“The women are living a lot longer now than the men. But it is not always so nice.”
One freezing day in January, Diane Kennedy was keeping her friend, schoolcrossing guard Mary Ann Gudonis company under the wooden pavilion at P.S. 150 on 43rd Avenue. I had come to interview Mary Ann, but Diane Kennedy was eager to speak to me as well. A blond and cheerful woman, Diane is a retired secretary. She used to work at Elmhurst Hospital and has lived on 41st Street in Sunnyside since 1986.Diane likes her neighbors but says the social dynamics have changed a great deal over the years. While in the past neighbors used to meet in each other’s apartments, have coffee, play cards and go shopping with each other, now they all keep to themselves.“A younger crowd has moved in from Manhattan,” she says, “and the rents have gone through the roof.” If her apartment weren’t rent-stabilized, she wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Sunnyside. Since her husband passed away three years ago, Diane lives with and takes care of her disabled sister.
Diane is very engaged with the local community. She attends the 108th precinct and community board meetings and sometimes volunteers at the senior center, where she helps older people fill out applications for public assistance or offers her cell phone to those who can’t afford their own phone. Three days a week, she works as “a companion” for a sick woman in Manhattan.
Diane wishes there were more public parks in Sunnyside, because she finds it easier to meet new people in the park than in bars. She also wishes there were a large bookstore in Sunnyside. Sometimes Diane goes with her friends to Sidetracks, one of the few local bars where the patrons are of all ages.
“It’s expensive now. Years ago I didn’t have to pay for my own drinks—the men paid. Now it would cost me at least one hundred dollars!” She adds, laughing, “Ten drinks!”
Diane tries to keep busy. She is chatty and laughs a lot, but a certain sadness in her voice never vanishes. She misses her husband. “The women are living a lot longer now than the men,” she says. “But it is not always so nice.”
In this podcast Diane talks about how she met her husband when he came to buy a juicer at the store where she used to work.