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BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Margaret Rock, who came to New York from Poland in 1958, died peacefully on Sat., April 13, in her second-floor walk-up on E. Sixth St. She was 109 years old.
“She was fiercely independent,” said Irene D’Alessio, a social worker at the Selfreliance Association of American-Ukrainians who had visited Margaret regularly for the past 14 years.
“A few years ago, Margaret had a hip operation and I was able to get her into a nursing home in Queens,” D’Alessio said. She continued, “She got antsy after about a year and wanted to come home. We had kept paying her rent and were able to get her 24-hour home care, so she came back to her apartment.”
For the past five years, Margaret’s three city home care attendants took turns being with her round the clock.
“They took care of her as if she was part of their own family,” D’Alessio said. “The Department of Social Services was going to stop the home care; I had to go to a department fair hearing last year and they decided to keep it,” D’Alessio added.
In recent years, Margaret spoke less and less English and conversed mostly in Polish. But D’Alessio speaks Ukrainian (her maiden name is Repezuk), so the language barrier was not very high.
Margaret told friends a few years ago that she was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on July, 13, 1903, to a family that later returned to their native Poland. She was married in 1923 in Vilno, Poland, to Anton Biesickierski, who died in 1929 leaving her with two daughters.
What she and her children endured during World War II is not known at this point.
She came to the U.S. alone 30 years later, made a home on E. Sixth St. and became an American citizen in 1964.
The day after she was naturalized, she changed her name from Malgorzata Gratulewicz (her maiden name) to Margaret Rock, possibly as an assessment of her own character.
Two years later she brought her two daughters and five of her six grandsons from Poland to New York. One of the grandsons remained in Poland.
A seamstress in Poland, Margaret worked as a cook and housekeeper for a wealthy family on Central Park West. Her two daughters and their sons lived in the same E. Sixth St. building that she did. One of her daughters died and the other moved in 1979 with two of her sons to Hyannis, Mass.
“I think a secret of her long life was simplicity and strength of character,” D’Alessio said.
A memorial service will be held at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, 106 E. Seventh St., at a date to be announced.