Today I have such great pleasure in sharing the story of a very dear person and friend. Grace DeGregorio has been editing Hyde Park Living for 20 years. And, for about 15 or 16 of those years I have been writing a pet behavior column for her. I love that my work brings such incredible people into my life. Grace is such a positive soul. She too loves what she does for the connections it has brought her and the personal stories she has been able to share. Now the tables are turned and I get to share Grace’s story. I so much appreciate her openness in talking about a part of her and her family that is deeply personal, and how that experience has touched and impacted her perspective on life and relationships.
Lisa: So many people (including me) know and admire you in Cincinnati. We’d love to learn more about you.
Grace: I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I earned my bachelor’s in psychology at Emmanuel College in Boston, a private liberal arts school, and my master’s in vocational rehabilitation counseling at Boston University. I worked several years at Harvard Medical School as an assistant to the registrar before my marriage to Edmonde DeGregorio, whom I met when he was a law student in Boston. He was from Cincinnati, where we moved after our wedding 39 years ago. I worked for 10 years as manager of a social service program, helping people with disabilities become employed. When our sons Anthony and Joe were born, I left to become a full-time mom. As they were starting school, I was given the opportunity to write for Community Publications, Inc., and soon after was named editor of Hyde Park Living – I’m still there 20 years later! Almost four years ago I also began a freelance position as publicity coordinator with Matinée Musicale, a nonprofit organization that hosts an annual recital series.
In my personal life, my main passion is doing things with my family. We have a timeshare condo on Longboat Key, Florida, where we visit twice a year. Edmonde is a model train enthusiast, and we go to his train club events and train shows. We shared numerous activities with our sons as they were growing up (more on that later!) In 2014, Joe brought his wonderful wife Kristina into our family, and on June 15, 2016 our joy was magnified when their daughter Giuliana Lynne arrived. I LOVE being a grandma!!! I also love reading (bios/autobios and history are my favorite topics), crafts (knitting/crocheting and cross-stitching), watching sports and traveling.
Lisa: As editor of Hyde Park Living, you have shared so much wonderful news and stories. What do you enjoy most about your job and have there been any stories that have really touched you?
Grace: I always loved to write and once considered studying journalism. So I guess it was meant to be! As my sons were young at the time, I was delighted to have a job that allowed me to work from home and make my own schedule, and I loved the creativity it afforded me. I still love those aspects of my job. But what I love even more is meeting interesting, accomplished people who constantly teach me. Their stories are memorable – and humbling: a teenager who convinced businesses to participate in a shoe drive for a charity; a family that discovered their dad was a war hero when asked to accept a posthumous award on his behalf; a person who survived multiple bouts with cancer while still managing a thriving small business; senior adults who meet weekly to sew quilts for hospitals; very busy professionals who volunteer many hours visiting schools to mentor and encourage students. These are just a few of countless stories we’ve told.
My favorite story? I got a call one day from a woman who started our conversation with, “I don’t know if this is a story, but…,” prompting me to pay close attention. She went on to tell me her inspiring personal odyssey discovering her heritage that took her several years and through several states, then all the way to Europe. Her story, which started with her being plagued with gross misinformation and so many questions and apprehensions, ended with great joy as new relationships began and she gained a clearer sense of who she was and where she came from. By far, this story received the most reaction from readers. Stories like this enrich all our lives, and I’m so blessed to be able to help share them.
Lisa: You so often talk about your family. Share some thoughts about them and their importance in your life.
Grace: In the 1980s Edmonde and I experienced three excruciating years of heartbreaking pregnancy losses: two miscarriages and a full-term baby delivered stillborn. We were told there was no connection between the losses and no medical reason pointing to why it was happening – the diagnosis was “bad luck.” We also were told in situations like ours it was regrettably common that couples move apart. But we remained totally solid in our commitment to each other and to becoming a family. We joined a peer support group, Reach Out to Grieving Parents, which helped us onto the path of healing. We applied for an adoption which, at the time, was a painstakingly slow process. I got pregnant again. On August 2, 1988 Anthony was born; Joe followed on April 12, 1990. We got a call from the adoption agency when it was time for our home study, and we let them know we had become parents. We became volunteers with Reach Out and continue 30 years later, doing all we can to help others onto their paths of healing.
We have never taken for granted our sons or our relationship with them. It was our greatest pleasure to devote ourselves to them as they were growing up. It annoyed us to hear other parents whine about getting no sleep at night because the baby cried – we remembered getting no sleep at night because of the silence after our baby died; or about having to drive the child to activities – we scheduled our lives around activities we once feared we’d never experience. And, boy, did we experience! As kids, our sons played sports and took piano lessons. I was active in their schools and Edmonde arranged frequently to be at school events most dads sadly missed. During their high school years, I was active in so many groups one day a teacher said to me, “Why don’t we set up a little room for you where you can take a nap while you’re here?!” We were in the stands for the boys’ football games; lugged heavy instruments when Anthony was in the band; froze at Joe’s hockey games and at the stadium in Canton when he was a wide receiver on the football team that won State in 2007; attended numerous parent meetings and events. In college years, we drove to Dayton for Anthony’s concerts (he majored in music) and for parties Joe and his friends threw during parent weekends (he majored in communication). Every minute we spent with or for them, and every memory we made, we treasure.
Our sons are now adults, and our relationships with them remain close, warm and honest. They both work hard at their jobs, have friends and personal interests. Joe is married and is a wonderful husband and dad. Anthony has dated a lovely young lady for two years. Edmonde and I are so proud of them and what they are accomplishing.
Lisa: What is one of your greatest life lessons?
Grace: When our babies died, we learned to put things in perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up with and react to everyday stresses that seem overwhelming. You don’t know what overwhelming is until you are faced with something you are helpless to change, something you never dreamed could happen and becomes your worst nightmare, something that saps every ounce of emotion out of you and leaves you feeling totally vulnerable. While we’re not perfect, we do find we are better able to weigh the relativity of life experiences – things that once might have bent us out of shape we find we can handle better. Also, because of our experience, we find we’re more compassionate and tolerant of others. You never know why someone is in a nasty mood – there may be something terrible they’re dealing with. It’s easier to make allowances and be forgiving.
Lisa: What is something that people may be surprised to learn about you?
Grace: I used to study Middle Eastern (translation: belly) dancing! I started with a friend in Boston and continued for a few years with my sister-in-law when I moved here. I now take Pilates, and my “muscle memory” from those dancing days has thankfully returned as Pilates requires a lot of core strength!
Lisa: What is something which you are looking forward to in 2017?
Grace: We are so excited to watch Giuliana grow. Our plans are for the whole family to go to our condo in Florida this summer, and we can’t wait to introduce her to the beautiful Gulf water and the beach, maybe take her on a boat ride and just show her off to our friends at our resort! Everything is new and exciting when you’re with a little one.