By Kenneth Kowald
She would have been 76 this Aug. 26. She missed it by five months.
I do not remember when I was aware of Geraldine Ferraro. Sometime early in our four years in the evening session of Fordham Law School we met and became friends. In the latter years of that experience, Gerry and I, like all those in the class, were encouraged to form a group and work with one another.
That made, for me, a wonderful relationship with three great people. Gerry was teaching at the time and she lived with her mother in a garden apartment near Queens College. She married John Zaccaro after graduation; I remember John had been a member of our original class.
Lou Haggerty was single then and lived with his widowed mother — his late father had been an oil company executive, I believe — in one of those marvelous large apartments on the west side of Park Avenue in the 1990s. Lou worked for the Waterfront Commission.
George Carmody and his wife lived on Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights. I do not remember what George’s job was.
Elaine and I were married in the middle of my second year of law school and our apartment was on Grand Central Parkway, down the hill from Borough Hall. I was a secretary in the city Department of Air Pollution Control.
The idea was that these groups of compatible people would meet on weekends and holidays and hurl questions at each other, taking turns in each of our homes. It was a special delight to do that kind of thing on the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights on a balmy day. I remember meeting Gerry’s lovely mother during our first session in the apartment.
Gerry, Lou and George were delightful. Each was sharp, witty and a pleasure to study and be friendly with.
After law school, I lost track of Lou and George, although I heard from or about them from time to time. But for some of our years in Richmond Hill, Gerry was our congressional representative. And, of course, she was always top notch in what she did. She was our neighbor across Forest Park on Deepdene Road in Forest Hills Gardens.
Her ascendancy into the national and international spotlight did not change her. I did not see her often, but I remember attending a large conference in Manhattan and meeting Gerry before the meeting started.
She greeted me like an old friend and then had the grace to announce from the lectern before she gave her talk that she was delighted “that my dear friend, Ken Kowald,” is in the audience. It was an action which exemplified the great lady she was.
My memory of her is vivid. Like so many others, I miss her smile, decency and intelligence.
A dear friend of mine, the Rev. Peter Amadeus Fiore, who served with me in the U.S. Army, is a scholar in residence at Siena College. Pete remembers seeing Gerry and John in Patrissy’s — now, unfortunately, gone — on Kenmare Street in Little Italy in the 1980s and ’90s and recalls how gracious and friendly she was to everyone.
It is the way I remember her from the first time I met her in the old Fordham Law School building near City Hall, one night long ago.
It was a pleasure and a blessing to know her and to be able to remember her. But, after all, once you met and knew Geraldine Ferraro, you could not forget her. She was a great and good human being.