Norma McLaughlin (April 16, 1926 - March 19, 2024)

In loving memory of
Norma McLaughlin
  • April 16, 1926
  • -
  • March 19, 2024

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Norma McLaughlin, a resident of Oxford described by family and friends as “a force of nature,” died peacefully in her sleep on March 19, less than a month before her 98th birthday.

The daughter of two northern Italian immigrants who settled in the Bronx, N.Y., Mrs. McLaughlin lived most of her life on the North Shore of Long Island. She and her husband, Harry McLaughlin, who died last April at age 96, had moved to The Villages five years ago to be closer to their daughter, Debi  Cionek, a retired computer teacher.

Born Norma Rose Musante in 1926, Mrs. McLaughlin graduated from Columbus High School in the Bronx and worked as an AT&T operator and saleswoman for several major New York department stores during World War II while her husband-to-be served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater.

The McLaughlins met after the war during a playful snowball fight among neighborhood friends and married in August of 1949. Six years later, they moved from the Bronx to the tranquil hamlet of Jericho, about 30 miles east of Manhattan.

Founded by Quakers in the 17th century, Jericho at the time consisted of little more than a general store, two inns, a cider mill, a firehouse and hundreds of acres of potato fields.

But as the town grew into a vibrant suburb, Mrs. McLaughlin went to work as a saleswoman in the fine jewelry department of Fortunoff’s, an iconic New York department store chain. She worked there for a quarter-century while her husband commuted to the Bronx, where he was a vice president at Grand Iron Works, a company that fabricated and erected the steel skeletons of numerous Manhattan skyscrapers.

Mrs. McLaughlin had a long list of regular customers at Fortunoff’s who trusted that she would be brutally frank in assessing how pieces of jewelry looked on them — never trying to make a quick sale and commission. Her outgoing personality and her job led to her becoming friends with many of her two children’s friends.

Her son, Ken McLaughlin, a retired reporter and editor for the San Jose Mercury News, remembers one of his female classmates writing in his high school yearbook: “I really should be writing this note to your mother, but seriously, Ken …”

Mrs. McLaughlin was also a popular, energetic figure in her Jericho neighborhood. “She seemed to know everyone,” Ken said.

“She was always moving, always working,” said her grandson Scott Cionek, the program manager for research and development at a biomedical company  in the Boston area.

“She never chilled in her entire life, rarely watching a movie on TV from start to finish,” said Glenn Cionek, head of revenue operations at a Boston cybersecurity company.

About the only time she took a break was to watch New York Yankees games and read in bed each night before she went to sleep. She consumed two or three books a week, mostly biographies about politicians, entertainers and historical figures.

When her family went to her beloved Jones Beach on Long Island’s South Shore, she usually read while her husband and two kids bodysurfed in the ocean.

Before she and her husband moved to Florida in 2019, they would take daily strolls through their Jericho neighborhood.

When Harry couldn’t keep up, she used the time to carry the newspapers of neighbors from sidewalks to their front porches. “They called her the Newspaper Angel,” daughter Debi recalled with a laugh.

Debi said her youthful-looking mother loved to shovel snow as soon as it fell and did just that into her early 90s, despite protestations from her husband.

Mrs. McLaughlin was also known for her generosity with friends and family members. She never forgot a birthday, wedding anniversary or holiday.

“I got a $50 check for Halloween until I turned 30,”  said grandson Glenn.

Mrs. McLaughlin constantly encouraged her kids and grandkids to aggressively pursue their education and occupational goals.

“Grandma seemed to think the only successful profession was doctor or lawyer,” Glenn said, only half-joking.

Still, he and other family members said, she was also immensely proud of her children’s and grandchildren’s accomplishments.

Her family says Mrs. McLaughlin’s mind remained sharp until the end, and she stayed healthy until the final weeks of her life.

She is also survived by another grandson, Christopher McLaughlin of Scotts Valley, Calif.; a great-granddaughter, Willa Cionek of Bolton, Mass; a son-in-law, Fred Cionek of The Villages; two daughters-in-law, Meghan Foley-Cionek of Bolton and Nicki Pecchenino of Scotts Valley; and her grandson Glenn’s fiancée, Rebecca Roberts of Charlottesville, Va.

Along with the ashes of her husband, Mrs. McLaughlin’s ashes will be interred in a private ceremony at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, where Mr. McLaughlin’s service with military honors was held in May.

Arrangements entrusted with BALDWIN BROTHERS Funeral & Cremation Society-Spanish Springs, 352-430-1449.  Sentiments are encouraged at


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