by DARIA PERSE
SPRING HILL, Fla. — Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010, was a special day for me. I had never in my life been invited to a 90th birthday party, so I felt curious and excited. For a travel companion I talked my son into coming with me so I didn’t have to drive by myself down south to Palmetto, Fla.
Jean Narquini (292), an amazing lady of Slovenian heritage, invited me to her 90th birthday party. She contacted me after reading one of my articles in Prosveta. We talked on the phone and stayed in touch through e-mails ever since. Several times she invited me to visit her, but my summer was busy and I just couldn’t make it. So it was her birthday party when we met in person for the first time.
The ride to Palmetto was incredibly enjoyable. I loved the bridges, and while my son admired their architectural side and clever construction, I admired the view. I’d been down this way many times before, but that day, driving across Tampa Bay and then over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, was even more enchanting than ever before. The skies were blue and the seas were calm; it was a pictureperfect day.
The clubhouse at Piney Points was easy to find, and so were Jean and her husband, Chuck. Our eyes met when I entered the hall, and Jean and I recognized each other right away. She introduced me to everyone as “my new friend from SNPJ.” I was seated with her family and had a chance to find out more about her life and the lives of her daughters, Juanell and Jackie.
On the side of the hall there was a table set up with memorabilia, marking important moments in Jean Narquini’s life. All those photos and other objects on display told her life story and pointed out the most important events in her life. However, the little report card from 1930 caught my attention more than anything else.
Even though I looked through it, I don’t remember what grades Jean received in school that year. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t tell you. What made me smile was the signature of her father, Mike Kotnik, on the back. Neat, easy-to-read handwriting in cursive transferred me into a pleasantly nostalgic mood. His writing was learned back in the times when students still had to pay attention to that part of their school work.
From the speech of Jean’s older daughter, Juanell, I learned a lot more about their interesting family history and how Jean’s mother came to this country when she was only 18 years old to work as a nanny. She never went back, but Jean visited Slovenia and is still in touch with some relatives from back “home.”
After the party, with Slovenian music, cake and ice cream and many guests, my son and I were invited to Jean’s home. We didn’t stay long, but that short visit gave us a chance to talk some more and get to know each other better.
It was a very nice overall, yet Jean and her cheerfulness and positive attitude made the day special. She has been an SNPJ member her entire life, and I sure don’t have a chance to meet people like Jean Narquini very often.
Original article: Prosveta, November 17, 2010