Eulogy for Marion Hein, given by Marie Lousie Hein Radford, July 27, 2018
On behalf of my sisters, Irene Smolney-Bell, and Theresa Stafford-Smith, and my brother, Michael Hein, I want to thank each of you for coming here tonight to celebrate the life of our mother, Marion Hein.
We all feel very lucky and blessed to have had her for such a long life. As I’m sure you all agree, she was a truly amazing, loving person. I’m going to share a few thoughts about my mother, to honor her tonight. With a life of 97 years, there is much to be said. I’ll try to do her justice, although I will only have time for “the prelude to the book,” as Geraldine’s husband Jody Hawkins said to me yesterday.
Over the past week the four of us have spoken to many of you, and many others who are not able to be here tonight, but who called to give their condolences, to talk to us about what mom meant to them, or to share memories.
We are grateful for your support and for all that you have shared with us. We have even learned some things about my mother that we didn’t already know. We have laughed with you, and cried as well.
Mom had a great capacity for love and generosity, plus an abundance of creativity and talents that she freely shared. It was fun to be with her, to see her gorgeous smile, and to catch the twinkle in her dark brown eyes.
Born Marion Esther Nuccio, in 1921, to a family of recent immigrants in Manhattan, her early life was one of extreme hardship. She lived as a child in a tenement apartment,
what she called “a cold water flat” with no heat or hot water. She spoke to us this difficult time, of living with her parents, grandmother, and 5 brothers and sisters in a tiny flat,
and of their struggles during the great depression, which began when she was only a child of eight. There was often a lack of the basic necessities of life, including not enough to eat,
sometimes they would settle for a dinner of “Tea la mode” (hot tea with milk poured over stale bread). They asked a kindly butcher for bones for their non-existent dog, which my grandma, Amelia Mecca Nuccio,
would use to make soup. My mother said the butcher, who was a stranger, would save them bones, although he knew they had no dog. All the kids and their maternal grandmother slept together for body heat
with “all the clothing they owned” as bedding to stay warm in the winter. They lit the oven for heat in the morning.
What did they have? They had a tight and loving family which united together to survive.
As the oldest daughter, she assumed responsibility to take care of the younger siblings, as grandma and grandpa Nuccio worked long hours at multiple jobs to put food on the table.
She went to work right out of high school, despite her brilliant mind and accomplishment of being the class valedictorian at Bushwick High, graduating a year ahead of schedule.
She adored her family and, rather than complaining about these times, she would talk to us about how much fun they managed to have,
and how they pulled together, surviving by being united and by making sacrifices for one another. Mom’s temperament was not to complain, but to make the very best of any situation.
On the prayer card, we chose the serenity prayer. We chose it as these words embodied Mom’s approach to life. She was very content and serene, especially in her later life.
No tribute to my mother is complete without mentioning the love of her life. Mom met our father, Charles Hein Jr., after her family had moved to Freewood Acres, NJ, just down Route 9 South, not that far from here.
Mom was visiting on weekends, as she was still living and working in NYC and was introduced to my father by grandma Nuccio who observed that my father was super kind to her younger children, and handsome to boot.
She told dad “I have an older daughter.” She told mom about my father, but mom hesitated at first to meet him, because she was a NYC woman and dad was “from the sticks.”
Apparently, it was love at first sight when they finally met, orchestrated by grandma Nuccio. They forged a life together that started in the prelude to WW2, a time of great uncertainty for America,
but a time of strong love, hope, and commitment for Charles and Marion. They married just after he joined the army, on August 31, 1941, when dad was able to get a Labor Day weekend pass.
Then they didn’t see each other for nearly FIVE years. They wrote frequent love letters, we have boxes of them, sometimes received months after they were sent.
Once the war ended and they were back together, they built a happy and successful life together. Their marriage of 68 years was full of love, family, laughter, hard work, and, of course, lots of fun.
