Generous and Then Some
Arlene T. Babakitis was born and raised on the Lower East Side, in a 12th-floor apartment on Catherine Street that she shared with her parents and two sisters.
Mrs. Babakitis's mother, Sally Reoch, was also born and raised on the Lower East Side, and still lives in that same apartment on Catherine Street. Mrs. Babakitis had long since moved on, to a home in Secaucus, N.J., but the lessons of the Lower East Side stayed with her.
"We were all raised to work hard, and save money, and be independent," said Karen Reoch, Mrs. Babakitis's younger sister. Mrs. Babakitis got her first job at 16, at Alexander's, and at 18 or 19, she began a 30-year career at the Port Authority, eventually becoming an E-ZPass coordinator in the World Trade Center.
Mrs. Reoch recalled how, amid the temptations of early paychecks, her sister had saved enough to buy Mrs. Reoch her first bike: "An orange 10-speed. I think it was a Power King."
Mrs. Babakitis and her older sister, Evelyn L. Pettignano, were pregnant with their first children at the same time, and would take the PATH train together to their jobs in Manhattan. "When you see two pregnant women walking together, you would really see the looks," Mrs. Pettignano said. "I have to admire her as a mother. She wanted the best. She was always there, giving."
Shortly before Sept. 11, Mrs. Babakitis, 47, moved into her own home with her two sons, Vincent, 21, and Kevin, 13. "That was a very proud moment for her," Mrs. Reoch said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 8, 2002.