Loyalty, laughter and lunches unite friends for 56 years
Friends Geri Lenzi, Grace Guarisco, Pat Kautz, Luna Casaccio, Annette Grossi, Gloria Domrose and Joan Robinson gather in Robinson's Park Ridge home Nov. 14 to reminisce about their 56 years of friendship. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:05AM
PARK RIDGE — They are friends who love to laugh.
And lunch. You can’t leave out the lunches.
Ask Luna Muratore Casaccio what has sustained the 56-year bond she and her seven BFFs share and she’ll tell you simply, “Loyalty. And — wait for it — a love of food.”
Luna and “the girls” — Geri Michelotti Lenzi, Grace Lucca Guarisco, Pat Pulaski Kautz, Rita Smeriglio Stopa, Joan Inzerillo Robinson, Gloria DeMarco Domrose and Annette Grossi — met in 1956 while students at Trinity High School in River Forest. Gathered around Joan’s dining room table in Park Ridge recently, reminiscing about “really old” nuns and the occasional trouble some would find themselves in at school, the friends’ interaction is something like a combination between “Steel Magnolias” and “Sex and the City: — full of life, closeness and conversation.
“We truly like each other and we have fun all the time. We’re never bored with each other,” Luna, of Niles, said of the reason behind the friends’ lasting attachment.
“The biggest thing is that we laugh a lot,” Joan added.
“Almost to a point of silliness,” agreed Luna.
Luna also describes the relationship like this: “No matter who else your other friends are, this is your family.”
Back in high school the friends were inseparable, their Friday nights spent hanging out in Annette’s River Forest basement — the site of many memorable parties — or dancing at local hang-outs like Tuscany Hall in Elmwood Park where one night each girl shared a dance with Frankie Avalon.
College, marriage and careers never affected the group’s closeness. With the exception of Rita, who now lives in New Mexico, but visits the Chicago area a few times each year, the friends try to get together at least once each month
“We’re never at a loss. We just pick right up where we left off,” Joan said.
“We can finish each other’s sentences,” added Geri, of Evanston.
The group takes vacations together and during a recent trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. had T-shirts printed that read, “Best friends since 1956.” They also hold an annual Christmas gathering, inviting daughters and daughters-in-law to share in the celebration.
The year the friends turned 40, each woman had a quirky theme party thrown for her, based on her “idiosyncrasies.” Parties ranged from a toga theme for Grace to a hospital theme for Joan, the latter involving the party girl transported in a wheelchair and everyone wearing hospital garb.
This year the women celebrated their 70th birthdays, but Annette insists they haven’t changed at all since they were teens.
“Maybe that’s not a good thing, girls,” mused Gloria as laughter overtook the group.
“I think what sustains our youth is humor,” Joan said.
“We know each other so well we laugh at the same things,” added Luna. “We know what we’re going to laugh at even before it comes out.”
Gloria, a former nurse, is especially known for the care and compassion she shares with the other friends. “When something happens, if there’s an illness in the family, Gloria is always the meals-on-wheels,” Geri said.
“Her specialty is TLC,” Joan noted.
“Whenever there’s been a crisis in your life and within an hour you look up and there’s somebody standing there, waiting for you, that’s really important,” Pat added. “Throughout these 56 years that has never not happened.”
Whether it’s been weddings, the birth of children, the death of parents, illness or any other major life event, the friends are well aware on whom they can find support.
That, too, is the foundation of their friendship, they say.
“For good or bad we’re always there,” Luna said. “Whatever the occasion is, we’re there. And that’s it in a nutshell really.”