A Registered Chapter of the Red Hat Society

Patty, Grand Dutchess the Majestic Provider of Cachinnation

I was born on September 6, 1953 to Thomas and Mary Gernon. My father was a NYC policeman and my mom was the secretary to the President of Chase, who as custom required, left her position to become a stay-at-home mom in her 7th month of pregnancy. My 3 brothers, Robert, Thomas and Kevin, followed every 3 years thereafter. I grew up in Queens, NY. My first 8 years were spent in Corona, which at the time boasted, not “Julio in the schoolyard” as per Simon and Garfunkel, but a HUGE Italian immigrant population. There were 72 children in my first grade class one very strict nun. Ninety nine percent of the kids I went to school only spoke Italian, ate Italian and could have made me “an offer I couldn’t refuse.” This probably started my obsession with Italian food! I was a real city kid. I walked to school, came home for lunch, played stickball and bottle caps in the street, fished “pennsey pinkies” out of the sewer with wire coat hangers formed into a loop, rode the city bus and subway – alone - at age 5. In 1962, Mom and Dad bought a lovely little cape in Bayside Hills with acreage – 40 ft. x 100 ft. We thought we had moved to the country! We had an apple tree, raspberry bushes and a passel of vegetables in our yard. I attended the elementary school across the street from our home and was late almost every day. I lead a rather sheltered life. When it came time for me to go to high school, my policeman father decided I couldn’t attend the local public school. It was the 60’s and things were cooking in the New York City streets. So I took an entrance exam and I went to St. Agnes Academic High School--an all girls' Catholic school in College Point. It took me 90 minutes each way, taking city buses, to navigate my way to school. It was one of the most wonderfully joyful times of my life. I blossomed there academically and socially. No more the quiet kid, I took the helm on many projects with a variety of clubs, sports, and served on the community boards, and in political and religious organizations.

I grew up in the era of the Rockettes, the June Taylor Dancers and the Coco Cabana. When I expressed an interest in tap dancing and ballet, my Grandmother agreed. Not only did I take lessons, but I was often sent to weddings, and local events such as the NY World’s Fair ‘64-‘65, with my AGVA union card in hand for a gig. I worked with some celebrities like Buddy Rich, the Tremolos, Gene Kelly, the Copa Girls to name a few. As I matured, I dreamed of becoming a Rockette. My dream came to a screeching halt when I didn’t grow above 5 foot 2 inches. The regulations required that Rockettes could not be shorter than 5’6” for uniformity. Talent aside, no amount of padding in my shoes could make me taller. So it was Plan B for me. I went to the City University of New York, Queens College. I worked 3 jobs to pay tuition and books, and graduated with my elementary education degree. (Same school and year as Jerry Seinfeld). Of course, as my Irish luck would have it, the City of NY had laid off 5,000 teachers that year. But never fear I got a job …. teaching juvenile delinquents in a school for kids who had committed violent and felony crimes. I had an armed guard outside my room and 16 unruly boys, who couldn’t read or write, but had plenty street smarts. They were all way smarter than their teacher was. I didn’t know many swear words nor did I realize that these words could be used so colorfully to express oneself until I worked with these boys. For the next 4 years every day was an adventure. I would never know if I was going to teach or visit Ryker’s, go to court or a police station to see one of “my boys”. I loved this job and each and every one of those kids. I felt that I made a difference in their lives. I hear from some of them every once in a while.

All the while I was working and going to school I didn’t date much. There was not much demand for girls who didn’t weigh 100-lbs. soaking wet! A friend from college set me up on a blind date. I went to dinner and a Broadway play with a black eye, scratched arms, broken finger, and bite marks, (from the little darlings in my classroom) and a love was born -- my husband, Russell. We started dating on April 10 and on September 3, Rus asked me to marry him. We celebrated by having dinner at the Top of the World in the World Trade Center. We were married the following August. We settled into an apartment with a phenomenal view of the NYC skyline in Flushing, NY. I changed jobs to NY Life Insurance on Madison Avenue in Manhattan as a Training Specialist.

