In examining her life, brimming with blessings and short on adversities, Jane E. Serio came to see that faith-based service was at the core of her journey.
The mother of 12, who in the late 1970s took up studies of gerontology when half of her brood was still in the nest, “looked at her life as a pathway,” said son Gregory V. Serio of upstate Latham.
In the time leading up to her death April 24 at age 88, she was “able to reconstruct her life’s journey and understand the logic of the path.” That, he said, was through recounting stories from earlier days and visiting sites with special meaning. She saw her calling as service to others, including her family, seniors in the community and, later, parishioners of St. Frances de Chantal Church in Wantagh.
She put her studies to good use, working close to 20 years for the Town of Hempstead’s senior enrichment department, where she managed a summer beach program and oversaw the Bellmore Senior Center.
One pivotal point came in the 1970s, back when Alzheimer's disease may not have been a household term, but Jane Serio’s own mother was suffering from it nonetheless. And it just so happened that Molloy College, a few miles from Serio’s home then in West Hempstead, was offering a program in the study of the aged.
“All the pieces really fit together,” Gregory Serio said of having such a pioneering program right in the neighborhood.
“I decided to major in gerontology because that’s the way we will all end up some day,” Jane Serio told Newsday on the day in May 1980 that she graduated summa cum laude at age 49.
And how might a mom with so sizable a family find the wherewithal to pull that off?
Through her experiences and resulting “personal mission” in life, her son said. She studied overnight and more than a few times was discovered in the morning, “at the kitchen table, sleeping on the typewriter.”
She died peacefully at her home in Wantagh, her son said, “retaining a sharp mind, curious intellect and generous sense of humor,” knowing she had dodged her “sworn enemy,” which had so impacted her mother.
Upon learning she had developed lung cancer, Jane Serio responded that she could handle that: “I’m just glad it's not Alzheimer's.”
In recalling her friend of 82 years, Eileen Williams of North Bellmore, said Serio had “such a nice way about her,” so smart, creative and humble, with a strong religious faith, and “she never pushed it on anybody.”
The two attended first grade in Woodhaven, Queens, maintained their friendship and later in life met regularly for lunch with a couple of other friends. Williams marveled at how Serio managed a brood of 12, with Serio reminding her that she herself was raising seven.
“I don't know if she realized what an impression she made on everybody,” Williams said.
Born Aug. 27, 1930, to J. Edmund Lada and the former Florence Mathiesen, Serio was raised in Woodhaven, Queens, and graduated from what was Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School in Brooklyn. She also studied nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, the Bronx.
For her 88th birthday, Serio and family members visited that old Queens neighborhood, where she reminisced about life and people from that time.
To her parents’ dismay, she had entertained thoughts of joining the Maryknoll Sisters, her son said, which could have taken her far from home. She was diverted when her mother invited their dentist, Joseph Serio, along on a family vacation.
In 1951 the two married in Germany, where Joseph Serio was stationed with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He died in 1989.
In 2003 she moved to Wantagh, becoming a member of St. Frances de Chantal, where she served as consolation ministry director.
In addition to Gregory Serio, she is survived by six other sons, the Rev. John Serio of New Rochelle, Francis Serio of New Bern, North Carolina, Robert Serio of Boston, Thomas Serio of Lake Worth, Florida, Joseph Serio of Austin, Texas, and Stephen Serio, of Highland Park, Illinois. She is also survived by five daughters, Mary Napolitano of East Meadow, Geri Serio Davison of Mooresville, North Carolina, Janine Durso of Larchmont Clare Mugno of Alexandria, Virginia, and Celeste McDonald of Lynbrook; a brother, Edmund J. Lada of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; 20 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation was at Charles J. O'Shea Funeral Home in Wantagh. A funeral Mass was celebrated April 29 at St. Frances De Chantal.
Jane Serio was buried next to her husband at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, with their gravestone inscribed with this sentiment from 1 Corinthians 15: "Life is changed, not ended."