TERRE HAUTE —
As she opens the door to her house, she smiles.
“Hi, my baby,” Mary Ann Tanoos says as her son kisses her cheek.
Ingrained in motherhood from the beginning, Mary Ann still knows her child’s weight and length at birth — 6 pounds, 6 ounces and 20 inches long for Daniel T. Tanoos, her second oldest son and now superintendent of the Vigo County School Corp.
She has four sons, three of whom live in Terre Haute — Tony, an attorney, Daniel who goes by Danny, and Pete, a security business owner. The fourth, TJ, a business owner, lives in Evansville.
Today, as she celebrates Mother’s Day, Mary Ann holds dear one year when Danny was about 5 years old.
He had walked to Oakley’s, a former variety store at Seventh and Hulman Streets, with 25 cents and bought three plastic hyacinths for her.
“He came running to me, holding them tight in his hand, so thrilled that he had a chance to buy me something for Mother’s Day,” Mary Ann said. “I still have them,” she said, producing one of the flowers after a quick trip to a “junk room” in her home.
Asked about her memories of Danny, like many mothers, she remembers all the childhood accidents, the boo-boos.
Brakes on his bicycle locked, sending him sailing over the top, causing a slight concussion. He fell while playing basketball in Fairbanks Park. He stepped on nails, twice, but years apart, in his backyard. That, she said, was a result of her husband, Tommy Tanoos, who was always adding on to their home in the 1700 block of South 10th Street.
“He was also the luckiest kid. Danny was sitting out in front of the house one day, probably 5 or 6 years old, and he came in just about the time half the tree fell right where he was sitting,” Mary Ann said.
In another incident, when about 8 years old, Danny accidentally stapled his thumb while playing with a stapler on his way home from school.
His grandparents, who he called Jiddo for grandfather and Sitto for grandmother, used a pair of pliers to pull out the staple. The grandparents owned a nearby grocery store, Tanoos’ Market, at 10th and Hulman Streets. Mary Ann’s parents, the Nassers, also owned a grocery store, Tom’s Food Market, several blocks away.
Now Mary Ann and Tommy are called Sitto and Jiddo by their grandchildren.
Mary Ann, 78, is a 1951 graduate of the former Wiley High School. She did not attend college, nor did her husband, who did not finish high school, but joined the U.S. Army. Tommy later earned a general equivalent degree and became a Terre Haute police officer, serving for 28 years.
Mary Ann attended parochial school at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for her first eight years in school. “I was raised in a parochial school only because my parents were from the old country [Syria], and they didn’t like the public school,” she said.
“My Christian background, I think, has helped me, and the nuns really pounded it in you. The nuns were so good, and the priests were so nice to my mother and father knowing they came from the old country. I think that is where I get that ‘You go to [church] on Sunday morning and don’t miss the holy days,’ ” she said.
She and her husband and family are members of St. George’s Orthodox Church. Mary Ann and Tommy have been married 58 years. Mary Ann worked on and off at the former Reuben H. Donnelley printing company when first married. Then after her youngest boy was in kindergarten, she returned to the workforce at the former Great Scot grocery store.
Looking back, Danny, now 54, showed an early sign of motivation, Mary Ann said.
“He was always the funny one and the more active one, I’d say. I always got up early and made breakfast and turned the radio on, and he’d come through, dancing and dancing, and go to the bathroom while all the other [siblings] were like “uhhh, uhhh,” slow to wake, she said.
“I expected he would be a teacher or lawyer. He made really good grades, and Tony made excellent grades too. They were very, very close as they were only 19 months apart. They had the same friends, same interests, and I think they played together well,” Mary Ann said.
“I think a lot of [Danny’s] drive came from his father. He was always adding a room or tearing this or that down on the house. He would make the boys help him. They got to the point where they said, ‘Dad, we don’t like this kind of work.’ He said, ‘Then, well you have to go to college and use your brain or you will be doing what I am doing now,’” Mary Ann said.
“If you want to do something without hammers and nails, which is not a bad profession, [that’s fine] but if you want to work hard like this, don’t go to college. If you get a degree, you can do whatever you want,” Mary Ann said.
Danny said his mother instilled the “importance of our church in our life,” he said. “It was a matter of ensuring we went to church every Sunday and going to Bible school, even though it was not at our church, in the summer time.
“I think some of my fondest memories is watching my mom sing in the choir. She has the most beautiful voice you ever heard in your life,” Danny said of his mom’s soprano.
Danny said his parents instilled the importance of family and staying together. “They always ensured that we had a summer vacation together,” he said.
One vacation stands out. Danny’s father had a 1963 green Chevrolet with no floorboards in the back seat. “We were going to the Smoky Mountains for a vacation. Dad had soldered in pieces of aluminum and wood and all the way there we had to keep our feet off the ground, because we were afraid it would fall through” onto the road, Danny said.
In the home, Mary Ann picked up all clothes, did the laundry, cooked all the meals and made the beds, Danny said. “I got a teaching job at age 21 at Ben Franklin School. I didn’t move out until I got married. Why would I? Mom would hang my clothes up and dinner would be made,” Danny said with a smile.
“I think she has always been the strength of the family, the backbone,” Danny said. “My dad is a great man and has instilled a lot of great things in us, but they say behind every great man is a great woman, and in this case, that is without question,” Danny said.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.