored by Quakers.
But I still felt as though I wanted to put into action many of the lessons I had learned through my own grief surrounding my son Joe's death. I volunteered for the Gay Men's Health Alliance and began to counsel a group of young gay men with Aids. They were articulate, wounded, but wonderful men. Although Joseph was not a gay man himself, he too suffered a young & untimely death, and helping these other young men was very healing to me.
When I turned 70, seven years ago, I was feeling healthier than ever before in my life, swimming & exercising every morning, doing work that I loved, and watching my grandchildren grow.
Just one year later, I awoke feeling my heart beating rapidly. I asked Chet to take my pulse, and he immediately called my doctor. She said, "Get her to the emergency room right away." Once there, they did tests, then left me on my own attached to an IV pole. I stayed in the hospital for observation for 3 days. I was very fearful of having a stroke, having watched my own mother suffer from a stroke in her last year of life.
Well, my worst fear came true. In the early hours of that dreaded morning I was found on the floor of the bathroom. No one knew just how long I had been there. In my moments of consciousness, I thought I'd had a heart attack. But much worse, The thing I had always dreaded, they said it was a stroke, which is a brain attack. My first response was fear - closely followed by anger. "Why me?"
A new procedure had been developed to unclog the arteries to the brain. But there was only one doctor in NYC who was skilled in this, and thankfully for me, he was available. I was taken to his office by ambulance, but have no memory of the next 3 hours. The surgery was partially successful. However, I was still left with a right sided stroke, leaving my left side paralyzed, but my cognitive abilities in tact, thank God.
My 6 children began to gather, from upstate NY, Ohio, even Australia. I still thank God it didn't happen when the children were little.
I remained in Rusk a part of NY University hospital for 3 months, having physical and occupational therapy daily. The 4 other women in my room had also suffered strokes. One of the first things the hospital did, was show us a video which said "after one stroke, you are more likely to have another." Not exactly hopeful news.
The worst time for me each day was when the doctor arrived for rounds at my bedside with a new group of students and interns. He would stand there and say. "This is a 71 year old woman, who has suffered a stroke etc" like I was not even there. I prayed a lot during this time, adopting the Buddhist mantra "Dear God, may I be whole again."
The hospital was lenient enough to allow even grand children to visit, improving my health and happiness. And my women's support group brought dinners right into the hospital to have the meetings with me. It was during those visits that I remembered to count my many blessings
It was hard work to even stand with balance - or to walk again. My children still remember watching me take my first steps - like a child learning to walk again. My arm froze up the way it is now. Since than, I've had about 12 falls - one recent fall broke my shoulder bone. I use a wheelchair and cane. Even today, it is hard for me to sit up here in a wheel chair, so visibly disabled.
It became more and more difficult to live in New York City with the disabilities that the stroke caused, and we once again decided to move. We had lived in New York for 10 years and were exhilarated by the energy of the city. I still miss it today.
This time we moved on to New England to be closer to two of our children living in Amherst. In a new search for housing, Chet and I discovered a newly built and elegant inn in easthampton - a retirement community for independent people over 55.
It has been a great 2 years - with lots of help for Chet in his caregiving role. The staff is extraordinary - and the residents wonderful.. It is nice to make new friends in your later years. And we love seeing our children, and grandchildren often. Chet, my daughter Mary, and I attended a six session class on Buddhist meditation just last year.
Many of you will recognize the name "Rom Dos" - A Buddhist spiritual leader and meditation teacher. He also suffered a stroke 2 years ago, and in a recent book called Still Here, he says " "Before I had the stroke, I was full of fears about aging, and one of my major fears was about the sicknesses that might be lurking ahead. Gandhi says that before you can get to God, you've got to confront your fears. The stroke took me through one of my deep fears, and I'm here to report that the only thing we have to fear is indeed fear itself."
I will soon be 78, it is now six years later, and I have shown only small improvements. Physically, all of my Doctors feel there will be no further changes, and this is how I will always be. Sometimes, I have wanted to shout, "Please, God, No." I yearn for the energy to prove them wrong, and recover again.
To recover, I have tried many alternative health methods of healing - 3 types of massage, acupuncture, tai chi, healers, Felden-Chris, and even a Mass with a well known priest called "the miracle priest" - Father DiOrio.
What about the future??. Well, in a Chinese fortune cookie a month ago, my fortune said "God has given you many blessings." So true.
Despite all, we have had a very rich life, but both of us keenly felt our lack of religious affiliation, and knew an active faith was missing from our lives. We began to attend services at the Unitarian Fellowship, The Episcopal, and the Congregational Church - but none seemed to meet our needs. We continued searching.
Ironically, Jeanne's invitation to the Cornerstone retreat, made me realize we'd searched everywhere but home - The Catholic Church surely had been home to us for most of our lives. And here at last years Cornerstone, it became clear that I wanted to return to my Catholic faith, to my roots and to the liturgy I'm so familiar with.
But can you imagine saying "Bless me father for I have sinned, I have not been to confession for 30 years." Father Hommel didn't blink an eyelid, and I thank him for all his kindnesses.
We finally brought our search to the 7 catholic churches in the area. We chose one, (at first because it had a handicapped ramp, and an easy entry to the church.) But now we love the simplicity of the church and the priest reminds us of a dear priest friend, Father Ryan.
We now attend the Blessed Sacrament Church, in North Hampton, every Sunday and became formal members in August. I must say, my soul is uplifted every Sunday and I rejoice in that. I feel much like the older son in the gospel who left home & was so joyfully received back by his Father when he returned.
We have just had the 3rd annual Porcino Family Flying Fiddler Concert - with 22 of us & 9 grandchildren aged 3 to 14 participating. Our children have great partners who have also enriched our lives, Malcolm, Amy, Marilyn, Christina, Frank, and Michael, all call themselves the "Outlaw Club". I would like to pass around a picture from this concert, to show you all of our blessings.
When you marry someone, and you say "for better or for worse", you never realize the implications of that or imagine what might happen in the later years. I don't know how I lucked out to marry a man like Chet - who is such a wonderful caregiver- and I need 100% help. We will be married 50 years this March. I know the Teams of Our Lady movement inspired our marriage, and it is still an active group here and around the world. How nice it would be if this parish had such groups to support married couples and families.
Now at 77, I wish my faith to continue growing. Recently, I've resolved to read the bible daily. I, of course, live with quite severe aches & pains every day which is never easy. In Mark we read that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Olives saying "Father, Father, everything is possible for you. Take away this cup form me, But let it be your will, not mine." To this, I say AMEN!
Thank you for listening to the ups and downs of a 77 year old's spiritual journey and thank you for welcoming me home.