A Woman Before Her Time

It wasn’t just the whole ham wrapped in gorgeous pastry every Christmas that endeared me to Patricia Sheridan Paone. But to be sure, we Jewish girls longed for safe places to taste a bite of the forbidden flesh. It wasn’t even her “to die for” gnocchi although I deeply admired how Pat trained herself to be a chef of Ecoffier calibre. That was all gravy, so to speak, in a friendship of more than 50 years. It wasn’t even the hundreds of crèches she collected which magically appeared during the holidays, leaving her friends in wonderment as to where they were hiding all year long. No question, my friend Pat, who passed away last week, had Martha Stewart’s talents and good taste in the decor arena. Mentored as a young adult in the bosom of the League of Women Voters, Pat was pretty outspoken for an Irish lass, but indeed that was part of her charm. She and I met when her husband Mario ran for the Assembly in the mid sixties. He lost, but our friendship became a win for both of us. Pat went on to distinguish herself as legislative aide to New York City Councilman Ed Sadowsky where she fought the good fight for many worthwhile causes.

At a mass this week at the Church of St. Mary’s, they called her “a woman before her time.” This was true of Pat, but to some extent true also of many of the women I knew at the time when Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem were telling us how to liberate ourselves. Women of a certain age, like Pat, who were already wives and mothers, concluded that the only path to liberation was to do it all. They cooked, cleaned, decorated, led girl scout troops and met their husbands at the door with a martini. Yes, and they also dusted off their resumes, went back to work and made use of the college educations they seemed not to need in marriage. Pat has been  described as “fiercely passionate with an opinion on everything” and the sixties gave her and others the permission to be so. Rest in Peace, Pat. You were a wonderful role model for your daughters who are now breaking glass ceilings in your honor.

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