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Our Culture Inchoate: Torres when a child #11

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

Our intrepid congresswoman, Honoria Torres, as seen through the eyes of democratic operative Lou Picone.


SJ: We’re back with Lou Picone, icon of democratic backroom politics, and currently the AA for New Jersey congresswoman Honoria Torres. Thanks again for being here, Lou.

LP: My pleasure, Susan. And I’m not the AA … just an advisor. Can we talk about Honoria in this segment?

SJ: Of course, but your last anecdote was instructive and fascinating. I hoped we’d be able to mine that for more…

LP: I have a million stories, and most of them are true, hehe. But most are better over a beer.

SJ: Fair enough, for now. What would you like talk about?

LP: Honoria, Congresswoman Torres, is my favorite subject so let’s start there.

SJ: Great!

LP: Okay, first of all, I am not the AA or her chief of staff or anything, really. I am more of an unofficial caseworker here in her district, and I advise or assist her and all the constituents where necessary, and when asked.

SJ: Oh, c’mon, Lou, you can’t expect our audience to accept that you have just an unofficial caseworker role…

LP: You have to. That’s the way it is. Look, my best years are behind me. I’m pushing 90 and I’m playing with the house money. My wife is in full time care at a nursing home, and I spend two hours a day with her, reading, telling stories, watching TV, holding hands. Sadly, she doesn’t even know I’m there.

SJ: I am so sorry, Lou, I didn’t mean to…

LP: That’s okay, Susan. I know. But there you have it.

SJ: So.

LP: I have known Honoria Torres her whole life. My wife and her grandmother, Honoria’s mother’s mother, were the best of friends until Beth’s death about ten years ago. Beth was Honoria’s grandmom, a widow since the 70’s.

She had, they had, one daughter, Jane, Honoria’s mom. Born in ’59. A real beauty. She met and married William McIlhenny, a cop in Eastfield, in 1979. I think Jane was doing secretary work in Manhattan before they got married. Anyhow, Honoria was born a year later, in 1980.

Now, I want to do the right thing here, and I tend to get emotional, but here’s what happened the weekend before Christmas in 1984. Mac, and everyone called him Mac, was on the job and was driving on route 287 which is wide now but was not as big then, but as your listeners know, it gets busy all the time. It was a Saturday night, but a sudden and brutal snow storm began, a real white-out. Nasty. The report is that Mac stopped his radio car; he was alone. He was behind a skid and an accident, a real jumble of cars, and the wind and snow was fast and blinding. He started setting up flares. Witnesses said they couldn’t even see his blue and red lights, it was so bright. Mac was a post-Vietnam vet, a marine, did I tell you that?

Mac starts waving flares in his hands and running behind the bunch of cars that had collided. One car, then another, they never saw him, or at least couldn’t avoid him... Both hit him hard. Mac died at the scene. A helluva pileup, and it was a miracle no one else was killed, although there were plenty of injuries. Three days before Christmas. (COUGH)

SJ: Oh, dear, Lou. That is awful.

LP: Yeah. Awful. Honoria was only four years old. And now Jane a young widow. Jane still grieves every day. So Jane’s mom, Beth, and her young daughter, Honoria, then lived together in Eastfield. Lots of support then from all over, but Jane still needed to work. Beth went to Manhattan and worked there, in a bank if I recall correctly, and Jane started working at the local grammar school, serving lunch and doing crosswalk duty. To be near Honoria. We called her Mac after that, Honoria I mean. Except Jane. Always Honoria to Jane.

SJ: Not Honey? Seems like the likely nickname.

LP: Nope. Not as a salutation, but maybe of endearment. But not by anyone around the circle of family and friends. Honoria was “Mac” to everyone except her Mom.

The congresswoman answers direct questions about the accident but does not discuss it generally. She was so young. But, of course, she is very proud of her father’s legacy, and his service. So sad.

SJ: Were you part of the family?

LP: Oh, goodness, yes. Every weekend something was going on, it seemed. Our house, their house, other friends and extended family, we all lived in the Garden section of Eastfield. In fact, we live in the same homes now as we did then, hehe. Tough to leave the old neighborhood, and it still has the same feel about it, you know what I mean by that? Hehe.

SJ: She lives in the same house as the one she grew up in? With that big family?

LP: Well, it may seem tight, but seven people can live comfortably in Eastfield, even in a 70 year old home. But that’s her story to tell you, hehe.

SJ: Help me out, Lou. She’s a democrat, but she has a lot of, well, republican or conservative views.

LP: More libertarian than anything. She did not grow up political. She’s a teacher, and a proud hard-working union member. The policeman’s union and membership was always there for her and her mother during very trying and emotional times. She is strongly “pro-blue.” Her husband is a decorated marine, her father served, and the combination lends itself to a family culture that is strongly pro-military, pro-defense, and pro-second amendment.

And that resonates to her constituency, and certainly Eastfield, the bulk of her district.

SJ: So she straddles both parties there.

LP: No. I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Those are positions that both parties have to a degree. Party politics does not have to be black and white or you’re out. At least it shouldn’t be.

SJ: And?

LP: Well, the big bug-a-boo is that she’s pro-life. So am I. It’s hard to be a democrat, and harder to run for office as one, if you’re pro-life. The money dries up. You get bad-mouthed by your own party. Negative ads mis-portray your love for children and families. Congresswoman Torres got primaried this past June, and even democrat operatives are working against her in her bid for a third term.

SJ: Sad.

LP: Worse than sad. It’s absurd. Honoria has a very emphatic message on being pro-life, and it has been distorted too often. So she has to keep discussing it so she is not mis-interpreted. And that gives the impression that she is capable of focusing on only one issue. She knows, we all know, that abortion was legal all over before Roe v Wade. That bell ain’t gonna be unrung. But people should see abortion for what it really is: killing children for generally selfish reasons. It’s a moral question, but only a legal one on the margins.

SJ: I am familiar with the congresswoman’s opinion on the matter: that men can be cowards. But that resonates with republicans, not democrats. And it alienates men, in some circles.

LP: Real men, real men, live up to obligations. Especially one they caused.

SJ: Can we take another break, Lou? Something tells me we won’t finish today.

LP: Sure, but something tells me that I’m finished after today, hehe.

SJ: We’ll be back in just a few, listeners, with Lou Picone, caseworker and confidante of democratic Congresswoman Honoria Torres from New Jersey. Stay tuned!

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