In recent years, since my move to Tennessee, I have tried most summers to reconnect with some of my cousins in NY and always especially enjoyed those opportunities to reminisce and catch up with some of the people who were such an important part of my earlier years. It is one of the blessings of having had parents who came from large families to have had many aunts, uncles, and cousins, who played such a prominent part in my life. So today I join my extended family in mourning my dear cousin Isabel, my oldest cousin on the Franco side of the family, who at 80 was still an active, vibrant, and positive presence in her community, where she was the President of the Yorktown, NY, Rotary Club.
Born in 1939 to my Aunt Filomena, the de facto matriarch of the Franco clan for the rest of the 20th century, she was nine years older than I was and so always seemed wiser and more experienced, an aura she never quite lost. She was the first of my cousins to marry - marring Eugene, an Irish boy from Inwood - in 1959, and was the first cousin to make the move out of the city to suburban Westchester.
She and Eugene were loving godparents to my sister Christine, who sadly died in her 40s. Isabel had three children herself before being suddenly widowed in 1980. She then served as Registrar at Iona College in New Rochelle until her retirement in 2006. But it was her loving and encouraging presence to her wider family - her sisters, nieces and nephews, and cousins - that I will always cherish and remember most. And I will miss her comments on Facebook (including her occasional comments on these posts of mine).
Ironically, her wake will take place on the day when my mother's funeral Mass in California (postponed because of the coronavirus crisis) had originally been scheduled. She will be buried by her husband in the same cemetery where my mother will also eventually be interred.
May the angels lead her into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome her and take her to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.
(Photo: One of the last pictures of me with my cousins Libby, Isabel, Albina, and Carol.)