Given her early life of hardships and long separation from my father and many close family members who fought in WW2, it is pretty amazing that she grew to be the woman who we all knew and loved,
one who was kind and thoughtful to all, who maintained a positive outlook and optimism, and who had a great sense of humor. She had a unique approach to life and passed along her wisdom to us.
She molded us not just with her words, but also by her example.
Recently my sister Theresa told me that she said to mom: “You know the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Well, I learned all I really need to know from you!”
(Mom replied, wide eyed, and with her typical modesty: “Really?”)
So, I thought I might share with you some of her secrets for a long and happy life, and to offer some of her words of wisdom.
I’m going to touch on the following areas: Her outlook on life, on finances, on love and relationships, on respect, and more.
Outlook On Life
Mom fully embraced life and had an insatiable curiosity and a belief in life-long learning. She and dad loved travel, and once my father retired, they traveled for 15 years all over the world,
putting her talent for languages (she spoke 4 – English, Italian, Spanish, and French) to good use. Her overall philosophy was “Enjoy life, you only go around once.” After dad passed away in 2009,
she missed him terribly, but would often say how much she loved him and reflect on how great their life together was. She did not dwell on the sad.
She would say, “Make the most of each day, and live life to the fullest.”
Our entire family has a strong work ethic, Mom offered me this advice on how to avoid burnout: “Work hard, but not too hard. Work steady.” When I would fret over not completing everything I
wanted to do on a particular day, she would always remind me “You know, Marie, tomorrow is another day.”
Her early career was as a seamstress and tailor and she was highly accomplished one. She made the matching wedding suits that she and dad wore on her wedding day.
She had an amazing talent for all types of stitchery, we have put a bunch of her pillows and a blanket around the room, as a small sample of her meticulous work.
She took great pride that the back of her intricate needlework was as beautiful as the front. Mom was a co-founder and active member of the Monmouth County Embroidery Guild of America.
She taught all of us to sew, and my daughter, Meg Radford, has become an accomplished crafter, seldom without a piece of needlework in her hands. Meg told me that she has
learned these lessons from mom with regard to stitching: persistence, patience, determination, self-confidence, self-forgiveness, dexterity, generosity, and creativity.
Mom would say “never pull a thread on a garment,” she believed in “a stitch in time.” Many of you may have had her take a garment from you to fix on the spot.
The picture on the prayer card is very recent. She couldn’t bear to see a flag flying that was torn by the wind at Theresa’s husband Gerard Stafford-Smith’s mother
(Eve Stafford-Smith,’s) home on the Matedeconk river in Brick. Mom said, “Take that down, I’m going to fix it.” And she did.
She was a perfectionist in her stitching, took pride in her work, and in just about everything she took on. She urged us to do the same, but to realize our limitations as well.
Takeaway: “Always do your best.”
Mom and Dad were very practical and VERY careful with their money. BTW, they never fought over money (or anything else, for that matter). Her advice on money: “Have the money in the bank,
before you buy something.” She taught us to understand money, how it works, plan for the future, and save for a rainy day and retirement. Takeaway: “Live within your means.”
Mom urged us to spend wisely. Mom considered knick-knacks as “just something else to dust.”
She said: “You get what you pay for, don’t buy crap. Buy the best you can afford.” Especially quality clothing. Better to buy a few items of quality than a large wardrobe of clothing that
would fall apart or become shapeless quickly. She would shake her head and mutter about a poorly sewn-on button. “They just spit them on” she would say as she reinforced the button with proper and strong button thread.
As kids we would go to the seashore in Asbury Park or Point Pleasant and want a souvenir, like one of those cheap multicolored pinwheels that spun with the wind.
She would say to us, “you don’t need that” OR “no, that’s crap, we are not buying that.” So, takeaway here: “Save your money. Don’t buy any crap!”
Mom was big on respect, for yourself and for others. For yourself, she would say: “Don’t ever let anyone make a dope out of you” (so stick up for yourself!) And… to her three girls she
would tell us “Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, if you do find you’re in a bad situation, deal with it directly like a lady, if that’s not working, give them hell!” Takeaway: “Don’t take any crap from others!”
