Growing up on the 900 block of Ferdinand, Mary Ann Geraci was a fixture, living in the same house nearly her entire life. So when a citizen brought a request to name the block in her honor after she died in January, Mayor Hoskins moved the resolution forward.
On Saturday, May 13, the day that would have been Mary Ann’s 90th birthday, friends, family, old neighbors and current village officials — Mayor Hoskins and commissioners Maxham, Melin-Rogovin and Voogd — gathered to unveil the new street sign at the corner of Ferdinand and Harvard in her honor.
“Mary Ann’s father paved the streets of Forest Park,” Hoskins shared, “and Mary Ann spent a lifetime here — a familiar face, especially at the pool.”
When Italian immigrants Sam (Salvadore) and Francis (Alfonsa) Terrana moved their family — Tom, Tonie, Joe, Little Rose, Mike, Beatrice, Frances, Rose, Mary Ann and Antoinette — to the 900 block of Ferdinand from 1018 Lathrop Ave. in the 1930s, Mary Ann was a small child, and the second youngest of 10. The two-bedroom, one-bath house had an attic split between the boys and the girls. As the Terrana siblings left the house to start their own families, only sisters Tonie and Mary Ann remained with their parents. So when Mary Ann married Larry, instead of moving away, Mary Ann’s mom, Francis, asked them to stay in the Ferdinand house.
“Auntie Tonie was a second mother to all the siblings,” Cathy Mustari, niece and daughter of Beatrice, recalled. “Every holiday, every celebration, anytime someone had a problem, they came back to the house on Ferdinand where Tonie and Mary Ann lived. Auntie Mary Ann was a gem, the sweetest, kindest person.” It was Mary Ann who would draw pictures at the kitchen table with Cathy and spark her career in art.
It was just her nature to be kind and generous. “She was a joy to talk to,” nephew Michal (son of Mike) explained. “She had all sorts of stories and was always willing to help out.”
“She looked like my mom,” Geno, son of Rose said, “and would say, ‘That is so beaut-i-ful,’ and now I say it, the same way.”
Donna, wife of Geno, added that “now the grandkids are saying ‘life is beaut-i-ful’!”
Her love extended beyond the Terrana family and when the Callahans moved in next door in the 1960s, they didn’t know they moved next to a wonderful family. Their son Mike was drawn to Mary Ann as a young boy and become a lifelong friend and surrogate son to Mary Ann. “He would come around looking for her Italian cooking, especially her mostaccioli,” recalled Gino.
Mike Callahan agrees, but added it was her “generous soul,” that helped.
Mary Ann was one of the Centennial Court of Honor ladies in 1956, worked at the torpedo factory, was a Tupperware salesperson, and was a staple in the Senior Club at the Community Center (with her sister Tonie) and a fixture at the Forest Park pool.
“She had her own chair that she would sit in at the splash pad,” remarked several people, including Shannon Wood, who was lucky to meet Mary Ann. “She was just lovely, always happy and willing to chat.”
Bestowing this honor on Mary Ann and her family just seemed like the right thing to do. “In an age when monuments are under attack, naming a street and recognizing the Italian American heritage that built our town, and the kindness of Mary Ann, is just a small act our village could do,” said Mayor Hoskins.
Now we can all enjoy this beaut-i-ful sign as we pass Harvard and Ferdinand, for generations.