The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Who’s that woman? The story of a soul named Annie

ANNIE-1-articleLarge-v2.jpgIf you ever wonder about that ragged old stranger that you pass on the street every day — and usually go out of your way to avoid — the New York Times’ Dan Barry finds a poignant answer.

He did a little digging and uncovered the surprising life story of an old woman who called herself Annie (real name: Gloria) who used to haunt the New York fish market — and was also a regular at the Catholic Worker:

She cleaned the market’s offices and locker rooms and bathrooms. She collected the men’s “fish clothes” on Friday and had them washed and ready for Monday. She ran errands for Mr. DeLuca, known as Stevie Coffee Truck, hustling to Chinatown to pick up, say, some ginseng tea. She accepted the early morning delivery of bagels. She tried to anticipate the men’s needs — towels, bandannas, candy — and had these items available for sale.


“If the Brooklyn Bridge could fit in her shopping cart, she would have sold it,” Ms. Fleck said.

Since all this hustling meant carrying around a lot of cash, she tucked away wads of bills in those deep-pocketed pants and other hiding places, including her brassiere. “She tried to look shabby so people wouldn’t give her a hard time” when she left the market, recalled one of her protectors, Joe Centrone, better known as Joe Tuna. “But she was regularly robbed.”

Away from the market, Annie lived as Gloria Wasserman, in the East Village, in a city-owned apartment building that later became part of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. She found joy in her family — a grandson, Travis, in California, and a granddaughter, Chelsea, in New Hampshire — but also sorrow. One of her sons, Kenneth Grinols, died in a fire while squatting in a building in the city. The other, Karl Grinols, struggling with drugs, moved into her apartment at one point, while she slept in a room at the market — “between the mackerel and the salmon,” Ms. Fleck said. But he died young, too, hit by a car in the East Village.


All the while, Annie kept working, rarely missing a day, and gave nearly everything she had to others.

Barbara Grinols…said that Ms. Wasserman often sent as much as $4,000 a month, usually through money orders, to her relations on both coasts. She also routinely sent along boxes of used clothing that she had culled from places like the Catholic Worker’s Mary House, on East Third Street, where she was known as that rare visitor who searched for items that fit others, and who had a gift for using humor and kindness to deflate the tensions arising from hardship.

“She became like a grandmother to dozens of women on the street who had nobody,” said Felton Davis, a full-time Catholic Worker volunteer. Sensing the lack of esteem in a woman beside her, he said, “She would say: `I have just the shirt that you need. I’ll get it for you.’ “

It’s an incredible, beautiful, richly told story. (This is the stuff that Pulitzers are made of, folks.) Read it all.

And remember this woman, and others like her, in your prayers.

Comments read comments(2)
post a comment

posted October 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm

The world needs many more souls like this wonderful lady. And Lady is what she is in every sense.I would have liked to have known her and only wish that I could be like her.God Bless her soul and keep her safe in your loving she sufferd great losses on this earth and still she gave of herself. This is a story that needed to be told. Thank You.

report abuse

Pingback: Tales of Two Women « The Anchoress

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.