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Janine Meritet of Middle Island: Nurse's aide who helped the homeless

Janine Meritet volunteered at a soup kitchen.

Janine Meritet volunteered at a soup kitchen.   Credit: Meritet Family

How did couples meet before the invention of dating apps?

“We actually met in therapy — we met in group therapy,’’ Bill Meritet (pronounced Meri-TAY) said of he and his wife, Janine. “The group actually broke up, but we shared a therapist, and we remained friends.’’

The friendship, built on the strength of the two supporting each other through difficult times, evolved into a romantic relationship, and Bill and Janine eventually got married in June 1988. They lived in Middle Island, until Janine, a nurse’s aide working in the Ambulatory Surgery Department at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, in Smithtown, died on March 31 from complications resulting from COVID-19, her husband said. She was 59.

Janine Meritet was born in West Islip, on July 28, 1960, into a blended family, with a brother from her mother’s previous marriage, a brother and sister from her father’s previous marriage, and a sister who had both the same parents. Her mother died when she was in middle school, and she was raised by her widower father. She attended West Islip High School and became a nurse’s aide in the 1980s.

“She was very friendly to other people; found it very easy to talk to them,’’ Bill Meritet said. “She was somewhat bubbly, fun — somewhat kooky.’’

She was an animal lover who enjoyed making crafts. She combined those two passions by making bead necklaces that she would donate to a local animal hospital, which would give the beads to people who brought their pets to the hospital.

“I used to tease her she was ‘The Beaded Lady,’ not ‘The Bearded Lady,’’’ Bill Meritet said.

She had a particular empathy for the homeless, her son, Matthew, remembered.

“She was very involved in donating to and helping the homeless,’’ he said. “For a little while, she worked in a soup kitchen. She was very interested in giving it forward.’’

Francine Kosiczky, of Patchogue, ran the soup kitchen at which Janine Meritet volunteered. The two women grew up across the street from each other in West Islip, and were lifelong friends.

“Janine was one of those people who never had a bad word to say about anybody,’’ said Kosiczky. “She was literally the kindest person I ever knew.’’

Matthew Meritet was especially close to his mother.

“Usually, she would come home from work and come into my room and say, ‘How much do you love me?’ And I would say, ‘To the end of the world.’ And she’d say, ‘That’s my boy.’”

A co-worker started a GoFundMe page in memory of Janine to provide assistance to her husband and son.

Janine Meritet is survived by her husband, Bill, and her son, Matthew, both of Middle Island; a sister, Marcie Hudson, of Holtsville; and brothers Micky Pechin and his wife, Jeannie, of West Islip, and Eddie Lawson and his wife Joanne, of New Jersey. She was predeceased by her sister, Lynne Pechin. A memorial service will be held at an as yet undetermined date this summer.