Mom’s family was originally from Sicily, Italy. She was born on July 14th in 1924 in Portage, Pennsylvania. When the family moved to Akron, Ohio in 1942, her father opened a family Italian Grocery store. Mom didn’t want to work in the store, so she enrolled in the Hammond Academy of Cosmetology. She eventually opened her own Beauty Shop, which she owned for 9 years. Her shop was next door to Gene Kelley’s Dance Studio, and they became long-time friends. She rode the train to work everyday with her best friend, Janet Leigh, who became a famous actress. But mom’s true love was music, so she attended Akron University and studied Music Appreciation.
But her real story began in 1944 when Mom attended a Sadie Hawkins Day Dance at the Sicilian Club. This is where she met Carmen Rizzo. His brother Dominic’s band was playing, and Carmen was home on furlough from the Army. It was at this dance, they met and fell in love. It was love at first sight. They were engaged two weeks later and wrote letters daily for two years. They always made a point to look at the moon at the same time and date. They married in 1946. With dad’s career as National Merchandising Manager for McKesson, they were able to travel to many places. They also vacationed in Hawaii, Italy, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Europe.
Mom was an Organist at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and Assumption Church in Westport, Connecticut. Here, she also directed a 52 voice choir for 7 years and also taught 3rd and 4th grade. In Walnut Creek, California, she was the Music Director for St. Mary’s Church and School in Walnut Creek, California for 14 years. Her students adored her. In fact, our Christmas tree was always filled with ornaments from her students of many years.
Once retired, she taught piano from her home and was the Organist/Choir Director for the United States Navy’s Station Chapel in Concord, California. She also found time to volunteer at the Senior Center where she chaired several Talent Shows, Fashion Shows, and Crafts Shows.
Mom will be best known for her beautiful silver gray hair and angelic singing voice. Some of her many talents were writing music, playing the piano and the organ at several Church services, and planning many musical productions.
She never went anywhere without her lipstick. Her strands of pearls were her favorite accessory, and today, all of her daughters and granddaughters are each wearing pearls from her collection.
Mom has touched the lives of many and will always be remembered as a caring and loving wife, mother, ‘nana’, sister, and teacher. She will be with us always, as each of us carry one of her greatest qualities.