My father passed away at the young age of 56 and left my mother broken-hearted. Shortly after, a doctor told us that we would probably never be able to have children. With Adoption papers on the dining room table, we had some construction done in our apartment, mice invaded, and it happened. Our first little angel, Brian, arrived in August 1981. I started a “little tutoring job” from referrals from friends in the district and doctors that I had worked with in Juvie hall that grew into a full-fledged business. By the time our second cherub, Dennis, came into the world I had so many clients I had to hire 3 people to help with the overflow. It became apparent that with 2 boys, we were going to need a house. Interest rates were soaring to 21%. We looked, as people do in NY, to Long Island and decided that there must be something better. We went west--crossed the river(that would be the Hudson) and wound up in Cranbury, NJ. You know what they say, “New house, new baby!” I found out I was pregnant with our beautiful Laura at a regular gyno visit right after we had moved to Cranbury. Rus had been doing a lot of work related traveling, my Mother was in Florida with my Grandmother who was critically ill, Dennis at 2.5 wasn’t talking, Brian was having a hard time adjusting to his new environment and I told the Doctor I was ‘under stress.’ His response, “Patty, your stress has a heartbeat!” It was a miracle!! Then Black Monday came. Rus lost his job. So, with 2 mortgages, a bridge loan, 2 children under the age of 6, and six months pregnant I attempted to keep my life together. Incredibly, like the mover and a shaker she continues to be, our beautiful Laura was born the Monday of Thanksgiving week---6 weeks early! Rus got a job after 120 stress-filled days later. When I finally gave back the heart monitor and all the other electronic equipment, two years later, I looked back on this time as a blessing. It put life into perspective.

I couldn’t work full time when the children were young between Laura requiring special personnel and Rus’ incredible 2.5 hour commute each way to Manhattan, but I had wonderful friends who were like family. We watched each other kids so that we could each have some time at fun jobs when the kids were little. I worked at the Lenox Warehouse, made chocolate in a chocolate factory like Lucy and Ethel, tutored, tested everything from deodorant to pregnancy sticks at Carter Wallace, smelled new product fragrances at Fremenich, did substitute teaching. I was a den mother, Boy Scout leader, brownie leader, Sunday School teacher, Teen Club advisor, Go-To person in the neighborhood for any emergency, Carpool driver, Track/Soccer/ Lacrosse/Theater/PTA mom. Finally, after more than 16 years of being home raising my own children, I landed a real teaching job. I taught first and second grade in East Windsor NJ. I was Teacher of the Year and received the NJ Governor’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002. I remember thinking that my life was just perfect! You know what happens when you do that….

Now the question turns to how in the world did you come to join a Red Hat Society in Ohio? Well, at 51 my husband had to interview for his job at Chase or lose it after the merger with Bank One. But from my standpoint, the timing couldn’t have been worse. I would have to leave my dream job, Laura was about to enter her Senior year, my mom, with final stage emphysema was living with us and was failing daily, Brian and Megan had just had our granddaughter, Jocelyn …….. and I was moving further away? What was wrong with this picture? My husband, the saint, commuted from NJ to Ohio for 18 months. At the end the dominoes fell; some faster than I would have liked. My dear mother passed away the week we put our house on the market. Laura graduated from Notre Dame High School. Our home sold. The new house was ready. I tearfully resigned my teaching position hoping to get one here in Ohio. Most everything has worked out just the way I had hoped it would. The only domino that didn’t fall the way I planned was the teaching job. I must have another purpose to fulfill in my lifetime. I have translated my teaching skills to work at McGraw-Hill in their Education division. Our children have adjusted and settled into their lives. Rus’ reward… a 10-minute commute to work after 19 years of 2.5 hours each way. My reward --- the Victorian Bouquets Red Hat Society! I feel blessed to have met each and every one of you!

  

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February 2007 Flower of the Month