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Meet my great-grandmother, Nana Rae

Kidsday reporter Carly Shurbet, right, with her sister

Kidsday reporter Carly Shurbet, right, with her sister Natalie Shurbet, left, and "Nana" Rae Antona. Photo Credit: Shurbet family

Two years ago, Valerie Peteroy, a Kidsday reporter from New Hyde Park, wrote an article about her neighbor, Nana Rae. It turns out that Nana Rae is my great-grandmother and I will provide you with an update on how she is managing.

Nana Rae turned 104 and she has a truly amazing background. She was born in Spain on March 13, 1912, and was one of five children. When she was 16, she came to the United States and helped build planes.

She didn’t speak English at all, and she didn’t want any help learning. She wanted to learn the language by herself. At the age of 22, she married Valentine Antona. When she turned 24, she had her first child, Yolanda Antona. Then when she was 30, she had her second child, Rick Antona. Finally, at the age of 34, she had her last child, my grandpa, Jim Antona.

When Nana Rae was 44, her husband died of a stroke. Valentine had worked for an airline company, and when he passed, the company gave Nana Rae his job. As she grew older, she would knit blankets for the kids in her town and for my family, and she would make knitted, stuffed animals. She would also go out to the candy store to buy sweets for the neighborhood kids. All of the kids adored her because she is so kind.

Not much has changed in Nana Rae’s life since she was last featured in Kidsday. She now must use a walker to get around, and she can no longer cook. Nana Rae had always loved to cook and bake. She would bake muffins using some of the carrots and zucchini from her garden. During snowstorms, she would make cookies and hot coffee so everyone in the neighborhood could come into her house and warm up with her. At Thanksgiving, we would always save a special bowl of mashed potatoes for her because they are her favorite food.

You might be wondering who takes care of Nana Rae. A very sweet and kind lady, Gem, looks after Nana Rae when our family is not around. Gem is like a part of our family and makes sure that Nana Rae has the things she needs. Nana Rae loves listening to jazz music more than any other kind. She doesn’t have a favorite television show.

Whenever I visit my Nana, I am always grateful for the time I spend with her. We love her so much. My family cherishes every moment with her. She has had a great and wonderful life, and if something tragic happens, she always finds a way to brighten up the situation. Nana Rae is an incredible and special lady.

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