Ginni Nagle Perry (also known as Ginni Perry/ Virginia Nagle/ Virginia Perry/ Ginnie Nagle/Virginia Mary Perry/ ) died in August 2005. She grew up in New York, then moved to California and then lived her final years with her brother Thomas). This piece is written by her nephew Robert Nagle. In the photo, she is at left, with her sister Eileen and dog
Aunt Ginni was a regular visitor to our family household. My brother and sisters always looked forward to her arrival. In contrast to my parents (who were fairly strict about chores and discipline), Ginni was a pushover. And she liked—no, she LOVED– to have fun. And she had to have her television shows. The summer she stayed with us, she was addicted to Judge Wapner. When I talked to her last July, it was Jeopardy.
The first thing I recall about Ginni was her nimbleness with a typewriter. Of course, my dad was a prolific writer too (as were the New York Nagles, presumably), but my dad’s handwriting was picture-perfect, and mine was atrocious. I can’t remember if Aunt Ginni’s handwriting was similarly atrocious, but she and I shared a deliberate avoidance of situations that required writing by hand. Typing things just came as second nature to both of us. During my first few years of college Aunt Ginni exchanged a letter every one or two weeks, writing about nothing in particular, exchanging funny stories and articles.
Trivial details stick in my mind. Aunt Ginni drove me to take (and fail) my first driver’s test. In addition to thoroughly rearranging our kitchen during each visit, Aunt Ginni always did a lot of home cooking. One summer challenge was finding the perfect clam chowder recipe. She tried a few versions on us (most of which were passable), but wouldn’t give up until she’d perfected the recipe. Even after returning to California, she continued sending us clam chowder recipes.
Aunt Ginni stood in hilarious counterpoint to my dad. My dad is out of his element around cars; Aunt Ginni belonged to a car club. My dad is the eternal skeptic; Ginnie was the eternal optimist. Dad is a planner, Ginni was content to go through life by the seat of her pants. Dad could never understand how she could survive in California on her income or medical condition. Ginni never gave it a second thought.
Ginni argued stubbornly. One evening we argued about some medical topic. College know-it-all that I was, I showed her articles proving my points in some vain hope that she’d concede. She never did. At the time, I remember thinking, “what an idiot!” but I now think that this tenaciousness—this refusal to give up in the face of certain defeat–helped her to survive setbacks that would daunt the best of us.
For me, Ginni was about making the best of a bad situation, finding a new family wherever she lived. She remembered people. I remember one Christmas where she opened up a surprise gift from one of her children (whom she had lost touch with). I remember the tears that came to her eyes, tears of sadness mixed with joy. It made us remember that the real presents were not the ones under the tree but the renewal of old ties, the surprise hello.
Finally, I need to mention the most obvious memory I share with anyone who knows her: the marathon phone calls. Once you start, you can’t just hang up after 10 minutes. It’s impossible. You might as well cancel the rest of the day’s appointments. And don’t forget to throw in a few bathroom breaks. Conversations were fun, exhilarating but exhausting.
“Yes—Aunt Ginni, I need to hang up—Yes, I know—Well, I’m not sure I agree (15 minutes later), Aunt Ginni, I really have to go now—No, now—-No, Kathy is all right—But I really have to go now (5 minutes later)—-Goodbye, Aunt Ginni — I’m hanging up the phone now — I’m — Ok, I need — Ok, I need to hang up now…” and then finally just, “Ginni, Goodbye! — “Click.
My last conversation with her in July was pretty much typical, (though I’m sure her health was giving her problems). She was the same Aunt Ginni, spirited, energetic, funny, mildly scolding. She relished the thought of our next meeting and loved the chance to catch up. The thought of death never seemed to occur to her, though it is true she’d had a few scares recently.
Aunt Ginni, goodbye. We shall all miss hanging up on you in midsentence.
Me and Aunt Ginnie, 2001. Houston
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Following is a letter my eldest daughter wrote (turning 14 next month) and put inside an empty Nivea Cream jar for me to take to New York. (Mom always said Nivea was a miracle cream….what can I say?….some sayings and traditions live on…even though I’m still waiting for the miracle to show up on my wrinkles…..)Mom was there when my first daughter was born, (in fact she was there for the next one too….) I think her letter wrapped in leftover Nivea says it all…..Read on…..
All through your life you had fun and you lived to the fullest. I know you loved us all and stayed as long as you could. Your passing is very hard on us all. Memories of laughs and tears bring us together in this hard time. Mommy is going to New york with my Dad without me so I hope writing this letter will show you how much I care. I swear, all the stress you’re causing my mom is driving her crazy so you better be happy up there! Looking at pictures and letters I kept just makes it harder to let go. But, I know I’ll never let go because you don’t let go of the ones you love. When I graduate, I’ll be holding your hand. When I get married, I’ll be holding your hand. All through the rest of my life, I’ll be holding your hand and believe me, I’m never letting go. Grandma you were, and still are, an important part of my life. But now every birthday I won’t get a card, and I won’t hear your voice on the phone, but I will have your love. My heart aches because I haven’t seen you in 4 years, which seems so long. I love you and that’s all I can say. Your grandaughter, Jessica Lopez
JessicaMarie Lopez (San Diego, CA )
The next one comes from Tom Nagle (Houston, Texas). Tom is the brother of Robert Nagle.
Being a teen, I immediately identified with her cavalier, rebel attitude. Soon, I became engrossed with her many humorous anecdotes and stories of adventure.
She was the only Nagle member crazy enough to stray from the sanctity of the Northeastern seaboard and head out west. In my teen eyes, she was California, always destined to live on the edge. Her free spirit was something I always admired growing up. She’d often tell me stories of her classic race car and how she’d show up all the kids driving their parent’s cars around. She told me she liked to see their expression “when this little old lady would blow their doors off”.
Through one of her many battles with cancer, I remember she once told me that she had already passed-away , only to be revived. “Tommy” she said, ” I’m too mean to lose to cancer, it will take more than that to get me!” I never truly comprehended it at 13 years of age, but now in my late 30’s , I now know the true meaning of courage.
Cancer may have taken away her tongue, but through sheer determination, not her ability to speak. It may have occasionally sapped her energy — but never her inner strength. Just like all those pimply faced teens she liked to race, I wish cancer had a face, so I could see the expression when my aunt Ginni blew its doors off. She defiantly celebrated victory with each day and we are all winners because of it.
Official announcement: PERRY-Virginia Mary “Ginni” (nee Nagle), of Hicksville, NY, passed peacefully to the home of the Lord on August 17, 2005 (1936-2005). Virginia was raised in Jamaica, NY and married Edward Glatzmayer at the Immaculate Conception Church. They moved to California and raised their children. Ginni returned to New York in 2000. Her parents, Mildred and Thomas W. E. Nagle, her husband Edward and their son, Michael, predeceased her. She is survived by her daughters, Jeannie Marie (Dan) Lopez of California, Lee Ann Glatzmayer, Joanne (Donald) Nolan, of Florida and son Edward Glatzmayer (Kathy), of Florida and eight grandchildren. Ginni is also survived by her sister Eileen (Bill) Farrell of West Islip, her brothers Donald Nagle (Terry) of Houston, Texas and Thomas Nagle of Hicksville and nine nieces and nephews. A Memorial mass will be celebrated at Holy Family Church, Hicksville, NY on October 15 at 9:45 AM. –