She always took care of herself and never wore her “house dress” out of the house. I remember when I was little, she had a maroon and white button up-the-front house
dress so she could save wear and tear on her best clothes. We all had to change immediately into “play clothes” when we got home from school for the same reason.
She made a lot of our clothing as kids. On her wry sense of humor. Irene remembers standing for a fitting. Then getting stuck with a pin. Mom's comment. "You've got to suffer to be beautiful."
She advised: “Take a look at yourself in the mirror, before you leave the house.” If she saw someone disheveled out and about in public she would
say: “Don’t they own a mirror?” Takeaway: “Don’t leave the house looking like crap!”
On Respect for Others
Mom taught us to treat everyone with respect and kindness (she embodied the golden rule). She was a formidable force as a disciplinarian (taking this task on as my father was unable to
resist a pout from any of us). I learned from her to respect her rules as laws, one of which was “Don’t talk back to your mother” (EVER).
If we questioned a rule or pronouncement by asking “Why?” She would say “Because I said so.” That was end of the conversation.
She could stop us in our tracks by giving us “the look.” I would tremble if “the look” was directed my way, which it often was. Takeaway: “Don’t give your mother any crap!”
She also taught us to use our common sense. When I wanted cheap but fashionable white “go-go boots” that were “in” as a popular fad among my teen-age friends,
she said “no.” (Remember the rule, “don’t buy any crap”?) My rationale and plea were that “everyone has them.” She would look me in the eye and say, “so what? If everyone
said ‘We are going to jump off a cliff,’ would you jump off a cliff too?” It was hard to argue with that logic. I might also add that it was always useless to argue with her.
Forget about saying “no” to any command or request.
On Food and Health
Have I mentioned that mom was a great cook and also a health freak? You don’t live to 97 without taking care of yourself (BTW she still had all her own teeth – so floss, floss, floss).
She would say to us “Nothing is more important than your health. Take care of your health.” Also, she believed in “Everything in moderation.”
She maintained a curvy, but trim figure, her entire life, through eating small portions and being active. She was always in constant motion. No moss grew under her feet. “Marion, sit down,”
my father would say every night, shouting to her in the kitchen, when he settled down to read the paper or watch TV with us. He was wasting his breath, of course, she never sat down until she was ready.
Mom believed in exercise. An early memory I have is of her in the living room, with her glamor stretcher, working out with Jack LaLanne on TV religiously. Every. Single. Day.
She was a great hostess and loved to have large family dinners and celebrate holidays together. She would immediately ply anyone with food who crossed our doorstep.
She taught us generosity and warmth. She welcomed all our family and friends with open arms, throwing open the fridge to see what she could give them, surely they were hungry?
She told us “Food tastes better when you share it with people you love.”
She also taught us all to cook (seldom using a cookbook) and would say “Cook your own food, then you know what’s in it.” She loved veggies! Dad had his (way too large) veggie garden,
mom would, of course, try to cook everything he grew immediately. Fresh veggies abounded!! We were eating kale way before it was fashionable. I remember her sending me to school with Kale sandwiches for
lunch. Other students would say “EEW, spinach sandwiches, yuck!” I would reply, “Delish and no, you can’t have any.” Don’t forget the Kukoots!
(I found out this word for squash was derived from the Greek Albanian! We ate zucchini 1000 different ways, for all three meals a day, during a bumper crop season.
Like grandma Nuccio, mom would waste nothing, she would always drink the water from cooking veggies (or would use it to make her delicious homemade soup).
She refused to buy or to let us drink any soda. I think once she got a case from our dear friend (and musician) Chester Helman, a close friend of Uncle Andy and Aunt Irene
Nuccio (shout out to Aunt Irene, who is here tonight!) He was selling soda, so she bought a case to help him out, but only once. Takeaway: “Don’t eat any crap!”
Her early memories of depression depravation stayed with her: “It’s a sin to throw away food” was her motto. We would reduce, reuse, recycle, before it was fashionable.
