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A Mother’s Legacy

This Mother’s Day we honor moms who are no longer with us but still profoundly shape us.

Connie Montero, left, and mom Myriam Roman at a Phillies game.
by Stephanie Farrell
Author Stephanie Farrell with her mom Judith Keyser Anderson delighting in granddaughter Emily.

My lilac bush is in bloom. One deep inhale and I feel my mom’s cheek nestled against mine. —SF

Myriam Roman was “everybody’s Mama,” says her daughter Connie Montero of Vineland. Myriam’s grandkids called her Mama, as did all of their friends and teammates. “Even Nina’s college teammates called her Mama,” Connie recalls. “My mother loved it. She loved being everybody’s Mama.”

Myriam was born in Colombia. She attended high school in New York; after marriage she returned again to the States and settled in Vineland.

“When my father died, I thought she’d be devastated,” Connie says. “She was, but I saw another side of my mom—she was strong and independent.” Myriam stayed active, working out at the YMCA and socializing with friends. “My mother loved sports. She watched games all the time on her little TV. She’d love to go to Phillies games.”

Gloria Reardon, mom of Sharon Principe.

Connie and her husband also really enjoy that. Myriam was an enthusiastic traveler. “I definitely got the traveling bug from my mama. One of my favorite memories was going with her to Italy for a wedding.”

Myriam put family first; Connie returned to Vineland with her husband and kids to be close to family. “As we had kids, I didn’t like being away from my family. Being close to my parents—it was always good.”

Because of her, I am an avid reader, recalling the pleasure of countless afternoons cuddled with her on a couch reading. —SF

Deanville Felder “didn’t have much to give, but she gave whatever she had. She was kind-hearted,” says Durley Felder of Vineland about his mom. She grew up in Louisiana and worked as an assisted living nurse. After the birth of her fifth child, she stayed home.

Deanville Felder, Durley’s mom.

“We didn’t have much, but I never thought we were poor,” Deanville says. “She made us feel that everything we had, we were truly grateful for. She was very humble, meek, and had a kind word to say. She didn’t have more than a high school diploma, but she always pushed us.”

His mom died in 1996. He feels her influence in how he encourages his kids: “I tell them, ‘You can do anything. Things are going to get difficult but never quit. Don’t feel like you can’t achieve; give it every effort.’ Another influence my mom had is in my respect for women. I never want to do anything to disrespect women.”

A walk in the woods is my happy place; this is just like her. —SF

Dr. Jill Mortensen’s mom, Dorothy Mortensen, graduated high school during WWII. She started working once her younger kids were in elementary school. First she worked at the Iowa State of Representatives, later she ran the business office at a junior college.

“She loved cooking and threw fabulous parties, all in the Danish way. There were candles and flowers. She was such a great cook and loved making Danish things from our heritage,” says Dr. Jill. “At 52 years old, she opens a restaurant with the support of my dad. It was Mortensen’s Danish Sandwiches. She made homemade soup and Danish open-faced sandwiches.”

Dorothy Mortensen, in 1975, when she opened Mortensen’s Danish Sandwiches.

What impacts Jill today is her mom’s strength and innovation. She rattles off the things her mom did—sewing clothes, upholstery, decoupage, macramé, homemade candy, canning. Jill says she gets her “good hard work ethic” from her mom, who died in 2014. “I can do

anything. If there’s a problem, I’ll figure out a solution. She was very inspirational.”

She was creative and inspired that in others. I run a small kids’ drama club as a “MOMorial” to her; I call it Kids Act, after the one she directed at the school where she taught. —SF

Gloria Reardon, mom of Sharon Principe of Richland, had to quit school in 8th grade to take care of her sisters. “She hated not finishing. It really bothered her. She loved to learn. I get that from her; I love to learn.” Gloria also had a welcoming home. “Not only did she have eight kids, everyone’s friends were her kids. We were always the central place to go. Everyone’s always welcome. I think I get that from her.”

Sharon, who loves to crack jokes, discovered something about her mom the year she lived with her after college.

Dorothy Mortensen, typing papers for hire, on the step of her Quonset Hut home, circa 1947.

“By then all the kids were out of the house and my mom did not have to be in charge of everything,” Sharon recalls. “My mother was funny. I cherish the year I was there.” Her mom died in 2002 when Sharon’s oldest son was two. “As a mother, it’s hard not to think about her every day.”

She was hospitalized with depression when I was young. I am so grateful she got help. She shared her painful story when she thought it might encourage someone who was in a dark place to seek treatment. —SF

Maria Collini, owner of Maria’s Hair Salon, feels her mom’s imprint most poignantly in her own parenting. Her mom, Janet Surace, always babysat.

“Friends were dropping off babies at 5 a.m. She always had a real love for children, especially babies. My mom was a mom to everyone from exchange students to struggling teenagers. Her house was always a place to be comforted and loved, not judged,” says Maria. “When my mom was 50, she adopted a little girl from Vietnam. She would’ve adopted 50 more kids.”

All Maria had ever wanted was to also be a mom. “My mom made it look easy,” she says. “It was her greatest joy in life. That’s what I wanted.” But Maria reached a point after her first marriage failed when she felt defeated. “I’ve made too many mistakes. This is my lot in life. My mom encouraged me. She had a way of inspiring you to get out of the yucky space in your head. Even during her last stage in life, she was telling me not to give up.”

Maria and her second husband have since adopted two children. The adoption process was much harder than expected; at times she felt it was too difficult. “In all of these places, I relied so heavily on what my mom taught me.” Maria says watching her mom express love for a baby she didn’t birth led to her own adoption story.

My mom’s been gone 18 years. She said being a mom is the best job; she was quick to admit she was not perfect, which helps me accept my own shortcomings. She had a joyful spirit, full of love and grace. So I squeeze my kids a little longer and whisper in their ears how much I love them. It’s what she would do. —SF