Nancy Crampton photo (2001)


MARY GORDON - Valley Stream writer

The talented and well-regarded writer, Mary Catherine Gordon, was born December 1949 in Far Rockaway (most probably at St. Joseph's Hospital). Her parents were Anna (aka Anne) Gagliano (1908-2002) and David Gordon (1890s-1957). 

Mary and her parents first lived at 35 High Street. They rented the upper floor of a home. In 1957, when dad David died, 7-year-old Mary and her mother moved back to Anna's childhood home at 22 Bismark Avenue. 

The Gaglianos were a well-known South Valley Stream family. Francesco and his wife Mary, immigrants from Italy and Ireland, had nine children! Anna was the second born and the oldest daughter. Before marriage, she assumed much of the household's financial responsibilities (she paid the mortgage for close to two decades). Anna and her sister Rita were handicapped - both were stricken with polio as youngsters. Rita, unmarried at the time, was living in the Bismark house when Anna and Mary moved in. To say that Gagliano-Gordon inter-family relationships were challenging would be a kind understatement. 

Mary carries/carried an immense amount of heartache from her childhood in Valley Stream. Although David, Mary's adored father, exposed her to the arts, something the blue-collar Gaglianos could not do, there were profound instabilities within the family. A Jew who converted to Catholicism (years before he married), David's life was shrouded in secrets. Many years later, as a grown-up, Mary researched and pieced together her father's authentic story. 

Mary attended HNM and the Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica, an all-girl Catholic high school. A graduate of Barnard College, she received her master's degree from Syracuse University. Gordon has written essays, short stories, novellas, novels, memoirs, biographies, and religious pieces. In 1992, Gordon wrote  Important Houses for The New Yorker:

Each object in her [grandmother] house belonged to the Old World. Nothing was easy; everything required maintenance of a complicated and specialized sort. Noth­ing was disposable, replaceable. There were no errors of taste, because there were no imaginable other choices. I was not unhappy there: each object's rightness of placement made me feel honored to be among them.

At the time of my father's death, when we moved into my grandmother's house, I saw that my mother was happy. She had come back home. She didn't have to work so hard. My grandmother did everything. My mother no longer ironed in the evenings, listening to the radio, sipping iced drinks. Nobody played the radio. We never went to the movies. After supper, the grownups watched television. I stayed upstairs alone, waiting for my father, although I no longer believed he would come. But I had to have a place for mourning. Mourning was my business: the room I slept in wasn't a habitation but a place of work. The work was crucial; there was no one else to do it. Nobody else mourned him. My mother seemed to have forgotten that he'd lived, that he'd lived anyplace, that there were places he had walked that would no longer know his step. Only I remembered that he had lived among us once and now was somewhere else, somewhere I couldn't go, among the dead. Among the light dead, rootless, homeless, with no place to rest or lay his head. 

Her memoirs, in particular, might interest those who either grew up with Mary, or who know a little of her story:

From Anderson Cooper's October 5, 2022 podcast "All There is with Anderson Cooper" with Molly Shannon: 

My mother liked the writer Mary Gordon. A lot. And one of the things Mary wrote about was a fatherless daughter [who] thinks all things [are] possible and nothing is safe. And, I always think it sort of applies to boys, as well. After my dad died, the world seemed a very dangerous place. 

Anne's baby sister, Christine, married Raymond Gorman. Raymond, a Streamer, was the brother of the late Yankee pitcher Tom Gorman. 

35 High Street - the Gordon's first home (1947-57); the family rented the second floor. 



22 Bismark Avenue - Anna and mary moved to Anna's childhood home after the death of her husband, David, in 1957. 


Holy Name of Mary School (1939 postcard)
Mary Gordon's alma mater - a minute's walk to her mother's office.

Bob Luckey photo
 May 29, 1978 (Newsday)

ANNA GAGLIANO GORDON - Legal Secretary, Brown & Herman 

On April 13, 1982, Richard Harter Brown (1898-1984) published an article on behalf of the historical society. "Memory Lane," a weekly column that ran in the MaiLeader from 1977-1994, was the society’s repository for Streamer stories. Brown, a prominent attorney in Valley Stream, and an avid history buff, often wrote interesting articles on the history of the village and its people. His topic that week was Anna Gagliano Gordon (1909-2002) and her daughter, Mary Gordon. 

Brown knew Anna quite well, as Anna was the legal secretary at his law firm, Brown and Herman. Anna worked mostly for Brown’s partner, Harold Herman (1902-1970). She was a devoted employee who adored Elmont-born Harold, a descendant of earlier settlers who lived in the area when it was known as Fosters Meadow. Herman’s family owned and operated the eponymously named hotel, located on the northwest corner of Linden Boulevard and Elmont Road. Harold’s brother, Jacob, ran the Herman Hotel, although by the time he was at the helm, the hotel was a tavern. Handsome Herman, a Republican, wore other professional hats, as well: presiding Town of Hempstead supervisor, Floral Park village attorney, member of the State Assembly, and chair of a committee for the "advancement of urban blacks." 

Brown and Herman law offices were located on the second floor at 196 Rockaway Avenue. Streamers will instantly recognize the iconic 1911 orange-brick structure. Once known as Muller’s Pharmacy, the building’s stately architecture is a Valley Stream “landmark” to many. Anna drove to work each day. Although she could walk with her leg brace, built-up shoe, and cane; her bout with polio made long distance walking arduous. Her specially equipped automobile afforded her freedom. 

At the end of the school day, Mary would often visit her mother at work. Holy Name of Mary School, the Catholic school Mary attended through grade eight, was a minute’s walk away - at most. A favorite mother and daughter activity was to dine out. They were frequent guests at the "white-tablecloth" restaurants around town - emulating the middle-class lifestyle. 

Harold Herman passed in 1970. Brown continued to run the firm. Not long after Herman died, however, Anna fell out of favor at the law firm and was eventually forced out. She retired. Two years before his own demise, Brown wrote his tribute to Anna and Mary. 

April 13, 1982 - Memory Lane, by Richard Brown (MAILeader)https://www.vsvny.org/vertical/Sites/%7BBC0696FB-5DB8-4F85-B451-5A8D9DC581E3%7D/uploads/1982-04.13_Memory_Lane_(MaiLeader).pdf 


196 Rockaway Avenue, Valley Stream (1911 postcard) - Brown & Herman's law firm on the second floor. 


Anna's boss at Brown & Herman - August 11, 1970 (Newsday) 


1897ca - Herman's Hotel on the northwest corner of Linden Blvd. and Elmont Rd., Elmont.

photo courtesy of Raymond Hoeffner