Know Your Local Mortician: All Words, No Pictures

April 13, 2008 by
Filed under: Area 51, Greenpoint Magic 

There are two ways a person can meet a mortician: as a client or as a neighbor. I for one (and I suspect I speak for a LOT of people when I write this) prefer the latter. Today I had the pleasure of bumping into one of my favorite Greenpointers. We’ll call her “Mattie”. Her husband (now deceased) operated one of the local funeral parlors right here in the Garden Spot.

I am reluctant to call Mattie a mensch for fear of the wrath I might incur from her (don’t mess with a morticienne, they’re dying for business), but if I had to pick someone to be my Greenpoint Fairy Godmother hands down it would be her. She can’t get around as well as she used to, but Mattie is sharp as a tack. Hence why she resumed a discussion we started a couple months ago (we had not seen each other in a while).

April 12, 2008, A.M., Greenpoint

Mattie: Did Mr. Heather (do something she really wants him to do)?
Miss H: No, but I have been on his ass for two months now. If he doesn’t do it soon, I’m going to wring his (excised) neck.
Mattie: (laughter)
Miss H: I thought you’d like to know about new business ahead of time.
Mattie: (more laughter)

Point #1: Morticians have a killer sense of humor.

April 12, 2008, P.M., Carroll Gardens

I parsed through more pictures of Greenpoint from the 1970’s and 80’s. I spy one with Mattie in it. I purchased it immediately because I want to surprise her with it (and a copy of a book she wants). Afterwards the Mister and I went to Fernando’s Foccacceria for dinner. We struck up a conversation with the family next to us: a husband and wife taking an elder out to dinner.

We talked neighborhoods. The husband used to live in Carroll Gardens, he and his wife moved Midwood. His mother (who they were taking to dinner and will be 99 years old this July) lives in Carroll Gardens. Then the inevitable question came:

Where do you live?

Miss H: Greenpoint.
Wife: That’s where my cleaning lady lives. On Nassau Avenue. It’s a very Polish neighborhood, yes?
Miss H: It depends, if you go north of Greenpoint Avenue it is largely Hispanic.
Husband: How did you find this place?
Miss H: After my husband and I got married we ate lunch here. You don’t get much good Italian where we live.
Wife: There’s Bamontes.
Miss H: Bamontes is very good, but I prefer Sicilian.
Wife and Husband: (nod knowingly)
Miss H: You might find these interesting. They’re some old photos I got of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

(The husband, his wife and mother rifle through them.)

Husband: Do you know anyone in these pictures?
Miss H: As a matter of fact, I do.

I then pointed out Mattie and explained how I knew her.

Husband: What’s her last name?

I told him.

Husband: I know her.
Miss H: Really?


My father’s business is selling caskets.

Ben Franklin was once quoted as saying:

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Death may be certain. God only knows it is a big business in this country. But in Brooklyn it walks in a very small circle. Which brings me to…

Point #2: I’d rather be sitting at a table next to a casket maker than be on a table in front of a casket maker.

Miss Heather


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