Bedford Ave between North 7th and 8th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
By Kate Lowenstein Mon Oct 4 2010
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."