Leonora Russo

Bedford Ave between North 7th and 8th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Leonora Russo, Bedford Ave between North 7th and 8th Streets, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Leonora Russo, Bedford Ave between North 7th and 8th Streets, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Photograph by Jay Muhlin

May I ask how old you are? What's that, honey? You're gonna have to speak up. If you speak like you do in church, I won't be able to talk to you.

No problem; I never go to church. How old are you? Oh, you wanna know how old I am now? Isn't that terrible! Why do you wanna know? What's the age got to do with me?

Pretend I never asked. What are you up to? Oh, I'm just sitting here. They call me the Queen of Williamsburg. They just recently made a documentary about me, matter fact.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Manhattan. I got married young and moved here.

What did you do? Nothing! What do you get married for? To be a housewife. My husband was very prouda me. He didn't want his wife working, people thinking he couldn't afford to take care of me. He worked at Coca-Cola...[Sings] drinking rum and Coca-Cola.... Oh, I said enough already.

Did you get bored as a housewife? I'm never bored. Then I had a baby; then my son died. He died when he was 41 years old. My husband died when he was 55. I been a widow 50 years—livin' here 60 years.

How do you keep from getting lonely? I know everybody. When I sit on a bench, I'm never alone. Never.

Would you rather be the queen or the mayor? Oh, I'm both. [Laughs]

More from Leonora

"My mother always said to us, You don't have to have a lot of money to look fashionable. Look presentable every day; don't wait for Sunday, and don't wait for your burial."

"Leonora is my grandmother's name. She lived in Italy. My parents, they're from Italy. My parents are dead. I try not to talk about the dead. It makes me very, very...uh, I dunno. It's very depressing."

"I'm an activist here. I been an activist 33 years. I'm an activist for the People's Firehouse. I don't work there; I never get money, nothing. If they need me, I'm there for them. If we have to make, you know, a parade, or an advertisement, or we march.... If people need help, they go there. If they're Polish, or whatever language they are, they go there."