Longtime Bethpage resident Mary Bruno -- a cook, great-grandmother, Catholic and throwback to another era -- died from a heart attack at her daughter's home in Woodstock, Ga., on June 21 at age 89.
Bruno was born Mary Tyrell in Limerick, Ireland. Her family moved to New York when she was about 4 years old, and she grew up poor in the Bronx, said her son Dan Bruno, 58, of Bethpage.
At 18, she was studying to be a nurse when she met Louis Bruno in the Bronx. The two married just before Louis headed off to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. While he was gone, she worked in a factory supporting the war effort from the homefront, Dan Bruno said.
When her husband returned, she went to work raising a family in the Bronx; they moved to Bethpage in the early 1950s.
In addition to raising six children -- five boys and a girl -- Mary Bruno held a variety of jobs and volunteer positions. She was a chef at the Colonial Inn in Bethpage for almost a decade, ran her own Mary's Ceramics studio, also in Bethpage, for a few years, and worked in local delis, making her "famous" potato salad and sauerbraten, her son said. "She wouldn't stop working," he added.
When she finally retired, Mary Bruno joined a seniors group in Oyster Bay and volunteered to read to kids at Central Boulevard Elementary School in Bethpage.
A devout Roman Catholic she walked every Sunday with her husband to Mass at St. Martin of Tours in Bethpage. After her husband died in 1984, she went with a friend. When she couldn't walk anymore, Bruno would stay home and watch Mass on television, her daughter-in-law Lisa Bruno said.
Mary Bruno donated thousands of dollars to the church and other organizations, said her son, with whom she lived for more than two decades. "If you ever wanted to know how many charities there were, just check out our mail for a few weeks -- and she gave money to every single one of them," Dan Bruno said. "She didn't really have it, but she did."
In addition to son Dan, she is survived by five other children: Louis, of Ronkonkoma; Thomas, of Plainview; Frank, of Phoenix; Joan, of Woodstock, Ga.; and Martin, of Queens; two sisters, Helen Lazardes, of Syosset, and Beatrice Murrow, of upstate; 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Granddaughter Joanna Oglesby, 31, of Lilburn, Ga., said she spoke to her grandmother a couple times a week. Bruno always had a rosary on hand, and Oglesby said she could count on her grandmother to offer a prayer when one was needed. Oglesby also looked to Bruno for recipes.
"She would teach me to cook when I'd visit. She'd actually teach me over the phone," Oglesby said. "She made the best meatballs."