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Apr-07-2018 21:20printcomments

Every Child Needs a Rose!

A compassionate neighbor reaches out and changes a life.

Rose and John
Rose and John
Photo: Skolek-Perez

(MYRTLE BEACH, SC) - When I was a very little girl, I lived in a town outside the City of New Brunswick, N.J. In those days there were TV shows each week that depicted the ideal family life. Some of those shows were Ozzie & Harriet, The Donna Reed Show, as well as Father Knows Best. I only dreamed of a life such as shown in living rooms through TV.

My days were lonely and many times scary. I attended a Catholic School in New Brunswick and corporal punishment was not frowned upon in the education system as it is today.

While attending eight years of a strict Catholic upbringing by Sisters of Charity, I met a young girl named Barbara Hallgren. She and I became fast friends and gravitated to each other every day in school.

To this day, Barbara and I are the closest of friends. After school, I would take a public bus to my development of Cape Cod houses -- about a half hour ride. One day after leaving the bus to walk home, I passed a house a block from mine.

An older woman was sitting in her kitchen window looking out and called to me, "Get in here you skinny little kid. I want to fatten you up." Those words changed my life completely.

That woman was named "Nonie" and she was the matriarch of a young newly wed Italian couple named Rose and John Mondoro. They had two little babies.

Every child knew the cardinal rule was never to go inside a stranger's house, but something drew me to this wonderful woman I grew to love as "Nonie". She gave me a slice of watermelon to "fatten" me up.

From that day on, I could not wait for school to let out and get to Rose and John's house. I had something to look forward to and two babies to play with and love.

This wonderful young couple made me part of their family as it continued to grow and new babies arrived.

Rose taught me to cook, to clean, to believe in myself, to have faith and most importantly to have a sense of humor. Every night I would sit down with them to have a wonderful Italian dinner.

During the summer, I would be part of their vacations to the Jersey Shore. There were so many memories -- so many -- being part of this wonderful growing family as I grew from a little girl into an adult. One time when I was a young teenager, a man who worked in a car dealership in town followed me as I walked to Rose and John's house.

In a flash, John was out of the door and in no uncertain terms told the guy that if he ever came near me or talked to me that it would not be good for him. That was John. He was the protector not only of his young family, but also of me.

Rose and John eventually moved to Middlesex, N.J. to a beautiful home which now had room for four children. I married, but unfortunately did not choose a "John". One day during a snow blizzard, I woke up with an awful case of the flu and had an infant daughter to care for.

I called Rose in a panic. How could I care for an infant all alone and feeling so sick?

In a short time, John came into my house and packed my baby up with diapers, clothes and formula and told me to get better. He was out the door and I knew my daughter was going to be well cared for. When I recovered from the flu, I picked her up from this wonderful couple who were always there for me.

In 2011, my wonderful John went to heaven leaving Rose behind. Rose and I talked by phone several times a week and when I visited N.J., there were special reunions.

On Easter Sunday morning as I sat in the airport to fly up to N.J. to be with Rose as she lay a patient in the hospital, I received the call I dreaded. I was too late. She had died with her children and a priest at her bedside.

When I was told Rose was in the hospital, I let my son, Michael know as I tried to make airline reservations to be with Rose as quickly as possible. Michael became what he referred to as an "ambassador" for me to Rose.

He sat at her bedside during the day and night to hold her hand and talk to her. He would tell her that I was coming to be with her. At one visit, he put the phone to Rose's ear so I could talk to her and I told her that I would be there to hang in.

We always ended our conversations with "I love you with all my heart." Michael told me she smiled when he took the phone away from her ear. A friend of Michael's named Mario came to Rose's bedside and recited the complete rosary.

I wanted so badly to be with Rose in the hospital and I was too late. My consolation is that Rose was loved by so many people including her children, grandchildren, in-laws, nieces and nephews. To know Rose was to love her.

So I close this tribute to my sweet Rose by saying "I am because Rose was." She was there for me practically all my life and I will miss her in ways that can never be expressed. Every child needs a Rose, and I will forever love my Rose with all my heart.


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