Mary Rencic (née Kirincich), 82, passed away on Monday, May 3, at her home in Berlin, New Jersey. She was the beloved wife of the late Joseph Rencic. She is survived by her loving children, Adrienne (Chris Lutcavage), Joseph (Varsha Vimalananda), and Kristina (Dave Sracic), her grandchildren, Nicholas, Lexy, Satya, John, Mina, and Andrew.
Mary was born April 16, 1939, to Ivan Kirincich and Ante Brnic in Sveti Ivan, on the island of Krk, in Croatia. She was an only child. Mary immigrated to the United States with her mother in 1948, at the age of nine, traveling on the first ship to leave the former Yugoslavia after World War II. She met her father for the first time when he greeted her and her mother at the port in Camden, New Jersey.
Mary spoke no English until she began attending elementary school. She often told her grandchildren that she learned English by reading superhero comics and going to weekly matinees at the movie theater with neighbors. She graduated from Camden Catholic High School in 1957 where she was a member of the debate team. Mary attended Douglass College (a women’s college and now part of Rutgers University) and graduated in 1961. She began a career as a high school teacher. In addition to teaching History, Mary took great pride in being an English teacher, after having learned English as a second language herself. Mary continued her own education, earning all credits required for a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania except - ironically - credits for mastery of a foreign language because her native Croatian and the Latin she learned in high school did not count. This was a story that never grew old, and always elicited a smile in Mary’s telling of it.
In 1967, Mare, a friend of Mary’s mother, asked if Mary could help her newly immigrated nephew, Joe, navigate his way in America. Soon after this, Mary and he began dating and married on St. Peter’s day (Petrova), June 29,1968, the feast day for his village of Gabonjin. A year later Mary gave birth to their daughter Adrienne, and three years after that their son, Joseph. On December 4, 1978, Mary gave birth to their daughter Kristina.
Mary took some time off from teaching to care for her children and her elderly mother. Throughout that time, she was a substitute teacher at many schools in the area, but most often at Eastern High School and Berlin Community School. Mary’s sense of humor shone through when she was often asked whether she was Kristina’s mom, to which she would always answer, “No. Who is she?” Mary and Joe also hosted many exchange students over the years from Germany, Spain, and Croatia. She used her knowledge of American history to teach these students and served as a tour guide when she took them to historical sites in Philadelphia. She was a volunteer at the Marie Fleche Library for many years. In 1997, Mary accepted a job as the Director of the Library, where she served for fifteen years until 2012.
Mary loved the family beach house in Sea Isle City, which Joe designed and built himself. Her favorite pastime was sitting on her porch reading books or magazines and enjoying the view. As her children and grandchildren enjoyed the beach, Mary was always busy preparing lunch and dinner. You could always find Mom suntanning on the porch as she cut vegetables and prepared fresh fish that Joe got from his fisherman friends.
Mary and Joe returned to Croatia frequently with the entire family to visit family, and to share the Croatian culture with their children and grandchildren. Mary really enjoyed her last trip there in 2012, when she helped Joe fulfill his mother’s wish of renovating and furnishing the home of his birth.
Mary was an avid cook and baker. She was best known for her crepes, cheesecake, and her chicken soup. She enjoyed picking fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and Nona’s yellow beans from their garden. After retirement, Mary particularly enjoyed reading and spending time with her grandchildren, especially down the shore. Mary and Joe had an open door policy and loved spending time with friends and family. Whether it was a glass of Joe’s red wine, garden veggies, or Mary’s crepes, no one ever left the Rencic house hungry or thirsty. She was a faithful woman whose life was guided by the tenets of Christianity. Mary was a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother doting on her children and her grandchildren, who were her constant pride and joy. Above all, she was a kind, loving, and generous person who always placed others before herself. Mary has served as the consummate role model for her children and grandchildren. She will be missed but her memory will be kept strong by those she touched.
Services and interment in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Berlin NJ will take place privately. In lieu of flowers, contributions to either the Marie Fleche Memorial Library at 49 S. White Horse Pike Berlin NJ 08009 or St. Simon Stock Parish at 178 W. White Horse Pike Berlin NJ 08009 would be appreciated. Arrangements under the direction of the COSTANTINO-PRIMO FUNERAL HOME, BERLIN NJ. To leave lasting condolences or photos, please use the links on this page.