Norma Margaret (Brogna) Taflas, 86, of Haverhill, MA passed away peacefully with her family by her side on Friday, June 10, 2022. Norma was born in Woburn, MA and was the daughter of Ralph Joseph and Mary Agnes (Hogan) Brogna. She leaves behind a rich family legacy.
Norma grew up in the Winnmere section of Burlington in a home focused on tradition and family. Her father, Ralph, owned a butcher shop in Woburn, and her mother, Agnes, was a homemaker and the glue of the family. Norma was a 1952 graduate of Burlington High School. She worked at B & M Railroad for 10 years until the birth of her first child. Norma returned to the workforce once her children had grown and for 21 years was the administrative assistant to the Director of the IRS in Andover. She retired in 1997. Her career was important, but she learned as a child that family always came first.
Norma’s parents taught her that each holiday, celebration, or Sunday dinner was a time to cherish being together. Often the preparation for a family gathering turned into an event itself as everyone would help to prepare homemade raviolis, cookies and pies, and help with setting dining tables and decorating. Norma’s four sisters, referred to as the “Brogna Girls,” remained close throughout their lives and were the best of friends. They raised their children and grandchildren to be as close as they were. The Brogna Girls’ husbands learned quickly that when you married a sister you inherited the entire family.
Norma met the love of her life and future husband John Michael Taflas through friends. They dated before he left to serve in the Navy during the Korean War. When he returned, the couple married on February 5, 1956. They lived on Porter Street and Mishawum Road in Woburn before buying a home in Tewksbury where they raised their son, Michael John, and daughter, Mary Agnes. In 1999 they sold their home in Tewksbury and purchased a townhouse in Haverhill.
Norma and John enjoyed traveling and visited numerous parts of the world with dear friends. They were fortunate enough to visit Europe, the Caribbean, and many places in the United States, as far reaching as Alaska and Hawaii. A highlight of their travels was visiting John’s ancestral land of Greece. Norma had said that Ireland was the most beautiful place she had ever seen.
In the 1970’s Norma and John built a summer residence on Little Ossipee Lake in Waterboro, Maine. They created a home filled with laughter and love where five generations have come together every summer. Dancing on the boat, singing by the piano, and cooking elaborate dinners was how time was best spent at the camp. Fourth of July was the grandest of celebrations for their family and friends. Norma, John, and their lake friends started new holiday traditions which included a dessert contest and talent show. The talent show consisted of singing, family skits, humorous commercials, and dancing, where everyone laughed so hard they were brought to tears. Norma would insist everyone participate, and even she and her sister Brenda were known to don their tap shoes for a performance.
Norma and John opened the camp to all, especially on the Fourth, where guests would feel at home no matter if they were sleeping on a couch, cot, or in a tent. Norma relished in the excitement knowing that she was keeping the family together. The camp was, and still is, a magical place.
Norma will be remembered as the matriarch of her family and the one who spoke her mind and told it like it was. She was honest, insightful, and extremely proud of her family. She made everyone laugh with her amusing yet wise one-liners. Norma repeatedly said, “Family is the most important thing in the world.”
Norma was the devoted wife of the late John Michael Taflas. She was the loving mother of Michael Taflas and his wife Donna of Hampton, NH and Mary DeRoo of Haverhill and her companion Jim Chrzan. She was predeceased by her siblings Louise Carbone, Joseph Brogna, Joan Brown, and Brenda Sweeny. She was the proud Grandmother to Lindsay Taflas and her husband William Banister; Nicholas DeRoo and his wife Catarini; Brian DesGrosseillieres and his wife Cassie; Courtney DeRoo; and Molly Taflas and her husband Michael Haun. She was the great grandmother of Hayden, Maggie, Madilynn, Leah, Emma, Elsie, and Kalista. Norma is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Visiting hours will be held at the Edward V. Sullivan Funeral Home, 43 Winn St., Burlington on Tuesday, June 14 from 4-7 p.m. A mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, June 15 at 11 a.m. at the St. Rose of Lima Church, 12 Park Street, Topsfield, MA. Directions may be found at www.agnesandrose.org. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Norma’s name may be made to AgeSpan, 280 Merrimack St., Unit 400, Lawrence, MA 01843, or online at www.agespan.org. For obituary, online guest book, and video tribute please visit www.sullivanfuneralhome.net.
