Friday, June 6, 2014

Loretta Prisco

With a heart broken open with love, I let my community know that my mother, Loretta Elinor Prisco, transitioned to spirit side last evening. She was full of grace, light, intelligence, and a deep sense of justice. She taught me to see situations from multiple angles, and to consider others' points of view. She courageously chose life, while simultaneously grieving and facing a painful and difficult illness. She was taking photos of the flowers outside even at the end of her life.
For those who are able to attend, her wake will be Friday June 6, from 2 to 4pm and 7 to 9pm at Harmon Funeral Home on Staten Island, with a mass on Saturday June 7 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church is at 10AM Austin Place on Staten Island, burial to follow at Moravian Cemetery.

I think her and Gene are on a wonderful Celestial Cruise Ship, and I wish them the smoothest of seas and the happiest of voyages.

Thank you for your love and support during this long and difficult season. I would not be functioning without it.

With love,
Gabrielle Prisco, June 4, 2014
I've avoided posting this for the past 2 days. There are so many people out there who have been affected by Loretta and Gene, who died in November. She was the kindest and most caring person I knew. She always put children first and never failed to remind me when I drifted.

The good thing, if there is such a thing, was that to the very end she was as sharp and engaged in the issues of the day, wanting to be kept informed of everything going on in the education debates and in the union. In going through my post-Sandy cleanup I found an article she wrote exposing the evils of the use of standardized testing - in 1977.

Carol and I visited with Loretta for 3 hours last Thursday and, though bed-ridden, was engaged in the conversation every minute, wanting to know the updates on all that was going on.

She could have gone on but we had to leave when some medical people arrived. When we were leaving she said she might not be here for long. I told her I had so much more gossip to tell her she had to be around. Pancreatic cancer always seems to win in the end. Losing Loretta and Gene, real reformers, over the past 7 months is a great loss to everyone personally and to the education community.

Just 16 months ago we helped them celebrate their joint 70 birthday parties, along with their daughters Francesca and Gabrielle and their spouses Steven and Re and the always amazing granddaughter, Isabel, now 13. I have no words to describe this amazing child who was a force of nature in helping care for her grandparents in the midst of an unspeakable family tragedy.

Loretta and I met in 1971 when we worked with Another View, a group of teachers in District 14 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (a very different Williamsburg from today) that did grassroots organizing with teachers and the community and put out a monthly newsletter. We attended every local school board meeting and fought the local UFT-controlled machine running the district, never failing to speak on the issue of class sizes being high because so many political people were made supervisors. Loretta often had them quaking with fear and anger and became a target of their wrath, even being arrested for refusing to leave a school after we had stuffed the mailboxes of the school where the UFT district rep (who ironically, also died of pancreatic cancer 20 years later) was based. When she sued them she was represented by a young lawyer named Richard Emory. She dropped the suit when they agreed to allow us access to mailboxes with Another View. But of course they pulled them out the minute we left.
Loretta and Gene were amongst the founders of the Independent Community of Educators and attended almost every meeting until they became ill. Last July they were at my house to help plan one of the MORE summer sessions I was organizing on the history of the UFT and they were at that packed SRO event in mid-July - the last event they attended before going off on their final cruise (they were BIG cruisers). Three weeks later Gene went into the hospital and never came out until he went into hospice care shortly before he died. A few days after Gene entered the hospital in early August Loretta found out she had inoperable pancreatic cancer. She couldn't tell Gene because of his delicate situation.
You might wonder how she could maintain a wicked sense of humor through this family tragedy, but Loretta often managed to keep us in stitches, especially with her vivid email reports to the hordes of family and friends who surrounded this golden couple. I often told her those accounts could be a book.

While too busy with their many activities, political and personal to be much involved with MORE, over the last year or so she joined the Change the Stakes listserve and attended a few meetings. She found her kindred spirits in the group and so captured the group (with so many people who remind me of Loretta every day with their own spirit and kindness) who mostly got to know her through her incisive email commentaries.

Here are some tributes from members of CTS.
Dear Loretta,

Forgive me.  The last time I saw you was at Gene's service. You were as beautiful and gracious as ever, thanking me for coming to Staten Island and introducing me to some of your loving friends. The pictures of the special union you and Gene had from your very first days and throughout your lifetime gave meaning to the words: A marriage made in heaven.  And your family photographs over the years only added to that impression.  

But I couldn't help notice you were courageously fighting (as you always had done enormously for so many others)--but this time for yourself and for all of us who prayed you would pull through.  While I asked Norm a couple of times how you were, I should have gotten in touch with you. 

As inadequate as these words are now, I want to thank you for your support, wisdom, example and indignation at injustice from the time I first met you at an ICE (or was it GEM) meeting.  You immediately offered to help with a survey I was attempting--inviting some of your college students to participate.  I believe this act of generosity and faith sparked me to stay in touch with Norm and eventually get involved with CtS.  And I gained immensely from the perspective, observations, suggestions and fighting spirit you brought us in the name of doing what's right.

Your daughter Gabrielle's words also moved me.  She has your powers.  I'm sorry, too, that I'm out of town until Monday and can't be there to pay my respects this weekend.  But I know you are reading this and hope it is acceptable.  Just as I know that you and Gene once more are a timeless marriage in heaven.


I was not aware that Loretta was ill. Only knowing her for 3 years, I found her to be wise, passionate, funny, sensitive, lovely, lovely person. Full of activism from a place of grounded experience. I will miss her dearly, as I'm sure so many will. It seems she will be close to Gene again, and I suppose that is how it must be. We have watched many powerful women transition these past few weeks. Maybe their energy is being gathered to move some mountains from a higher level that we in this dimension are finding rather immovable....oh, wouldn't that be wonderful.
Loretta, sending you love from this small corner of Brooklyn!.. 


I feel so lucky to have gotten to know Loretta in the last few years through Change the Stakes. In my last phone call with her she was full of clear-headed, astute and funny observations on the battle for public schools, which she fought with such grace and caring.  .
With tears in my eyes from such a beautiful statement by Lorettas's daughter, Gabrielle. She makes me feel Loretta in her. From the times I met her and read her correspondence she seemed fierce, brave and knowledgeable about education. I guess it's no wonder since she's been seeking justice from before I was even born. She will be missed by all, but her courage will stay and continue to be part of our collective inspiration. Sending love to her and Gene from this other little slice of earth in Upper Manhattan....

How sad. We have lost a beautiful, passionate person and an avid activist on behalf if our children. She is out of pain and with Gene. Her family and close friends are in my prayers. I knew her for a short time, but she and Gene just had you love and respect them.
There may be a memorial for Loretta at some point and I will post info, along with links to videos of that Jan. 2013 birthday party and of Gene's Jan. 2014 memorial.

See James and Camille's tribute at the ICEUFT Blog

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