Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Josephine M. DiLeo - January 29, 1919 - August 19, 2009

Jo on her 90th birthday.
(Photo from Flo).

Jo visiting with Jackie, Deirdre and Deco in Boston in 2005. Also pictured with our friend Jil.

Jo was a wonderful mother (to 3), grandmother (to 7), and great-grandmother (to 12). Many of us have sweet memories of her, and stories about her generous and loving spirit.

From Jackie:
I remember how our house was always filled with people and my mom would be in the kitchen cooking one of her delicious meals. She loved having her family and friends around - she was truly a people-person.
She was like a mother to some of the tenants who rented the apartment in our house. This included airline stewardesses and pilots working at nearby LaGuardia who would often have dinner with us.
I was always bringing home stray animals, and Mom would try to put her foot down and tell me not to feed them or get too attached. But then she would end up feeding them herself, after the stray and I worked on her!
Her earlier life was difficult - she lost her mother at 15. She took care of her younger brother who was only 6, and her disabled father during the Depression. They managed to keep their home, and my mom worked at different jobs. She told me she used to put cardboard in her shoes because they didn't have money for new ones.
She had many stories about growing up in Manhattan. She loved the marble public baths on 5th Avenue. She said the showers were very clean. She remembered just bringing a towel and soap.
She played in the yard of the synagogue across the street from where she lived on 62nd St. and 1st Ave. Her father owned a store around the corner. In the back of the store he fed the Italian immigrants who were here without their families. Every day my mother brought his supper that my grandmother made.
My mother was named after her mother's brother Joseph who was killed on the streets of NY on July 4th by the Mafia. When my grandmother was pregnant with her, they were threatened by the Black Hand (Mafia) and my grandfather bought tickets to go back to Sicily. Friends talked them out of it, so my mother was born here instead of in Sicily. When she was a little girl, she was very pretty and they would put her in the Feast of St Anthony parades as an angel, with her banana ringlets.

Her first love was people, but she also loved traveling...her, especially Candy and Fluffy...the casino...laughing (she had a great sense of humor and a contagious laugh)....her favorite thing was the stock market and she watched it instead of soap operas! She liked old movies - especially A Summer Place.

Many of my friends who met Mom loved her and stayed in touch with her. She was able to make friends wherever she went. Once when she came to visit us in Boston, she came out in a wheelchair with the stewardesses and pilot accompanying her! Her joy and genuine interest in people touched so many. I will miss her, but am happy to know she is with our brother Chet and Dad, and her parents.

From Deirdre:
As soon as I met Jo, I felt that she was a kind and accepting person. I knew that I was really part of the family when she taught me to make the dishes she taught all her daughters-in-law - including the very special Finocchio con sarde (fennel with sardines - it was really yummy!). We went to the North End in Boston to get the ingredients, and she chatted with the shop owners in Italian.
I loved her stories - my favorite is of the day she eloped with her husband. They didn't tell anyone what was going on, but they secretly set up an apartment. She had to do all her usual chores, including preparing a meal for her father and some friends, and then she took a bus downtown to get married.
Her memory for detail was pretty amazing, and she could paint a really clear picture of her earlier life in New York City. Despite the pain and sadness she experienced, she managed to delight in others, express her joy in being with people, and she always seemed to have a glow that came from deep inside (she also had incredibly smooth and beautiful skin - at 90!)
I am grateful to have known her and to have spent some time with her. We had a wonderful trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, and she came a few times to Boston to see us. We have some great memories of our times with her, and we will miss her.