Our lunch bags were bread bags from Duggan’s bakery which was out by the Collingswood circle, but delivered by our bread man (we also had milk delivery to a silver cooler that sat on our
doorstep in Lakewood, NJ). There was a word that she used for being thrifty, I’m not sure of the spelling “spat-en-yo-mi” (?) or whether this is Italian, Albanian, or what.
When she found out I bought tall kitchen can bags she said to me “What?? Buying trash bags. You’re throwing your money away.” She went out and bought me this trash can that you put
grocery plastic bags in to hold the garbage. (I held up trash can and demonstrated how to put the grocery bag in it with Michael’s help). Spatenyomi! Save your money! Takeaway: “Waste not, want not.”
My mother believed passionately in the importance of education and life-long learning. She was an avid reader, mostly non-fiction, but loved a good novel as well.
She read to us EVERY DAY as children. The house was full of books. She never censored our reading. She took us to Monmouth County Library in Freehold often, I remember her taking our
cousins along, especially Ann Nuccio Costello. I remember that she had to fight with the librarians so I could get an adult card at 11 or 12 years old, so I could borrow any
book (and as many as I wanted to borrow) myself, without her being there (remember she had Michael in tow who would have been 7, and Theresa who was 2 at the time.)
The librarians finally gave in. My mother would not take no for an answer.
She told us: “Get an education. We don’t know what the future holds, but you have to be able to take care of yourself.” And “No one can ever take away your education.”
One of her proudest achievements was putting all four of us through college and then accomplishing one of her life-long dreams, of getting her own BA degree in Spanish and French from
Georgian Court College when she was 62.
My mother had a deep love of music, always singing, playing music in the home or in the car rides on errands. She gave us all many years of music lessons.
Her favorites were Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and big-band music. However, she was quick to point out her moral values:
She told Irene “I like Frank Sinatra but I don't like his life.” This brings me to her outlook:
On Love and Successful Relationships
Mom was a person of abundant love for family and friends. She made friends easily with her warm and outgoing personality. She told Theresa: “Love family and friends unconditionally,
but love your husband passionately.” Her marriage to my father was phenomenal, although they were polar opposites in many ways. This, of course, worked well for them.
You can take the woman out of the city, you can’t take the city out of the woman. Irene remembers that after we moved to Jerry’s Lane in Howell, NJ, in 1961 mom called to dad
one day: “Charles, come quickly, look, there are big black chickens in our yard.” Dad answered “Marion, those are not chickens, they are crows, geeze!”
In mom’s defense, the crows WERE gigantic on Jerry’s lane.
She advised us to: “Be a united team with your partner, always have each other’s back.” According to mom: “Things are not important; your family and friends are important.”
When getting the news (mostly from Michael) of yet another car accident he had, she would say “You wrecked the car? Are you ok? We can get another car, we can’t get another you.”
She was very mindful of how fleeting our childhood was. She advised me to keep this in mind when I became a parent: “The dust isn’t going anywhere, House work can wait,
play with your children.” She would say when with her beloved grandchildren “Leave the dishes, let’s play cards.”
She was amazingly accepting of everyone’s flaws, including all of us kids: She told Theresa: “I love all you children the same. Everyone you love is unique, family and friends.
You embrace the good in them and ignore the rest.” This is how she lived her life, she never had a bad word to say about ANYONE, including politicians. Extraordinary. Takeaway: “Love is the answer.”
She raised her three girls to be modest and ladylike. Her advice to us on birth control was simple: “Keep your legs crossed until you get married.” I want to say that in case I was
giving the impression that my mother was a saint, I have to say she was also a woman of passion. She said: “There is nothing better in life than sex with someone you love.”
In conclusion, I can only hope to live my life half as well as she did.
Wow, what a woman!
Where has she been all my life?
Right by my side.
Thank you all for helping us to celebrate her life.
Marie Louise Hein Radford
With loads of help from:
Irene Andrea Smolney-Bell
Michael Charles Hein
Theresa Ann Stafford-Smith