– Jesse Leon
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: When Jennie Stuart stopped working, she decided to fill her time by becoming more active in her community. Stuart started with her church, and from there got involved in almost every club in Ozone Park, 11 different organizations in total, according to her count. An active and longtime member of the Good Government Club, the Concerned Neighbors of Ozone Park, and Bella Italia Mia, to name a few, Stuart’s love of photography has made her a valuable asset to numerous organizations. “People see me coming, and they already know, it’s the lady with the camera,” Stuart joked. Her pictures have been published in a number of local papers including the Italian Tribune and The Tablet, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
PERSONAL: Stuart, and husband of more than 50 years Irving, have a daughter, Floretta, who is a science teacher, and three grandchildren. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Stuart spent her entire life in Ozone Park, and even lives in her childhood home. Stuart’s first language was Italian, which her immigrant parents spoke at home, and learned English in school. With 18 credits at Queens College, Stuart is now considering going back to finish her bachelors degree.
JOB: Stuart spent 27 years in the work force. She worked for the New York Telephone Company until her daughter was born, and then spent 12 years as a regional sales manager for Avon Products where she recruited and trained other women, many of them housewives, to be salespeople.
PROUDEST MOMENT: “Being a mother and a grandmother, but everything I do I’m proud of,” Stuart said. Boasting of her green thumb, Stuart confessed that gardening brings her a special joy. “Putting seeds in the ground, watching them flourish, I made seven fig trees from my father’s tree to honor his legacy and gave a few of them away, and I still have three in my back yard.” Stuart also stressed how proud she is to be an American and that her parents are American citizens. She showed off that pride when she draped her father’s original flag with 48 stars across the front of her two-story home.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The challenge is doing it correctly,” Stuart said. “I have so much going for me, I wear so many hats.” Stuart finds that pushing herself to achieve is always a challenge. Whether it’s singing in her church choir or recruiting new members for the Bella Italia Mia club, Stuart looks forward to the challenge of accomplishing her task, and takes great pride in successfully completing and achieving her goals. Stuart said her latest challenge is the story of Italian-American history she is trying to write. “Will I be successful at it? I have to get it right because it’s going to go down in history.”
FAVORITE MEMORY: Picking just one memory may have been Stuart’s biggest challenge, but she has made sure to photograph each of her most important memories. “Every first thing I did was like ‘Oh my god, I did it.’” Stuart remembered her first visit to Italy, when she got off the plane and touched the ground, “I’m here, I’m in Europe,” she thought. Stuart’s first flight on a jet plane was on a trip to Bermuda. “I had my camera with me, and I took a picture of the clouds, the stewardess, myself in the chair,” Stuart recalled.
INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is believing in myself. You have to believe in who you are and what you are, and keep on trucking. The whole world looks at you, so keep a smile on your face, and keep positive.”