Clare Hipius (nee Rutigliano) was born February 14, 1922 in New York City to Antonio and Antoinetta Rutigliano. The second-oldest of seven children, she spoke only Italian when she started school and had to learn English to excel, and excel she did, skipping two grades and graduating Washington Irving High School at 16.
After graduation she worked at several different companies, including Dunn and Bradstreet as a bookkeeper. At Gibbs & Cox during World War II, she had a number of responsibilities, including running plans to the various architects involved in designing warships. Once her children got older, she reentered the workforce, holding the position of bookkeeper for several companies, including Wetsons and County Federal Savings Bank.
She even learned to drive…but…alas, left the car running with the keys in it several times! She would only drive locally, but it was a big relief to her children to not have to walk everywhere. And even though she could drive, she was notoriously late to everything. If people said be there at 1:30, she would start getting ready at 1:30!
When she was in her late teens, her younger sister Angie invited her to go bowling with some of her friends. Mom preferred to stay home and read, but she went…and met Richard Hipius. The two were just friends, but their friendship turned to love and they married on August 25, 1946. My dad thought she was the cat’s meow, and that she was.
In 1951, they were blessed with twins – Laura Patricia and Camilla Patricia. She did not know she was having twins until she gave birth – the biggest secret kept by the entire family! Unfortunately, Camilla passed away as an infant. In 1953, along came Kathryn Jane, named after Dad’s mother. In 1958, the last of their daughters, Anita Antoinette Marie, named after Mom's mom, was born with the “big blue eyes” that mom loved.
To accommodate their growing family, they moved from the city to Lynbrook in 1953, to a corner house with a large yard. Soon came a two-toned green Plymouth station wagon. Our growing years were full of fun and laughter, spending all holidays with her sisters and brothers, and the cousins that would come along. Mom and Dad taught us a lot about love, kindness and the love of God. Being a Catholic was very important to them and they passed that on to us.
Mom did not want animals, but we did have two birds – a canary and a parakeet, and she loved to hear them sing. I let one out of the cage on Christmas because I wanted it to fly to the tree (I was 3 or 4)…and it did, but it got so frightened it died.
My mom called me “a son of a gun.” She never, ever said a cuss word. We heard things like “Your father’s mustache,” “For Pete’s sake” and “jeepers creepers.” And, she always had a tissue up her sleeve (it’s an Italian thing!)
Sunday dinners became very big as our family grew with marriages and children – having grandchildren was such a thrill for my parents. Those dinners, followed by game nights, were a panic. Mom was usually in the kitchen and she would yell answers out, even if it wasn’t her turn! Those Sundays became some of our greatest memories. We will always appreciate what she did for us. She made a lot of sacrifices always being in the kitchen cooking while we watched baseball and football, and ran around outside. Her cooking was awesome and I used to watch her cook so I could learn. Her sauce was so delicious it should have been bottled.
Mom had her quirks. On New Year’s, she had to throw a dish in the fireplace (of course it was already chipped), we all had to have at least a teaspoon of lentil soup for good luck, we wore new PJs given to us at Christmas and threw pocketbooks and shoes out the back door to welcome money into the house for the upcoming year. We remember especially how she would chase my dad around the house with a teaspoon of the lentils with him yelling “get away from me with that high octane sh**.”
She also used to use a half a can of hair spray on her hair before we went out anywhere. And always lipstick.
Leftover bread and cake went out the back door to feed the birds, and Dad would yell “Clare’s diner is open!” The birds waited every day at that back door.
One of the best things she did for us was cook whatever we wanted for dinner on our birthdays. That once a year event was made even more special, even if it was expensive.
As we got older, we all went to college and made Mom and Dad very proud. It was not an easy thing to do back then. We didn’t have much, but we were taught hard work pays off. They gave us what they could and we all realize what they did for us.
As the years went on, we all got married and had children. Laura and Dennis had three – Lauren, Richard and Elizabeth; Kathryn had one – Thomas, and Anita and Steven had the late Julianne and Cammi. Their grandchildren brought them such joy.
In 1988, they made a big leap and moved to Spring Hill, Florida, along with her sister, Angie and brother-in-law, Sal. They joined the Elks Club in Brooksville and really enjoyed “Mummers Night” where they would have dinner and dance the night away. Mom especially enjoyed line dancing with her sister. Florida was good to them. Every time we would see them, they would look younger and younger. They really enjoyed their time living there. It was great to see “their second act” bring them the rest and relaxation they richly deserved.
Mom gave up driving when they moved to Florida. It was “too open” for her. As Dad’s health began to deteriorate, they decided to move back to New York and moved to a senior living complex in Oakdale in 2005. There they stayed until Dad passed several months later. A few years later, she moved in with Anita, and that's where she spent the rest of her days. Anita and Steven made the rest of her life comfortable and she was very happy there – she even learned to like dogs!
To say she was an exceptional person is understating it. She was kind, generous and strong, and was quick to laugh, a great audience for my quick-witted Dad. Her favorite things were reading, old movies, crossword puzzles and the New York Yankees. She would stay up to the wee hours if a game ran late.
We are very proud to have called her “mom,” and can only hope we measure up to her so she will always be proud of us, too. God speed Mommacita (the name I always called her). Have some great card games, dinners aplenty and lots of laughs with your loved ones who were there to greet you. We know Dad reached for you to take you to Heaven, and that brings our hearts so much joy.
Love you to the moon and back, and until we meet again, we remain your loving daughters.
Kathie (author), Cookie, and Anita
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation