If you lived in South Jersey between 1975 and 2000, you probably bought gladiolas, chrysanthemums, or poinsettias from Irene Morgan. If you didn't, well, the heck with you.
That attitude, her family said, would have been typical of the irrepressible, unforgettable, and thoroughly iconic Mrs. Morgan, 89, who lived with her family in Audubon, Camden County, and died Sunday, Nov. 26, of cancer at home. She likely would have said the details are none of your business.
Though her given name was Rocchina Giordano, she became Mrs. Morgan when she married Tony Morgan in 1954. You may have known her as "the flower lady" because of the plants she sold from the two greenhouses behind her home on Hood Avenue. Three kids called her Mom, eight grandkids called her Nanny, two great-grandkids called her Nonna, and scores of friends called her Aunt Irene.
Mrs. Morgan was born in Camden in 1928. Her parents were Addolorata and Paolo Giordano. She and her 10 siblings shared a bathroom in a rowhouse on Line Street. After that, life seemed like a picnic.
She graduated from Camden High School in 1946. Along with her husband, she ran a catering service in the 1960s and 1970s. She and a sister also ran Sorella's, a catering business that provided meals for a local Italian American Club.
A family tribute remembers her this way:
She loved the jitterbug, the Lindy hop, and the waltz. Luckily, so did Tony Morgan. They danced together for 50 years. They had three sons — Anthony, Paul, and Mike — who grew up to be just like her in a million little ways, but they won't admit it, so don't bring it up.
"She was funny," said son Mike. "She was extreme."
Mrs. Morgan had very particular likes and dislikes. She liked beautiful clothes, a well-written thank-you note, butter pecan ice cream, all Three Tenors, and her great-grandsons, Francis and Christian. She liked perfectly ripe cantaloupe and riding in cars, trains, and buses. She liked weddings, and was the first on the dance floor for the Electric Slide. She did not like tattoos, "boom-boom music," or jeans with holes in them.
She liked airplanes, but not heights. She liked the beach, but not swimming.
"She liked things done a certain way, but she was usually right," said granddaughter Kate Morgan, who is something of a female chip off the old block. "She did not throw away torn pantyhose, which are great for tying tomato plants to their stakes. She was very territorial over her Tupperware."
Mrs. Morgan was an ace traveler. She excelled at tennis and bocce. She was exceptionally good at feigning shock when she walked into surprise parties she had asked to be thrown for her. She was also skilled at persuading theater ushers and U.S. Customs agents to let her keep her snacks.
She could stretch a dollar and a box of pasta. She loved to cook, eat, and laugh, sometimes all at the same time. There was always an extra seat at her table.
Tony Morgan died in 2004. In addition to her sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Mrs. Morgan is survived by three of her 10 siblings, and scores of friends who like to laugh.
Her one regret was that she would not be there to hear all the stories told by friends at her service. Those who would like to tell them anyway can attend her visitation on Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, St. Vincent Pallotti Church, 901 Hopkins Rd., Haddon Township. Funeral Mass is at 11 a.m. Interment will follow in Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery, Wrightstown.
Donations may go to MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, 400 Haddon Ave., Camden, N.J. 08103; or the American Cancer Society, Box 22478, Oklahoma City, Okla. 73123.