Grace Falcone, who spent more than four decades as a foreign language teacher on Long Island, died on August 15 after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. She was 73.
Falcone taught high school French, Spanish, Italian and Latin since the mid-1970s, retiring from Babylon Junior-Senior High School in 2002 after 19 years in the Babylon School District.
Falcone’s daughter Denise said her mother’s students regularly scored in the highest percentile on their New York State Regents examinations.
“My mother was a natural born teacher,” said Falcone’s daughter Denise. “It was in her blood and she loved it and her students would come back after graduating college and they had careers and they would thank her for her patience and kindness and her intelligence. It seems to be a theme of every story I hear about her.”
Falcone was born on November 28, 1939 in Brooklyn to Italian immigrant parents Victor and Antonetta Creatore.
Falcone graduated from Fontbonne Hall Academy School and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Fordham University. She’d later receive her master of science and educational administration degrees from Long Island University, and her academic exploits earned her a scholarship offer from the University Savoie in France.
Falcone was active in the Church of Saint Mary Rosary Society, the American Association of University Women, the Manhasset Community Club, Inc., the Plandome Women’s Club, The Guild of St. Francis Hospital, the Manhasset Women’s Coalition and the North Hempstead Country Club. She was also a Girl Scout troop leader.
Matthew Falcone, Grace’s husband of 49 years, said she constantly helped out in the Manhasset community whenever she could. On one particular occasion, Matthew said Grace went out and bought presents for one of his American Legion Christmas parties, telling guests the gifts came from the treasury.
“One of my buddies over there who was playing Santa Claus was asking me if I spent the money from the treasury. She didn’t want me to tell them she bought them,” Matthew said. “But that’s the kind of person she was, always buying things and doing things for others. That was her thing.”
Matthew said he met Grace at the Roosevelt Hotel’s old main ballroom at a dance one Sunday evening. Matthew said Grace was dancing with another man, but saw a bored expression on her face and decided to introduce himself.
“I’m a brazen-type guy, so I went over and asked, you know, ‘Excuse me, I’d like to cut in,’” Matthew said. “He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to, that’s rude,’ but I started dancing with her and she actually thanked me for bailing her out. Can you imagine? One thing led to another, and that’s how we met.”
The Falcones were married by a priest they knew from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and held a reception at the St. Moritz Hotel. They spent their honeymoon at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico.
The couple traveled often, Matthew said, exploring the Caribbean and trekking across most of Europe with the young Denise in tow.
“There’s nothing like immersing yourself into a culture, and she taught me that knowledge and education doesn’t have to come solely from the classroom,” Denise said. “Being in another country, just sitting in one of the squares and having a cup of coffee and watching the culture go by, a lot can be learned through the eyes.”
Denise said her mother enjoyed talking with others in the different languages she taught, adding her mother even spoke Spanish with the nurses that tended to her near the end of her life.
“She was using languages to her very last days,” Denise said. “She smiled and she enjoyed it.”
Denise said her mother also enjoyed painting, her “very elegant Grace Kelly kind of fashion” and spending time with her granddaughter Lauren.
“My mom was so family-centered, she loved giving her time and herself,” Denise said. “She would always listen and really loved life, even when she was sick. She’s a tough act to follow, but thank God I have a nice blueprint.”
Grace Falcone is survived by her husband, Matthew; her daughter, Denise Falcone; her granddaughter, Laruen; her brother, Nicholas Creatore; her sister-in-law Mary Lou Creatore; her nephew, Nicholas Creatore, Jr.; her niece, Suzanne vonSeelen-Creatore; her future son-in-law Vincent Cestone and his children, Isabella, Nicole and Anthony.
A funeral mass was held at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on August 19, was followed by a burial at Pinelawn Memorial Park and Gardens in Farmingdale.