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D. Adler, 88
A resident of Montclair for 55 years, Mary (Bochicchio) Adler was born on May 24,1930 in West Orange, N.J., but was raised in nearby Verona as the eldest of three children to Anthony “Tony” and Vera Bochicchio. She died on March 9, pretty much of old age, after spending a month in the hospital.
She died in hospice with her husband and children around her because, as she pointedly said, there was no way she was going to pass at home and leave that kind of a mess for anyone.
The true magic of Mary Adler is that although she aged, she never grew old. For decades, when she saw herself in a mirror, she wondered, “Who the heck is that old lady in my house?”
She was fun. She was buoyant. Her mind was as sharp as her spirit was young. “Live your life. Live your life,” she urged even from her hospital bed. “I love you. I love you,” she would say. “This is what happens when old people get old.”
If a single goal guided and explained her, drove her thoughts and actions, it was her abiding desire to create a joyful and meaningful life - for herself, certainly, but far more for everyone she loved.
She embraced what she believed mattered: family; home; her faith; the education of her children and grandchildren; beauty in all - clothes and flowers and food; deep,emotional conversations about everything. Then there were the books, thousands of them read over
a lifetime, hauled by the dozen each week from the public library.
Reading anything good? “No,” she’d say, “I’ve got to make another trip to the library.”
Life was to be celebrated. No holiday passed without cards, no birthday or graduation without gifts, no Christmas without music, a massive table of food and presents spread across the floor. “Abbondanza,” she’d say, because without such moments, life is just work.
With every achievement came a call: “We’re so proud of you!”
Her philosophy was hardly gifted to her. Wise, bright (she ranked 3rd in her Verona High School graduating class) she crafted it on her own from her natural joy, her moral upbringing and from the golden age Hollywood movies that set her childhood example. MGM’s
“Andy Hardy” movies glowed with supportive, loving families. Why not strive for that? People sang and danced in the movies. She made that her own, Lindy swinging with her husband in the living room, singing a good-night song to her children, blowing kisses
and taking bows on the upstairs landing.
At 17, she discovered her life’s love and forever ally, Emil, a year younger. No one made her laugh more. They went on their first date 70 years ago this month. A Newark street photographer snapped a photo they still keep. The two, Mare and Aim, remained inseparable,
marrying close to Christmas in 1954, insisting always that they’d one day even die together. No one doubts that half of him did on the morning afternoon mom passed. His heart was hers. She was his breath. A lasting image will be of them, every morning, sitting across from each other in the kitchen nook, laughing or solving life’s problems over coffee.
Young, they traveled the globe to Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, a daring U.S. Air Force lieutenant and his bride. For their 40th anniversary they flew to Italy. “I want to see Venice before it sinks,” she would say. It was a dream fulfilled.
She raised her family: Emil (Aim), Eric (Air) and Adrienne (Age) on a printer’s salary and sent all to college. “I have the best kids in the world,” she’d proclaim, believing them to be her finest achievement. More, she wanted them to feel it in their souls. Given little confidence as a child, she knew what they needed. One became a musician, touring the world; the second a journalist in Kansas City; the third a media marketer in New Hampshire.
“Don’t tell the others, but you’re my favorite,” she’d joke with each over the phone.
Mary ruled the dining room table, sipping coffee at one end as everyone ate. She read passages from her books: Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Hans Kung.
“I just want to read you this one part,” she’d say, sparking conservation or debates that, at their most fiery, sent silverware flying.
Her stories became legend: her friends at her early job at The Pru (Prudential), Dudley’s, Woolworths, her days at Belmar, her friends Margo, Joan and Jan. For 11 years, in the 1960s and ‘70s, Ms. Atler, as she was known to the school kids at Watchung, Rand and Montclair High, worked as a crossing guard outside her front door, crossing the kids near the tracks on North Fullerton Avenue.
She told stories of the Monster Boy and the Mailman, of the Crotch Lady and the students in the ‘60s whom she believed had taken a dull, black & white world and transformed it into fresh color.
Raised Catholic, she was once told she’d make a great Protestant. The line fit.
Church rules were for the church, she held. Christ’s words, highlighted in her Bible, is all that mattered. “I believe what’s written in red,” she’d say.
Yet woe to those who inflamed her Italian ire, who “in my book” she would say, lied or cheated, ran hard against her sense of moral rightness or, worst of all, hurt her kids. When she “blew her top,” it was Vesuvian. “They’re dead to me,” she’d say, or worse.
She wished she could be as forgiving as Christ. It’s a high bar. She tried.
Older, so much tempered and calmed. She worked the Sunday Times’ crossword, went garage “sailing” with dad. She took great pride in her grandchildren, Julian, Will, Mary and Aidan.
“I have the best grandchildren ever.”
She spoke regularly to her brother, Vincent, and sister, Gloria, all in their 80s, cherishing them as a big sister does.
And, certainly she made lists - lists for shopping, lists for bills, lists of medicines and numbers, lists of topics to raise during the next phone call came from Aim, Air or Age.
Done, she’d cross out each item.
On March 9, had she ever written it down, she could have crossed out the final one:
Build a beautiful life.
Mary Adler is survived by her husband, Emil Adler, Jr., and children, Emil Adler III (Julie Flanders) and grandson Julian; Eric Adler (Tamara Morris) and grandson Aidan; Adrienne Adler Risher (Gene Risher) and grandchildren William and Mary; her brother Vincent Bochicchio (Liz Bochicchio) and their children Tony and Felicia Bochicchio, her sister Gloria Sears and her children Steven, Michael, Mark and Donald Sears; niece Susan Rowe Broad and nephews Bobby and John Michael Rowe.