Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
Tell us about your career:
For thirty years I worked in the publishing industry in New York City. The most memorable and formative were 14 years working at Vogue, where I had to be on my A game every day. Early during those years, I learned that there is no such thing as the impossible. You can make anything happen, if you are relentless, diligent and passionate. I was also the Publisher of InStyle and Glamour. While the magazine publishing industry sounds glamorous, the reality is it is an intensely competitive world and for me, I thrived on that. I am not at all athletic, but when it came to business – I was all about the win.
How did you arrive in Greenwich?
I fell in love. I met my husband on a blind date at the 21 Club. I was so impressed with his brilliance and confidence, and when I found out that he had been a volunteer fire fighter I thought, “Wow this guy is so hot!” We closed the restaurant and that night when I got home, I remember praying that he would call. He did, and months later I found myself leaving Manhattan. Manolos and deli delivery were behind me and I embraced flats, leggings, and the Avenue. I didn’t really have any expectations of Greenwich or the people I would meet, because I was way too much in love to care. One of the advantages of growing older is that you can still make new best friends along the way, and I have done just that here. There were two big adjustments, the first was having to get a car. I will admit that I go to great lengths to avoid the Merritt, I 95, or parallel parking. The second was I arrived here after being very comfortable in power suits and three-inch heels, so I was beyond casually challenged. Then I met Marina Nikovic at Richards who now has me wearing what I call “snazzy sneakers.”
How did you get into Philanthropy?
I loved my career in publishing. It was exhilarating and completely consuming, so naturally I was worried when I retired what I would do with my energy, my competitive nature, and my need to feel accomplishment. I was also worried that I would be bored and therefore become boring. What would I talk about at dinner?
My friend, Susan Lehman took me to a luncheon where I heard Mary Lee Kiernan, the President and CEO of YWCA Greenwich, speak. It was as though I had been struck with a thunder bolt. I was so outraged that in the idyllic community of Greenwich, domestic abuse would be so rampant. It is the number one reported crime in this community. I was shocked to hear that there would be a need for women to think of safety planning or that they and their children would require thousands of hours of counseling or that the YW provided legal services to help facilitate restraining orders. I joined the board, then co-chaired the Old Bags Luncheon (OBL), and last year, took on the role of Vice Chair of Development. It is the best second act I could have ever dreamed of. Honestly, I can be pushy, demanding, and relentless, but now those traits are helping others. And I cannot shut up at the dinner table.
I also joined the board of GEMS. My friend Lauren Walsh kept talking about GEMS this and GEMS that and finally I asked her if she was a gemologist! She laughed and explained the life-saving services that GEMS provides. My father’s local EMS was incredible to him when he was sick, so I thought it was a good way to pay back.
On each board, I have made great friends and have had the opportunity to work with incredible people like Janet Eliopoulos and Kathy Seiden at the YWCA who, when we are leading up to OBL, talk with me five times a day. They are so dedicated. And when it comes to dealing with me – so patient.
How did you come up with the idea for the YWCA playground?
I was aware that YWCA Greenwich was in desperate need of a new playground. One day I drove around the back to see it. It had been well used throughout the years and it showed. It made me so sad to think about Moms in our community, especially single Moms and working Moms who need a safe, joyful, fun place for their children. I drove home and told my husband we were going to build a playground. I had nothing to do with the design, which is a good thing, because I don’t have children and the last time I was on a playground I was eight. Other than my marriage and my family, the new YWCA playground is the thing I am most proud of in my lifetime.
Tell us about the YWCA Holiday Luncheon and how it supports victims of domestic abuse.
YWCA Greenwich needed an event during the holiday season to round out our annual fundraising efforts. We wanted one that would be original and unique, so we decided to do an auction of experiences to give to that impossible-to-shop-for person in your life. We built the packages around an individual, for instance “The Hostess with the Mostest” package included Chef Thomas Henkelmann coming to your home to cook dinner, a place setting for eight from Kim Seybert and flowers from Livy Lou. The luncheon was intimate and festive, and the auction was a huge success. I am always a nervous wreck before these events, because I am so aware of the impact its success will have on so many women and children.
What is your favorite family tradition?
My favorite night of the year has always been Christmas Eve. I am half Italian and for four generations we have celebrated the Night of the Seven Fishes. Though I remember my great grandmother, my grandmother and my dad preparing and cooking for the feast, I did not pick up any of their culinary talents. My job is to set the table and open the wine. It is also the night Jeremiah proposed to me in front of my family, solidifying it as my favorite night of the year.
Favorite Meals for the Holidays?
I already mentioned The Feast of the Seven Fishes! Other than that, my two favorite holiday dishes both heavily rely on Velveeta cheese. Every Thanksgiving we serve a side dish that involves broccoli, Velveeta cheese, and crushed Ritz crackers. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! The other is a breakfast casserole we have on Christmas morning with eggs, sausage, bread and of course, lots of Velveeta cheese! We only serve that once a year, so it always feels special.
What’s on your list for Santa this year?
No matter how old I get, I must admit, I still peek around, which is why knowing I am a horrible cook, Jeremiah always says he is hiding my gifts in the oven. I asked for a puppy this year, but there have been no signs of a crate – so holding out hope! Whatever my husband, my Santa, gets for me – I will treasure. I am truly most excited about what I got for him.
What are your favorite songs to play?
Every Thanksgiving as we have dessert, we play the Andy Williams White Christmas Album It’s a classic and brings tears to my eyes. My other favorites are Mariah Carey and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
What is your go-to fashion accessory during the holidays?
My signature Christmas party look is a rather elaborate hair-do involving Christmas balls. It is beyond festive. Though I cannot go right to sleep on a head of Christmas balls, so it always turns out to be a late night. Whether it’s placemats, napkins, shoes, skirts, or dresses, I am obsessed with plaid during the holidays.
What’s your favorite gift to bring?
My favorite thing to bring is what I call, “Family Night of Fun in a Bag.” I begin with a monogrammed bag from the Monogram Studio here in Greenwich, inside I put a game such as Jinga, a pine candle, a bottle of wine and a box of Holiday bark. It is always a hit!
Are you traveling?
No, I am thrilled that we are staying home enjoying the decorations with our labs Cooper and Trixie.
What’s your New Year’s resolution?
I don’t like resolutions, if I had to give up everything I should, all that would be left is Greek yogurt. Instead, I have made a vow to embrace technology and become less dependent on the millennials in my life.