Myra Fontana: Irish Immigrant, Published Author

Former hospital employee organizes annual reunion.

When Myra Fontana was 14 years old, she was living in a small village in Roscommon, Ireland. Like many young girls, she had "delusions of becoming rich" by coming to the Untied States.  Her wish came true when an overnight guest, Nancy Degraw from Kings Park, offered to serve as her sponsor in the United States.

At 16, Fontana arrived in Kings Park and worked for a short time in St. Johnland Nursing Home.  A year later in March of 1963, Fontana got a job at the Kings Park State Hospital Laundry.  She worked beside Kings Parker residents, many of whom were fellow Irish immigrants, for three years before transferring to building seven. It was in Building seven, the medical surgical building, that Fontana has her fondest memories. 

Employed as a therapy aide, Fontana had great enthusiasm for her patients, her fellow employees and her work.  She so loved her job that personnel once contacted her because she was working so much overtime.

"They told me so much overtime was not good for my health.  it definitely wasn't for the money, I was working overtime because I loved the people and my job," said Fontana.

Her friendships with such coworkers as Bonnie Nally and Lucille Roberts helped her to overlook her grade four pay as a non-citizen therapy aide.

"I see alot of myself in my youngest son,"  Fontana said. "He has such a passion for his job (head of security for Macy's) that he will drop everything if he gets a call from his office. I had that same passion when working in building seven."

By 1969, Fontana, now a citizen and a mother, found it necessary to switch to nights in Building 41, the female geriatrics building.  After 22 years of working nights, Fontana retired in 1990.

Since retiring, Myra has kept herself very busy.  She has become very involved in community activities such as running Friday night's reunion of Kings Park and Pilgrim State Hospital Employees.  She has written two books entitled, Irish Immigrants of Kings Park and The Irish Families of Kings Park  both of which are available at the Kings Park Heritage Museum, where Fontana often volunteers.  In her spare time, she and her husband Charlie enjoy babysitting their six grandchildren and enjoying life.

Maureen Rossi June 07, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Myra is a Kings Park treasure! great piece Denise!
John J. Gallagher June 07, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Myra and I have become close over the past few years. My Mom and Dad are both from Eire....County Tyrone and Derry respectively....they met in Camden NJ in the '20s....Myra has invited me to "take pictures" of this Friday's event, and I'm humbled by this. Thanks, Myra.....I expect this to be another one of your successes for our beautiful hamlet.....God Bless (and hopefully Charlie will be playing there as well)
Peggy Gilmartin June 08, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Myra has to be one of the Sweetest people I know...I am now lucky enough to care for her Granddaughter in my school when she gets a boo-boo or is ill.


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