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He was also very particular and very perfectionist, and sometimes kind of difficult.” But, she adds, “that was good.I learned a lot from him.” From her mother, who passed away in 2007 and was a familiar guest on Stewart’s TV show, she learned the domestic arts that she would go on to enshrine in books, magazines and television programs.If you’ve ever had the sense that she anticipated your needs before you did—a cookbook so pretty you could display it on your coffee table, stylish kitchen utensils whose good looks matched their utility, handmade crafts that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to show to friends—you were probably right.Stewart was born in Jersey City in 1941, the second in a family of six children, to Edward Kostyra, a pharmaceuticals salesman, and his wife, Martha, an elementary school teacher and homemaker.It’s a Thursday morning and Martha Stewart is being driven to the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan to film a segment on quilts for her daily show on the Hallmark Channel.Of course, given that she’s Martha Stewart, she’s also talking to a reporter on her cell phone and probably doing two or three other things at the same time, all with equal aplomb.
She was the cook and she sewed our clothes and did all the laundry.” It’s no small irony that Stewart’s mother, the very model of ’50s domesticity, could not wait to get out of the house.
Sam Stellatella, who dated Stewart when she was a senior in high school and now lives in Toms River, remembers her as “beautiful and wholesome.” Apparently, when Stewart was not gardening with her father or learning to cook from her mother, she was hitting the books or enjoying the modest entertainments that Nutley offered in mid-century.
As a child, she caught crayfish and tadpoles in a local brook, skated on the pond still known as the Mud Hole, went to high school football games and bonfires and earned her Red Cross badges in the town’s only public pool—on the old grounds of International Telephone and Telegraph.
The list goes on: “I was on the student council and I ran for president of the class—you know, all that stuff.” “That stuff” included being one of the few kids in her class to make it all the way to Latin V, which she achieved while earning extra money after school by modeling at Bonwit Teller.
Charles Kucinski, a current member of the Nutley Board of Education and a former classmate of Stewart’s, remembers, “You could tell even then she’d be successful….
“He was an intellectual,” she says, “and he was also active.