The past week was truly filled with mixed emotions, as I learned of the passing of two beloved people, but later enjoyed a celebration of life, as I was honored by UJA Federation, an important organization that improves lives everyday, all around the world.
Mafalda DiMango was 91 when she fell in her home and subsequently suffered a brain bleed. She died on Aug. 2 with her loved ones gathered around her, including her husband of 68 years, Anthony, and daughters Patricia and Joanne. Patricia DiMango, a former successful, respected judge in the Brooklyn Supreme Court, has become a national star on “Hot Bench,” a legal show that airs daily on WCBS-TV at 9 a.m.
Mafalda was a dynamo deeply involved in her community, particularly in local education. She served 40 years on the Community School Board (later rebranded as Community Education Council) in her hometown district of Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Borough Park and a section of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Upon her retirement in 2009, then-CEC President Laura Windsor called Mafalda a woman who inspires others, saying that “She is a treasure, she is a role model, she is our matriarch.” The district superintendent added, “I don’t know how we will fill this void. We will never be able to replace you. We just won’t.”
Mafalda’s wake was at the Andrew Torregrossa Funeral Home on 79th Street in Brooklyn. Flowers lined every wall of the three contiguous rooms where she laid in repose. As I sat there, I felt the love and respect for the unique woman who gave so much to her family and the community that was her life.
I had met Patricia DiMango when my lifetime friend — Judge Judy Sheindlin, who hosts the famous “Judge Judy” and is one of the producers of “Hot Bench” — told me she had selected Patricia to be one of the three judges on Hot Bench, and was from Brooklyn, where I had newspapers. It was love at first sight and I’m happy to say I had the chance to meet Patricia’s mom and saw, in person, her humor and love of her daughter.
Mafalda DiMango is an irreplaceable presence in our world.
Later in the week, I received the sad news that fellow Metro Boys And Girls Club board member and chair George Russo had lost his young beloved son, Paul Russo.
The wake was held in lawyer George’s catering facility, Villa Russo in Richmond Hill, and I was overwhelmed at how the hall felt; it was transformed into a cathedral of love. The walls were lined with unique flower arrangements designed specifically to reflect Paul’s passions in life.
One was a Yankees logo, another a card game, still another a softball mitt.
A video streamed about his life, and I could feel his presence all around me. Lines of people streamed into the hall to bring comfort and support to George and his family. They will need many hugs.
I’ve always found, through my personal losses, that work is the best medicine. George’s work will sustain him, and he is needed. Much can be done in his beautiful son’s memory.
On Sunday, I had the honor of being recognized by the UJA Federation’s chapter at the North Shore Towers, where I publish a monthly newspaper, The North Shore Towers Courier.
The Towers are a unique complex of three coop buildings, home to 4,500 people, located off the service road of the Grand Central Parkway near Little Neck Parkway. It’s a unique community with its own zip code, golf course (now open to the public for applications), indoor and outdoor pools, a country club with many activities and multiple tennis courts (the junior U.S. Open championships are played there).
North Shore Towers also has a great salon Pouran & Co. and a spa next door where I take “staycations.” There are also two grocery stores, a drug store, cleaners, a clothing boutique, a bank, a catering hall, a restaurant and even a movie theater. It’s all situated on one of the best manicured properties in all of New York City.
They made me a star on Sunday to benefit the world class 100 year old UJA Federation, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel.
Its mission is to care about people and support Jewish causes around the world and in our backyard. All of my grandchildren went to nursery school at facilities that they support. Programs run from the cradle to death, the underserved and embattled, the hungry ,the traumatized by war and nature and much more.
It is my honor to help them raise needed funds to support their critical work making a difference daily in people’s lives.