Family Remembrance by Mary DeRoo
Moms Eulogy June 15, 2022
The earliest memory I have of mom was when I was very small living in Woburn, and there was a terrible thunder and lightening storm that woke me up in the middle of the night. I was so afraid I remember calling out to her. I got out of bed and started running towards the stairs. Suddenly, at the top of the stairs, this hand stops me, it was mom. She picked me up and carried me to her bed. I felt so safe. Safe from all the roar going on outside, warmly snuggled in her arms, a little girl, protected. For the rest of my life, I have always felt that safety and protection from her.
Growing up in our household was filled with happy memories for Michael and me. We had an ordinary childhood. Filled with laughter and love. We ate dinner together as a family, and there were rules you had to abide by. You do not start eating until mom sits down, there is no burping or elbows on the table, and you ask “may I please be excused” to leave the dinner table. And we talked. We spoke about the day, we shared, we connected. We learned what family business was. After dinner, we worked together, to clean off the table, wash and dry the dishes, feed the dog, and sweep the kitchen floor. Every night it was the same, consistent routine. This was our normal. What I realize now is, this is where we learned our values, manners, and respect for one another.
Mom was teaching us through example how to raise our own families. Dinner is an important time to connect, talk, and share as a family. It’s not in front of the TV.
When Michael and I would fight she would make us embrace and she would say, “Give me a hug, give me a kiss, tell me you love me” and we had to. We could not leave the room until we did. She taught us that we are the only ones each other has in life and that we always needed to look out for each other. She instilled this at a very early age.
As we grew up, she would often say, “It’s not what’s on the table that’s important, it’s about the people who are around it.” Mom was very family oriented. Every Sunday, after church, we would go down to my grandparents for Sunday dinner. Here is where you get to play with your cousins, sit at a big table and eat so much food. The conversation was often robust and busy with lots going on at once. We never knew who would be having Sunday dinner with us, Uncle Joey, Uncle Harpy, Uncle Eddie, and of course any of moms sisters at one time or another…with more cousins to play with!
And as life went on and Mike and I got married, mom and dad would continue to have Sunday dinners in their home in Tewksbury. When Nick and Courtney were born it was easier for mom and dad to come to us, so I began cooking the Sunday dinner meals. Early on, Mike and Donna would come with Lindsay, Molly and Brian and the cousins got to play together.
What mom was teaching us, is how you raise a family to be close. Family was THE most important thing to her. Every part of our life was rooted in that and tradition. But it was not just my mom that felt this way, her sisters Brenda, Louise, and Joan did as well. Mom once said to me “My sisters and I made you all, so when you came to the family it did not matter if you were a custodian or a lawyer, it did not matter, you are all family. And that is why we are who we are. “Growing up, I never felt like my family was a family of four. I had all these aunts, uncles, and cousins who I thought of as my sisters and brothers.
Mom was teaching us through example how to raise our own families.
The preparation for any of our holidays would turn into an event itself. While this may be an old-fashioned Italian thing, we never knew any different. The first memories of Thanksgiving were of us kids downstairs in my grandparent’s basement while my grandmother, mom and aunts made homemade raviolis, we would help set the tables.
Later, when Thanksgiving was moved to my Aunt Louise’s, we would go over on Wednesday night to peel the vegetables, prep the turkey, and get ready for the holiday. The children carried folding chairs from the basement and set the tables. Each of us have fond memories of playing into the night while our parents relaxed in the living room when all was done.
As our families grew larger, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving became pie day. We would go to Aunt Brenda’s and make as many as 26 pies. Erin and I always managed to mess up the lemon meringue pie. Sometimes we whipped the meringue too long and it was soupy, eggs too cold, burned the custard and one year we even forgot to add the lemon. But it was OK, Mom and Aunt Brenda knew what was important was that we were doing this together as a family.
And that was just Thanksgiving Eve….my parents hosted Christmas Eve for many years. They had an angel that moved, mom thought the angel was beautiful, but the little kids called her scary. When Christmas Eve began to move to each of our homes, mom would make sure that whoever was hosting had the angel. I wonder if she will look so scary to us this year.
Easter was another holiday where the prep day became as much fun as the actual holiday when we made Easter cookies and Pizza Pie.
And then there was the 4th of July in Maine. My parents hosted not only our family (sometimes as many as 60 of us) but our lake family as well. Every year we would have dessert contests and talent shows where everyone young and old participated. Mom was known to put on tap shoes and sing and dance with Aunt Brenda, she has done skits with our entire family, even one year on the front lawn, she put on a purple costume and danced a classical ballet dance with Lindsay and I (three generations).
