The Reluctant Woman of Distinction

My wife thought they got the files mixed up.

5 min readMar 2


photo by Tina Lear

This is a picture of my wife, Elena Terrone. She has been chosen by our representative, Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, to be honored as a Woman of Distinction for a ceremony taking place on March 19, 2023 at the nearby high school.

Unless you know her personally, she’s nobody to you. And because of that, she was completely baffled to have been chosen, and very reluctant to receive this honor. In her mind, a woman of distinction has to have done something. Something extraordinary. Something against all odds. And she doesn’t see herself that way at all.

But I do. And so does anyone who knows her well.

As far as extraordinary achievements, if you twist her arm, she’ll admit to this: In 1982, she was sworn in as a NYC firefighter by then Mayor Ed Koch. She attended proby school on Randall’s island along with the small group of pioneering women entering this esteemed branch of civil service for the first time in history. Ultimately after serious personal deliberation she chose not to commit to this career.

So. That’s not nothing.

And by the way, can you imagine the kind of resistance (I’m trying to use nice language here) that she and the other women met, when they decided to sign up for that? It’s mind-boggling — first of all the sheer physical strength she had to have to get through training, and second, the sheer emotional resilience needed to make it to the end.

She downplays it a bit, because she didn’t go on to BE a firefighter. She managed a women’s health club for several years. She was a New York City letter carrier for a little more than a decade. And after that, she sold CDs in Seattle at Silver Platters.

But here is what I think makes her a truly extraordinary woman — not just to me, to the world we live in: Elena Terrone, while not particularly at ease with receiving the Woman of Distinction award for herself, said she would gladly stand tall as a representative for the hundreds of millions of women just like her, who have taken care of their elders right up to the last day. It’s work that takes place in a very small radius, but that takes enormous amounts of dedication, strength and patience.




Novelist. Poet. Musician. Buddhist. Quilter. Animal lover. Visible grownup. Hidden child. Secret dancer when all alone. Makes good bread.