Flourish Beyond 50~Aunt Marie

by Judy Griffin on May 22, 2014








I had the pleasure of interviewing the charming and vibrant woman Marie Magnani aka Aunt Marie.

I found Aunt Marie through her niece Lorri, who shared her aunt’s zest for living when I told her about the book I was writing.  Flourish at 50 & Beyond: Stepping into your Season of Ageless Vibrancy.

I really appreciated Marie’s friendly, lovely and forthcoming demeanor filled with laughter and smiles.

Aunt Marie just celebrated her 99th Birthday.  Born in Italy and later immigrated to the USA, Marie lived a good life in the Bronx as her Mom’s right hand with her 5 brothers. She noted that she never felt deprived or poor in this simpler time.  She admired her resilient mother for raising her family primarily as a single parent since her Dad didn’t have much of a presence as he led a separate life as a gracious and sharp maître de in fancy restaurants. Nonie, that’s what they called her Mom, sewed all of her clothes, cooked delicious homemade food and loved to garden. Marie never even saw canned food. Nonie inspired a love of cooking in Marie and fully prepared her to take over when she no longer could cook. Nonie lived to be 100 & 9 months.

From an early age Marie had an affinity for learning and loved school. Even though the polio she suffered as a little girl caused her left side to be lower than the right, she never used that as a crutch. Nonie drew her biology diagrams so she could focus on studying. With a penchant for school she was never absent not even when she was left in charge while her mom was hospitalized. Rather than miss a day of school, Marie brought her 4-year-old brother Rudy to school with her. She was still tickled by Little Rudy, now 87 and so happy that he moved in after his wife passed. Although her other brothers have passed on she was grateful for their close relationship.

It’s no surprise that Marie became a stellar teacher dedicated to her students and colleagues. She loved attending college and graduate school in New York City. Her favorite grade as a teacher was 6th grade and she still keeps up with some of her 6th grade students. Isn’t that amazing? She was extremely nurturing to her students and a devoted mentor to her fellow teachers and principals. She believed that a non-confrontational and diplomatic attitude was far more effective in the workplace and in life since arguing never solved problems.

Although Marie didn’t have much opportunity for dating since Nonie insisted she be chaperoned, she enjoyed a large circle of friends and family and an adventurous life. She enjoyed traveling to her birthplace in Italy, in her prime (somewhere between 40 and 52). She recalled a fabulous 6-week tour in Europe where she country hopped by ship and enjoyed traveling around the U.S.A, Mexico, Newfoundland, and Canada. She preferred solo travel, as it was a great way to meet people.

While teaching was her passion and gift to the world, family life always fed Marie’s soul.  She feels so lucky for living a rich life with a nurturing family. She was blessed with so many loving nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews and took them on an array of adventures including trips to the beach with the boys, ballet, horse & carriage rides, and shopping with the girls.  Everyone loved being with Aunt Marie. In fact some of them even came to live with her. She shared so sweetly that some of her happiest moments were when her niece Lorrie moved in and she spoiled her with homemade meals. She’s always been everyone’s favorite confirmation sponsor. Although she explains with a little surprise that most of her college friends are gone she happily enjoys socializing with her church friends.

She still lives in the home her family moved to on Long Island in 1950. Marie was a hardy woman who walked and traveled by bus to school until she got her license at age 40. After retiring from an impressive teaching career at 68 to take care of her ailing mom, Marie began volunteering at Good Samaritan Hospital. Volunteering was a great fit and she just retired last year due to her arthritic hands and hindered stability. Not quite ready to throw in the towel, Marie is now helping to record this hospital’s history for its guild. Imagine volunteering for 50 years?

Marie didn’t grow up in the era of exercising but always loved being outside, gardening, and walking especially in the city. Now she loves to sit out on her deck to enjoy the sunshine.

When I asked what she attributes her long vibrant life too she beautifully said

 “The Blessed Mother has always held my hand through the toughest moments of my life.” 

I don’t think I will ever forget the way I felt when she shared these words. As we chatted she caressed her rosary beads just like my Nana used too. She described how prayer opens your heart and mind and has always been a constant in her life.

Aunt Marie’s Nourishing Nuggets

  • God is good.
  • “Don’t waste time being mad or angry.
  • “You need to know when to shut up because your not going to change someone’s mind.
  • “Don’t rush through life, it goes fast enough as it is.”

It really struck me when she said, “life is too short no matter how long it is.” 

What part of Aunt Marie’s story resonates for you?

I would love to hear your plan for stepping into your season of ageless vibrancy. Please post a comment to share your thoughts.

Introducing Flourish Beyond 50 :Your Path to Vibrant Living

If you feel inclined to participate in my  Flourish Beyond 50 Blog & Book Project please sign up here.








{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise Theckston May 23, 2014 at 5:14 am

Judy….absolutely loved this peek into this remarkable woman’s life. Thank gosh you were able to interview her and let her TELL her story as a woman like Marie is indescribable. What I love best is her quote…. “The Blessed Mother has always held my hand through the toughest moments of my life.” As we are cousins we have been blessed to watch our Grandmothers and Mothers unwavering devotion to the Blessed Mother and it has been an everlasting gift passed on to us. I think the Blessed Mother picked “Aunt Marie’s” hand to hold on to so tightly as she knew she would be recognized as a source of strength and inspiration to all whose path she crossed in her long life. Please keep relaying the stories!


Judy Griffin May 23, 2014 at 5:31 am

Thank you for reading and sharing your beautiful and meaningful feedback Denise. I loved that quote too and felt her words so deeply. I too believe she is a strong women who has spent her life inspiring and loving others. Our connection as cousins runs deep and I love how our thoughts often resonate with one another. I so appreciate your support and encouragement.


Samyak Yamauchi July 1, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Wow, Aunt Marie is awesome! What an inspiring women. I was a teacher too, and am staying in contact with a few student via Facebook. I wonder if I will still be in contact when I am in my nineties? What an impression she must have made on her students that they still love her so.


Judy Griffin July 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm

She sure is Samyak. I appreciate your lovely feedback. Great to hear that you keep in touch with some of your students too.


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