One night, when he was in the Air Force, Damian Germain said a carload of rowdy friends went to his house in St. James and began drinking in the driveway, making toasts and telling stories. Hearing the commotion, Germain said his mother, Diana went to investigate. But instead of lecturing the raucous group, instead of calling the cops on them, Germain said she handled it as only she knew how.
She invited them all in — and made them breakfast.
"That was how it was with everybody," Damian Germain, of Viera, Fla., recalled this week of his mom. "Whether it was my brothers and their friends, whether it was friends of my sisters, she was always the kind of woman who took you in, took care of you. We'd end up with all these kids sleeping at our house, with my mom making breakfast at all hourst."
Born Feb. 12, 1934, in Brooklyn, Diana Santa Maria Catherine Tedesco Germain died May 28 in Alexandria, Va., following a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's. She was 87.
Her son said she leaves behind a legacy of maternal goodness, whether for her dedication to her six children and 16 grandchildren or to friends, strangers and pretty much anyone who crossed her path. She marched every year in the Memorial Day Parade down Lake Avenue in St. James, sold poppies for the ladies auxiliary at the Sherwood Brothers American Legion Post 1152, raised thousands of dollars for local charities and even helped found a nursery school at St. James Lutheran Church.
The youngest of four children born to Italian immigrants Samuel and Caterina Colella Tedesco, Diana grew up working with her three brothers in the family butcher shop on Lewis Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant before attending Fordham University.
It was there she met future husband Richard (Dick) Germain, a star player on the baseball team.
"He was the one who didn't go to class," son Damian said, "who was more the bad boy. I think my mother was like, 'I can fix this guy.'"
Diana "barely touched 5 feet," Damian said. Dick, who'd played ball at Brooklyn Prep and attracted interest from the old Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators baseball teams, stood all of 5-3. Still, the two made an imposing pair.
Leaving college, Dick Germain joined the U.S. Army, serving with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea during the Korean War. Returning home, he and Diana got married on Nov. 22, 1956. Though Diana graduated Fordham and was teaching in a Catholic school, her new husband hadn't finished college.She convinced him to attend Brooklyn College, where he earned a teaching degree while working odds jobs as a cabdriver or delivering ice or any number of other things, his son said.
Eventually, Dick Germain taught ook a job teaching at Riverhead High School and he and Diana and their growing family moved with some of his relatives into an old mansion in New Suffolk. After years there, the Germains bought a house on Jefferson Avenue in St. James, Dick taking a job as Superintendent of Recreation for Smithtown. All four of their sons y served in the military — Damian and Mark in the U.S. Air Force, Christian and Jesse attending the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.
Though Dick and Diana planned to retire to The Villages in Florida, the two never got the chance. Dick was diagnosed with lymphoma in October 1988 and died in January 1989 at the age of 57. When that happened, Germain said his mother found others who needed her care. — going to work for the Suffolk County Child Support Enforcement Bureau to help make sure deadbeat dads paid their fair share of child support.
"I think" her son said, "her maternal instinct again pointed her in that direction. Her thought was, 'How could I best serve children again.' And that was it."
Family members recalled Diana Germain as the woman who always had a smile, greeting friends and family with "tight-tight-tight hugs" and the line "love you big bunch whole heart." Who, one granddaughter said, "Never did anything by halves."
Her son recalled that when Hurricane Gloria knocked out electricity to most of Long Island back in 1985, she built a fire pit in the backyard to roast chickens and steaks for friends and family. And, hardly a wallflower, son Damian recalled that his mom also mastered what he referred to as "an awesome Tarzan yell."
Diana Germain is survived by children Mark and wife Elvia of Leesburg, Fla., Christian and Alana of Elon, N.C., Gabrielle and husband John DePasquale of Alexandria, Va., Damian and wife Tara of Viera, Fla., Daria and Dan Shenefield of Tuxedo, N.Y., and Jesse and Kate of Cornwall-on-Hudson, as well as by the 16 grandchildren.