Today we celebrate the life of our incredible mom, June. We feel so lucky that she was ours. An epic force of nature with a generosity that knew no bounds and a smile that could light up the room–she was the center of our world and the glue that bound our family tight. It is also apparent our mom meant a whole lot to all of you too. She always knew how to fill a room. What can I say? My mom was awesome.
She was born on October 4th, 1951 to Tina and Louis Manos. She was raised as an only child in Humboldt Park, quite the contrary to this town where she raised us. My mom was always tough, even as a child–she often referred to herself as a latchkey kid because she grew up fending for herself while her parents worked.
It’s no surprise that she went on to have a big family–she spent the rest of her life filling her home with the sounds of laughter and the smells of her home cooking, made with love, and forced upon every lucky soul who walked through her door.
I can see her now, sitting on her stool at the kitchen counter holding court. Candle lit, Miller Lite poured (in a glass, always, never out of the bottle). She was no fool, she knew that if she cooked, we would come. And we did, for my entire life. And so did many of you.
My parents married in the spring of 1973 and quickly produced what I’ll call a pretty dynamic bunch. My mom delivered five kids in eight years. (You know, my mom was trying for her boy and wasn’t going to stop until she got him because, let’s be real, June always got what she wanted…)
One of the things June always felt strongly about was being a part of a community–to be a part of something that made her proud and to create a strong foundation for her family. In 1987, our family of seven moved to 50th Place, right around the corner from here, and joined the St. John of the Cross Parish. Every Sunday morning, she plowed through the house, June-style, making sure we were buttoned-up, French-braids extra tight and on we went! As we sit here today, I can still picture that younger version of our family. My mom handling the chaos with ease. Promising to send Nicole back to 5 o’clock mass if she couldn’t get it together at the 10:45. We were surrounded by familiar faces and had some of our fondest memories right here. Those moments made my mom proud.
Our mom wasn’t just your average mom, she was a living breathing Super Mom. She did everything in her power to make sure we grew up safe, educated, and able to thrive in the world. She gave us the life she never had when she was growing up. She wanted us to have it all–and we did.
But being a strong and engaged mom wasn’t all she was. She was an artist and created beautiful things, mostly to give to other people. In her eyes, she had already created her most perfect creations – the five of us. We have always known that–through her words, her actions, but most of all through the love that she simply exuded for us. That love is reciprocal and inherent in us five. I know this because I can see my brother and sisters share that love.
Our mom’s love and our love for her is so powerful that her grandkids, who never got the chance to know really know her, to hear her infectious, happy, teary-eyed laugh, understood how much their Yia Yia loved and how much she was loved. Will, Mia, Max, Margot, Louie, and Tori: Yia Yia loved you and she had big plans for you guys. I know this because she told me so. Pizza parties, Target shopping sprees, and sleepovers with movies you are far too young to see. Know that the love she had for you was infinite even though she couldn’t show it to you the way she wanted. But I know that you saw that love in a different way. Her love was unconditional, it never wavered, and it found its way, no matter what.
She taught us the good stuff–that you take care of your family and the people around you who you love. “June the Friend” was always there for you. She never shied away from telling the hard truths. “June the Mother” was bold and honest, with a side of the best sense of humor you’ve ever known. I can still hear her say, “I’ve got a news flash for ya’. You’re grounded.”
I know she is still so proud of all of us and the kind of adults we’ve become. My mom was the strongest woman I have ever known and she raised equally strong daughters. And, because my brother was surrounded by such strong women, he has become an even better man. To her, that was the most important job she had and we are her legacy. As the circle of life continues, we will raise our own families with the same love she instilled in us.