When Milt was a rather exuberant young musician, Mona made him behave himself, save his money, take care of business. Irene Leeman, married for years to the great (and under-acknowledged) drummer Cliff, said recently, “Mona was always pushing and encouraging Milt. ‘Get out there, Judge, and sing that song. Take another solo, Judge.'” Milt was a wonderful player and warm personality, but Mona’s loving prodding no doubt made him the beloved public figure he was.
My good friend Stu Zimny, a fine bass player who took a few lessons (and a good deal of on-the-spot spiritual guidance) from Milt, told me about being the happy recipient of Milt and Mona’s generosity. And, he has emphasized more than once, her fried chicken was delicious, her portions generous.
When I saw Milt at an outdoor concert in 1981 in Glen Cove, New York (he was with Dick Hyman, Joe Wilder, Phil Bodner, and Bobby Rosengarden) I asked him, “Where’s Mona?” not seeing her anywhere. With some amusement, Milt said, “Oh, man, she’s heard all my shit already.”
People like Mona — loving, generous — should always be celebrated. We’ll miss her!