About Stella Gloria Brinen
Stella Gaffin, a beautiful but shy woman with big brown eyes loved to sing (operatically), play piano, shop A&S with her sister Miriam, and read PhotoPlay (similar to today's People Magazine). She was left of center politically, and her personal passions were the movies and attending live theatre. Born in NYC, Stella was very cultured and interested in the world. She read The New York Times "cover to cover" daily and declared often that the paper was her bible.
Stella married Joe Brinen at about 28 years of age, and became a mom shortly thereafter to Lois and Robert; 5 years apart. She made a point of telling her kids how much she had loved working with Park Avenue doctors as a medical stenographer and followed medical advances thereafter.
The family lived in Brooklyn, NY until their kids were about 10 and 5 respectively, but later moved to Long Island where it was more affordable to purchase a spacious home. They resided in 3 bedroom home in a pleasant tract. Still, it was clear that Stella missed Manhattan's cultural vibrancy and diversity.
At a certain point, the boredom of suburban life set in and she negotiated returning to work with Joe, who was conventional in his views about "women's place and role." She worked for an optical firm in Great Neck, LI, NY (Brinkman's) as a medical stenographer and loved it. Her life had purpose, she was part of something bigger than the domestic sphere, and she enjoyed having a paycheck. That opened up her life to driving, having her own car and more independence in general.
Stella kept in close touch with her sister Miriam Trager (living in Brooklyn with her husband Joe and son Victor, brother Mort Gaffin (working in NYC at 30 Rock but living on LI with his wife Estelle and sons Bruce and Stuart), and her other sister Mildred Monroe (living in Florida with sons Arthur and Gary). All 3 sisters married men named "Joe," which made family dinner table conversation quite confusing!
Stella was a very private person, uncomplaining about her own difficulties, and discreet in what she shared about her family members' trials and tribulations . Unlike Joe's tightly-knit Russian family, socializing with Stella's part of the family was erratic, though always pleasant. Only years later did Lois and Robert learn more about the disappointments, private dramas, and tragedies that each of those families confronted.
Stella's bout with breast cancer was tragic, particularly at a period of time when medical diagnoses came late in the game and the surgery was mutilating. She lived two years after the diagnosis but during that time, she and Joe took trips to the Caribbean and Israel during those two years, once her initial recovery from the surgery made it possible. The last months were quiet times when her energy was unpredictable. Lois made it a point to visit her Plainview home often with Tracy (then 5 years old), and then with Craig, who was about 1 yr old when she died.
Lois remembers what a bittersweet time the last months were when Stella had great clarity and wisdom about what mattered most in life and they had the most intimate conversations about family matters, her values, life experiences, and her recognition that the end was close. She loved her grandchildren deeply, and wished she had more time with them, knowing that her daughter-in-law was pregnant; she knew that she wouldn't live long enough to meet "SaraBeth" (who was born a month after she died), Bob and Nancy's first of two daughters.
Lois was deeply affected by how her mother had to navigate around work/family life choices and later came to better understand the impact of the 1950's cultural vapidity on women's roles, particularly in suburban Long Island; Lois felt that Stella, who was very liberal and progressive in her views, was born ahead of her time and would have been proud of what she and (then daughter-in-law) Nancy had achieved.