My grandmother turned 83 years old in May. She was born in the bedroom of a small house in Minersville, a lower-income neighborhood of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, highly populated with workers of the then-thriving Bethlehem Steel mill. Despite her own parents’ lack of education, my grandmother and her brother went on to earn college degrees and both of them subsequently became elementary school teachers.
My grandmother served her local community as a teacher for three decades before she retired in 1993. Always passionate about politics and making a positive influence, she was on the local Housing Authority and served as the Johntown’s Deputy Mayor.
Despite all of her successes, my grandmother also faced many hardships. Raised a devout Catholic, my grandmother has been married three times, which was taboo for her generation from a religious and social standpoint (although it is worth noting that she and my step-grandfather have been married four decades- third time’s the charm!) Her first husband, my biological grandfather, left her with year-old twin daughters on Christmas Eve in 1957 when he told her he was heading to the grocery store to purchase cream soda and he’d “be right back.”