She’s 100 today!
BAYPORT—There’s been a lot of living done in the life of Florence Corkery, a Bayport resident for more than 60 years. And there’s a lot more life left to celebrate as this jovial centenarian reaches that pinnacle today.
Although some might remember her working in a local bank or as an elementary school teacher, many in the area can probably recall the years she worked at the former Buoy 4 Tavern on Montauk Highway in Blue Point.
The Suffolk County News sat down with her and two of her three children, John and Kate Corkery.
“She was my business partner,” said John. “Next thing you know, we had her behind the bar, where everyone called her “mom.”
“I had many admirers,” Florence added with a wry smile and then laughed.
Her interesting life began in Brooklyn in a three-family home she and her parents shared with their extended family that for Florence, included cousins. “It was a pleasure living there,” she said, noting that she and her cousins never had siblings. “But we had each other,” she added.
She attended a small school in Bushwick and during time off from school, ran into some interesting people. “She got to sit in Dutch Schultz’s car,” said John, explaining that the 1920s bootleg mobster used to frequent the neighborhood where his mother lived.
Florence said when Schultz needed to get in contact with his driver, he used to turn to the neighborhood kids. “We knew where he was,” she said. “We’d get a quarter [for the information] and then we’d go to the store and come home with a big shopping bag of candy [for that amount of money].”
Florence’s father was an artist and a printer by trade, and did very well, even during the Depression years. “I don’t remember feeling the Depression,” she noted.
Her summers were filled with trips to the beach on Plum Island in Brooklyn (now the Marine Park section of the borough) and to Ebbets Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play baseball. She remembers passing gypsy camps with her father, which were located near the field. One day, she and her dad were invited into one of them. “We had a beautiful meal,” she said.
After high school, Florence attended St. John’s University and eventually graduated with a business degree. She then began working as a paralegal for maritime lawyers in Manhattan, but not before eloping with her childhood sweetheart.
Soon after their first child was born, her husband John enlisted in the Navy and was shipped out to the South Pacific, where he served in the Seabee division during WWII. Florence continued to work during that time. Although it was a stressful time for many, Florence said she never worried about the war. “Not for one second did I think that he’d never come home.” And he did return.
After the war, the growing Corkery family began taking summer day trips to Suffolk County. “We used to like to swim in Lake Ronkonkoma,” Florence said. And it was during those early evening drives back west that the family discovered Bayport.
“My father didn’t like driving into the sunset, so we took detours,” said Kate. It was on one of those detours that they came across the quaint bayside hamlet and eventually purchased a house there for $12,500 in 1954.
Once the family settled in, Florence took a job working in the mortgage department of Eastern Federal Bank on Main Street. However, not one to let any opportunity go by, she decided to go back to college at the age of 45 to get a teaching certificate. “I wanted to work with young kids.” She got that education degree from Adelphi University, which led to a job with the Brentwood School District, teaching second and third grade until her retirement in 1983. And then came the stint in her son’s bar, serving drinks, food, and sharing lot of good laughs with the local clientele.
Florence’s husband died several years ago. However, her days remain full with her kids, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, too. Though she has no particular philosophy for success, Kate facetiously shared her mother’s saying, “‘Keep your eyes open and look like you know what you’re doing.’”
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” Florence said with a broad smile. And with so much still to live for, she’s planning on it to continue. She said there’s a grandson that is getting married in November. “And,” she remarked deliberately, “I’m looking forward to going to the wedding.”
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