Estelle C. Palumbo, 91, a long time resident of the Jersey Shore, and most recently of Phoenix, Arizona, left this world on Wednesday, February 9, 2014. Estelle was born September 9, 1922 to the late Dominic and Mary Palumbo. She was preceded in death by her husband, Anthony J. (“Oak”) Palumbo. Legend has it that Estelle said “I was so proud of my last name, I married a Palumbo so I could keep it.” Estelle was one of nine children, including her twin sister Eleanor, who grew up in Belmar, NJ. Before retiring to Deerfield Beach, Florida, Estelle was the long time school secretary at St. Rose High School in Belmar. She was a communicant at St. Rose and St. Catherine’s Churches. In 2007 Estelle moved to Phoenix to be closer to her sons and their families. Estelle is survived by her twin sons, Michael R. (Jean) and Anthony J., Jr. (Anna Marie), four grandchildren, Scott (Emily) of Phoenix, AZ, Craig of Austin, TX, Katherine of Chicago, IL and Anthony H. of Phoenix, AZ and two great-grandchildren, Ian and Lily Palumbo. Reflective of her devotion to all segments of her family, Estelle had an encyclopedic memory of the birthdays and anniversaries of the dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who comprised the family, and she never failed to send cards to mark those occasions. As one of her nephews said upon learning of her passing: “She was a wonderful, classy lady. She had style.” Funeral services were held in Belmar, NJ on February 27. Memorial contributions may be made in Estelle’s memory to the St. Rose High School Reconstruction Fund (Hurricane Sandy), 607 Seventh Avenue, Belmar, NJ 07719. Arrangements were entrusted to Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home.
A EULOGY FOR ESTELLE CATHERINE PALUMBO
I would like share with you some of my thoughts, observations and memories of mom. I am honored and humbled to be able to do so.
In preparing these comments, I tried to come up with some adjectives to describe her: beautiful, simple, humble, loyal, dignified, strong (surprisingly yet quietly), naïve, compassionate, gregarious, respectful, thoughtful, persevering. While these are factual and accurate, they only portray part of the picture. And, I am sure you all can add your own descriptions from your own experiences.
There are stories to illustrate each of these qualities but time does not permit me to convey them all to you. But, allow me to give you a few examples:
1. Let me tell you a little about her loyalty…… my closest friend from Arizona used to refer to me by a nickname. He, too, was an Italian kid from New Jersey. He called me “Dago”. I remember my mom’s reaction the first time she heard him call me that. She thought it was an insult. She was really put out by it. But, I considered it an honor. I guess only kids from the Italian neighborhoods of New Jersey could understand how an apparently disparaging remark could really be one of deep affection. But, mom never could understand even after I tried to explain it to her. Not only was her loyalty to me and her heritage intense but, in its simplicity, it represented her whole approach to life.
2. Mom exemplified everything that you’d expect from an Italian mother (with a dash of Irish and German for good measure)…..she believed in the sanctity of family without reservation. Kindness and love were an integral part of her character. She was selfless to fault and perhaps to her own detriment. And she was always a source of encouragement and never judgmental. I would, and did, trust her with the most important and intimate aspects of my life . Her wisdom and insight were simple. But, that was consistent with who she was: uncomplicated. Always supportive, for sure. And always willing to listen.
3. She was always full of compassion and empathy. But, mom never complained. She endured….. With silent, surprising strength. Especially after dad died, too young, leaving her to experience her golden years alone and lonely. She did a great job because of who she was….the devoted servant who wanted nothing in return. I can’t tell you how many times she repeated “I don’t want to be a burden”. Little did she realize that she gave so much more than she ever demanded. I can’t thank her enough for being the woman who was willing to sacrifice everything for the benefit of those whom she loved. Mike and I were the major beneficiaries of her enduring love. But, so, too, were all those whom she touched in her 91+ years.
Her obituary says…..”She loved her last name so much she took it twice …..”. This is probably an overstatement, but one Mike and I like to exploit. The real truth was that she truly loved a man whose last name just happened to be identical to hers. And, what a love affair it was. Not what you would call romantic (at least to my observation) but rock solid, genuine, and filled with uncompromised devotion. I am not sure I ever heard “Oak”, an intense, sometimes excitable man for sure, ever raise his voice to her. He was protective in the old Italian way. His mantra was unflinching respect, which, as we know, was highest in the order of priorities for Italian men. Mom and he were even able to work together amiably at the green houses for extended periods of time. That speaks volumes about their love.
Did I tell you that she was an absolutely great cook….assisted by uncle Bert’s meat products and uncle Lou’s produce?. (uncle John’s store was too far away for a woman who didn’t learn to drive until her late 30s). Does anyone remember uncle Bert’s mock chicken legs? His pot roast was the best, not to mention his leg of lamb. We ate like kings thanks to uncle Bert….during those years, I didn’t think much of uncle Lou’s vegetables.
In closing, it is important to remember that mom was a very devout Catholic. Her’s was a blind faith. And, her faith was a source of great comfort to her. Based on her faith, she knew that she would cross the pearly gates and see my dad and all her brothers and sisters again. She didn’t fear death; indeed, in the later years she embraced and welcomed it. So, her passing is not traumatic for Mike and me. It was more merciful and more a source of relief than anything else.
Of course, we hope that she was right that there is a reward at the end. And obviously we hope that we get to reunite with her and dad sometime in the distant future….. In a place of peace and serenity where good people go for their just reward. A place where there is no suffering. A place where relaxation and comfort will come easy, where worries and anxiety are non-existent and happiness springs eternal.
Mom, I am sorry that i didn’t get to say good bye. I wish I could have held your hand and stroked your face gently as you made your way back to dad, and all those who loved you. We, all of us here, recognize and appreciate the special woman who you were. And, we wish you an eternity of joy and happiness. You absolutely deserve it.
I am so lucky to have had a mother to whom it is so hard to say goodbye. And this has to be the hardest part. Saying goodbye. So, to help me do it, i have chosen a poem that resonated with me when i saw it……it goes like this……
An Irish Funeral Prayer
You can only have one mother
patient kind and true;
no other friend in all the world,
will be the same to you.
When other friends forsake you,
to mother you will return,
for all her loving kindness.
She asks nothing in return.
As we look upon her picture,
sweet memories we recall,
of a face so full of sunshine,
and a smile for one and all.
Sweet Jesus, take this message,
to my dear mother up above;
tell her how we miss her,
And give her all our love.
Finally, at the end of dad’s funeral, some 24 years ago, we handed out a memorial card which had a prayer on it. I went back and read it after mom passed and i would like to share it with you again as my final wish for mom. It seems only fitting that she go to oak with the same sentiments…….
May the angels lead you into paradise
May the martyrs receive you at your coming
And take you to jerusalem, the holy city.
May the choirs of the angels receive you,
And may you with the once poor lazarus
Have rest everlasting. Amen.