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Happy Birthday Aunt Blanche!

September 9, 2016

Aunt Blanche looking adorable.

My Aunt Blanche just turned 90. She’s outlived everyone in her immediate family, including her parents, which is amazing because she was the one with the most health problems. She is mostly blind, mostly deaf, suffers from asthma and sinus troubles, yet still motors on like the energizer bunny – some days. Some days are not so great.  But, from what I hear that’s what life can be like at 90.

Aunt Blanche gets a little tired now, but she never seemed to when I was young. My cousin and I would take turns staying overnight at each other’s houses and I always marveled at Aunt Blanche’s energy. She was always painting something around the house, or cleaning or cooking. She was a great cook, but didn’t seem to love cooking the way my mother did.

Sometimes I’d see her in the kitchen muttering to herself. She’d see me watching her and say, “Francy, You wanna see cooking with love?” Then she’d pick up the raw chicken she was dealing with and slam it down on the counter, slap it around a few times and look back at me. “Now that’s cooking with love,” she’d say with a smirk.

She was spunky too. In 1975, when word got out that a man in the Sears Catalog, on page 602 had a little something extra protruding from the boxer shorts he was modeling, Aunt Blanche was determined to discover the truth.  She pulled out the biggest magnifying glass she had and she and my mom sat at the dining room table inspecting the photo, so they didn’t miss a thing.  She made my mom howl with laughter.


Aunt Blanche and my mom.

Jesus Close upShe was born 11 years after my mother, but they were two peas in a pod. Both went to Idora Park for our school picnic and both came home with matching light up framed pictures of Jesus. They had more religious icons in their homes than most Catholic churches. And they both ended up marrying men with the last name Tunno.

My mom told her sister how nice and handsome my dad’s brother in Italy was.  She showed her a photo and told her to write to him, so Aunt Blanche did.  There’s a rumor that a photo of a bathing suit clad Aunt Blanche may have been sent to Uncle Richard, which, of course, would have left him helpless, because Aunt Blanche was built! They met in Italy after corresponding for a while and got married there.  I’m grateful they did because it’s always been nice to have such a cool aunt and uncle, plus cousins who I share both sides of my family with.

In Aunt Blanche and Uncle Richard's kitchen copy.jpg

My dad, me, Uncle Richard, Aunt Blanche and my mom in my home away from home at Christmas.

Every major holiday always ended with a visit to each other’s houses. As soon as we walked in, Aunt Blanche whisked off our coats and made us sit at the table. We’d laugh, talk, drink wine and eat, even though we’d already eaten, because God forbid you visit an Italian household and don’t eat something.

We always had great conversations, and still do, but poor Aunt Blanche can never hear us, so her daughter-in-law, nurse Cheri, gave her a stethoscope. We yell into it and she can sometimes hear us. It’s like a scene from a cartoon. I would give anything for perfect hearing and the gift of sight for Aunt Blanche.

I am so grateful for my aunt and uncle. My parents may be gone, but every time I walk into their home, it’s like turning the clock back 40 years. We sit at the same table and chairs, look out at the same garden and hang out in the same kitchen, dining room, and living room we’ve been hanging out in since the early ’60s. The decor has changed slightly to a chicken/rooster motif, but, when I’m there, I’m a kid, at home again. And their house is the only place that ever happens. I wish them both many, many happy healthy birthdays to come.


Happy Birthday Aunt Blanche!






  • Reply
    September 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Happy birthday, Aunt Blanche! Sounds like you have a lot of Aunt Blanche (and of course, your mom) in you, Francy!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 15, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Love you Nicol. I hope I have a lot of both of them, that would be a powerful combination of fun!

  • Reply
    Cousin Jane
    September 10, 2016 at 6:00 am

    Thank you Fran for your loving tribute for our Aunt Blanche

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 15, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks Jane. She is still a kick to spend time with. Glad you’ll be there to see her for Kati’s wedding! Looking forward to seeing you guys!

  • Reply
    Bob Erbeck
    September 10, 2016 at 12:38 am

    She sure does look like she could have fun! You’re fortunate to still have them around. Glad you could be there to help her celebrate. Happy Birthday, Blanche!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 15, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      She is really fun still, even mostly blind and deaf. Thanks for always reading and taking the time to respond Bob!

  • Reply
    September 10, 2016 at 12:36 am

    Lovely! Happy birthday, Aunt Blanche!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 15, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      Thank you Linda for always reading and taking the time to respond and for being my unofficial therapist. xox

  • Reply
    Petrea Burchard
    September 9, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Your family is so different from mine! Seems like a great bunch.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 15, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      Petrea, I’ll have to drag you back to Pittsburgh with me, so you can meet them. They are a fun bunch. Thanks for the sweet words!

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