Our place in Maine became a favorite for a lot of our friends and family. Everyone always knew you were welcomed at our home and mom and dad always invited everyone to sit and “break bread “with us.
Mom and dad loved their friends, Paul and Carol, Ethel, and Terry. They had many other friends, but this was the core 6. They would go on the boat, enjoy a day of boating, and end up at our house eating, singing, and dancing. (Paul was a fabulous piano player) I learned how to jitterbug from mom and Ethel. They danced so well together!
Mom and Dad and Paul and Carol traveled the world together.
Paul was mom’s best friend. Mom once said to me, “I had a love with my husband, and I had a love with Paul. I was so lucky to have both. I would walk into Paul’s house, and he would give me his chair and a scotch and play the piano, I think about that”.
But there was more to mom than these fun times. She was known for her honesty and directness. You would always know who to ask if you wanted an honest opinion. My cousin Ralph has said, “Nobody can deliver it like Aunt Norma”.
She told me once, “you do not sugarcoat things, you just say it “
And that is probably why people would go to her for advice. She was someone who would reach out her hand when you needed it. She opened her home to various family members and even Michael’s friend, Spence, stayed with her when he needed a place to stay.
She was compassionate and kind. People were drawn to her, and she had the ability to see people for who they were not what they were.
She was very proud and believed that you had to have self-respect. You take care of how you look and act. She always had a lipstick and comb close by. In October, she thought she had pneumonia. She told me “I had to drive down and get a pedicure so if I landed in the hospital people wouldn’t see my feet.”
And when dad died, before his wake she told all of us, grandchildren included, “act like a Kennedy”. She always wanted us to keep our composure and act with class.
Mom was not only my mother, but she was also my best friend. She knew me better than I knew myself. She was strong during the difficult times in her life, and she taught me that strength. She taught me that you just must do it, no matter how hard IT is. I would call her to ask her what to do in this instance or that, she would say to me “you already know what you want to do, why are you asking me?” but it was her affirmation, nod or even just bouncing it off her that I needed. She knew that.
When Aunt Brenda passed away, I was blessed with the opportunity to buy her condo and live up the street from mom. What we both realized quickly was how much that move enriched our lives. And that of Jim’s too. He loved her as a second mother and often told her how blessed he was that she was in his life. We spent almost every Friday night together these past 7 years playing cards, Keno, going out for Chinese food, to Maine etc. And Sunday dinner at our home, as you can imagine, goes without saying.
Mom loved her grandchildren dearly and they loved her back. She would call Nick and Courtney her kids. They spent so much of their lives around my parents. Throughout Courtney’s school years, Mom would read all her books and they would sit and have book discussion. They all called her #1 Gram. Last year when she had three new great granddaughters born, we outgrew the camp and could not all sleep at once up there anymore. That bothered her all winter. She called me up and said “Mary, Maine is meant to bring and keep our family together, I need to fix this”. Next thing I knew it she purchased three brand new 21-foot campers. She called Nick, Lindsay and Molly and said, “I bought bedrooms so you will have a place to sleep and a place for your clothes and pocketbook.”
Moms’ favorite night of the week was Friday night, and she was known to say many times,
“Its Friday night and I’m not responsible for my actions”.
We call these Norma-isms. There were so many of them and they made us all laugh.
Here are a few more:
In response to us discussing not eating too much tuna because of the mercury…. “Who wants to be healthy? I am healthy in my own way. I have lived all these years and I am not sick”.
At all her Dr’s appts. “I’m like a rusty old car, if you look you will find something”.
In response to the question should we have a second drink? She would answer, “As Kay Sweeny would say, a bird can’t fly with one wing!”
“I know I’m talking too much but I can’t help it, it keeps coming out of my mouth.”
“You have no idea what it’s like to live as long as I have…your earrings fall apart; your decorations are all faded, and the bartenders are the grandchildren of who you used to work with.”
“I’m going to outlive my eyes, my teeth and my money”
“OM Goodness I am out living my appliances”.
On her 85th birthday “Oh good I can get up the ladder so that means I can still skinny dip and be free”.
“Even though we didn’t have much we were always happy”
Mom told me that because it was so important to her and her sisters that we cousins continue to stay close. She told me that in one month she wanted Mike and I to take you out to dinner on her and to remember her. So given Friday was her favorite day of the week, we invite you to dinner on July 15th.
One last statement mom would often say to me, “Mary, You are very fortunate that you are just like me”. I want to say that I call it a blessing from God. Thank you, God, for lending me your angel, I call mother.