Mary Jane Garbarino
July 16, 1922 - May 19, 2014Mary Jane Garbarino, wife of Joseph W. Garbarino for 65 years, mother of four children and with five grandchildren, died May 19, 2014 in Oakland after a long illness.
She was born in 1922 to Veronica and James Godward in San Antonio, Florida. The family moved to the East Coast where she attended New Smyrna Beach High School, graduating as valedictorian of her class. She also played on the basketball team and was the lead soprano in operettas as well as appearing on a radio show as a piano soloist.
During WWII she worked in a glass factory making materials for the military and later as secretary to the city government of New Smyrna. In 1946 she moved to Boston where she worked first for the Hygiene Department of Harvard University and later as secretary to the Editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. At this time she met and married her husband and they moved to California, first to Beverly Hills and then to Berkeley. She attended UC Berkeley for two years until her first child was born. She left Berkeley with an AA degree with a distinguished record but never re-enrolled after having three more children.
When her husband was recalled to active duty and assigned to the Pentagon during the Korean War, she secured a top secret secretarial job in Army Intelligence where she made friends she retained all her life. Despite the war, Washington had a rich cultural life of concerts, plays and museum exhibitions and she and her husband participated fully. She sang in the Ft. Myer church choir headed by the Director of the Army Band. She often referred to this childless period as "When we were single…."
To her children she was a wise and patient mother with a winning smile. She was an active volunteer, serving in their elementary school as library assistant and playground monitor. She later was a group leader for years as one of the girls progressed through the Campfire Girls. She was an excellent seamstress, able to make suits and formal and informal dresses. She loved parties and celebrated with a family gathering on every possible occasion. For many years she enjoyed participating in an Italian language club. She was extremely proud of the accomplishments of her four daughters.
She is survived by her husband, daughters Ann and Joan of Berkeley, Susan of Oakland and Ellen of Sydney, Australia. There will be a memorial mass at St. Jerome's Church in El Cerrito at 11:00am July 19 with a reception in the Parish Hall to follow.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 17, 2014