Gertrude J. Monaco, 93

Gertrude J. Monaco, 93; Delivered Washington Post; Volunteered at Church

Gertrude J. Monaco had a paper route for 22 years.
Gertrude J. Monaco had a paper route for 22 years. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 27, 2009

Gertrude J. Monaco, 93, who delivered The Washington Post for 22 years in Prince George's County and who was a tireless volunteer for her church and community, died July 19 of a heart attack at her home in New Carrollton.

Mrs. Monaco lived in Washington for 15 years before moving to New Carrollton in 1959 to raise her six children. She was already active in her church and scouting before she began delivering The Post to customers in New Carrollton in 1966.

"One morning I tried to wake my youngest son to deliver his papers and he wouldn't get up," she said in a 1988 article in The Post's in-house newsletter, Shoptalk. "So I did it for him and I liked it -- enough to do it for 22 years."

At first, she pulled a wooden wagon loaded with copies of The Post and placed a newspaper inside each customer's storm door. As the Sunday edition grew in size, Mrs. Monaco began to drive her blue Chevette. She had 118 papers to distribute during the week, 148 on Sundays. She arose at 3 a.m. each day to make sure the papers arrived at each house on time.

"In all these years, the worst thing that ever happened to me was I slipped on the ice in the driveway of a customer and had a concussion," she said. "I had a headache for eight weeks."

One morning when she was delivering papers, she met Muhammad Ali, who was out doing his running. He signed an autograph for her and gave her a pin.

Over time, Mrs. Monaco grew tired of battling winter weather, and she decided to retire in 1988, when she was 73.

"While I was cleaning the snow off of my car and shoveling the driveway," she told Shoptalk, "I said to myself, 'Gertrude, it's 4:30 a.m., it's cold and you have no business doing this anymore -- you're getting too old.' "

The day after she retired, Mrs. Monaco slept in -- until 5 a.m.

She was born Gertrude Jacqueline O'Leary in Cambridge, Mass., and grew up in Catonsville, just outside Baltimore. She married Joseph F. Monaco in 1944; he died in 1987.

At St. Mary's Catholic Church in Landover, Mrs. Monaco served as prefect, treasurer and president of women's sodality. She organized the church's annual Christmas bazaar and bake sale and led craft workshops. She planned church trips to shrines as far away as Canada.

She helped cook and serve food at wedding receptions and church banquets and often distributed leftover food to homeless shelters. She organized breakfasts and doughnut sales at her church and sold tickets for bingo every Tuesday night. In 2007, she established a parish store selling religious items.

In addition, she was a Girl Scout leader, camp counselor and Boy Scout den mother. She collected donations for the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes.

After giving up her paper route, Mrs. Monaco continued to volunteer with Catholic charitable groups for many years. She helped establish a shelter for abused women in Northeast Washington and volunteered with the Villa Rosa Nursing Home in Mitchellville and the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home in Washington. She made blankets and clothing for newborn babies and helped transport infants to homes while they awaited adoption.

Mrs. Monaco received awards for her volunteer work from the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area and from Catholic Charities of the Washington Archdiocese. In 1991, for her service to the church, she received the Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal in a ceremony at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Two of her children, Al Monaco and Jean Humphreys, died, in 1961 and 1990, respectively. Two grandchildren also died before her.

Survivors include four children, Mary Ellen Chanin of Sarasota, Fla., Mike Monaco of Waldorf, Angelina Robb of Crofton and Jim Monaco of Bowie; a sister; 19 grandchildren; and 44 great-grandchildren.

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