Justine T. Popola (nee Panila), 80 (or 50, if you asked her) residing in Manchester but deeply rooted in Downneck Newark, NJ passed away on March 31, 2020, without her family's permission. She was stubborn like that.
Due to the current restrictions, what promised to be the most raucous service ever will not occur. A memorial gathering will be announced at a later date. Probably at the Elks,
because any regular establishment wouldn't be able to contain us.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA (THERE'S a selling point!), Justine was a lifelong Downneck resident until moving to Manchester just last year. A graduate of East Side High School back when that meant something, Justine worked for Prudential Insurance Company before marrying and being thrown to the lions at Paddy's Service Station. If you don't know what or where Paddy's is, you should just stop reading now. Jay (everyone called her Jay) had the first NJ Lottery operation in a gas station in the state. Known as "The Lottery Lady", "The Crazy Lottery Lady", and "OMG, That Lottery Lady's Crazy", Jay established her unique standing in the business by running it like a bookie. The bookies, especially, appreciated that.
All the clients, customers, and interlopers loved/feared Jay. She deflected every argument with the phrase, "I'm Lottery," unless she really, really wanted to rip somebody a new one. That was great to see. But there was always coffee, she always tried to feed everyone, and was probably a little too generous sometimes. There're still a few people who owe for cigarettes. You know who you are. Do the right thing.
Justine was the Family Historian, the Caretaker of All Who Needed Caretakering, the Voice of Reason (no, really!). She devoted her life to her family. Whether or not we deserved it could be argued for years. But she did, putting everyone else before herself.
Justine was the beloved wife of the late Patsy Popola ,Jr. (a legend in his own right), sister of the late Robert (Sgt. Whisper) Panila and Not-Late Eileen Panila, and is survived by, in Order of Appearance: Her loving and devoted brother Allen (called Bruce, and no one alive remembers why); her marvelous children Katherine (The Girl) MacArthur and Donald MacArthur, Pasquale (The Good One) Popola and Cindy MacKenzie Popola, and Matthew (Oops!) Popola and Nicola Janeczek Popola. Two neices who were like daughters (but for the sake of the estate, are NOT daughters, so no fighting!), Allison Panila and Lisa Ann Panila, both former Child Stars of Thanksgiving and Christmas, who partnered in more crimes with Aunt Jay than can be counted. Last to be introduced is Justine's amazingly beautiful, supremely talented, remarkably intelligent, funny, compassionate, and humble granddaughter, Celeste (The Golden Child) Popola , now declared the Winner of the Gene Pool. Making a noted cameo is Alfredo (Fruit Basket) Soares, the son she didn't know she wanted. Such a brownnose.
There are so, so many more family members who have been touched by Justine. Some are gone, some are with us. Thousands more strangers who became friends, many regarded highly enough to call her "Mom". No matter the relationship, she truly was Everyone's Mom. Justine will be missed, but she will also be exalted, lauded, and applauded. And laughed with and laughed at lovingly. The stories will be retold, the legend will grow through the generations. People will marvel at her name, marvel at how Justine ended up at Niagara Falls while driving to Maine, marvel at her ability to communicate without ever using a complete sentence or proper noun, and marvel at how she kept from whacking us all constantly. But most of all they will marvel at her.
See ya soon, Mom. Not too soon. But, y'know, soon. We love you.