Monday, July 16, 2012

Arriverderci GG

Nancy M. Giannuzzi
November 17, 1920 - July 6, 2012

Nancy Giannuzzi, a beautiful Italian women who had an incredible adventure with 91 years worth of stories to tell.  

My mother-in-law, Madalyn wrote this eulogy:

What a Life!
What a Character!
The quintessential Italian momma.
Nancy, Momma Mia, Mom, Sis, Giannutz, Grandma and Gigi.
She answered to all of these titles and had a personality to fill her assorted roles.
Her most recent nickname, Gigi, came about as a result of becoming a great-grandma – the G.G. stood  for Grandma Giannuzzi as well.  It just seemed to fit her 4'6” frame.

Think of how the world has changed in 91 years.
Gigi spent her childhood living near her grandparents farm on the island of Ischia.  It was a happy time.
She spoke of the vineyards, the chickens and rabbits as fond memories.
She recalled her grandmother baking bread every morning and preparing the noon meal for her husband and their workers.  They even had a horse drawn cart.

Happy times for Gigi but not so for her father, Ernesto.  Work was scarce and he knew that the dictators Mussolini and Hitler were power hungry.  He looked to America as a brighter future for his family.  It took him eight years to get everything in order to bring his family along.  In those years, the family only saw him occasionally.

Gigi never received a formal education.  She went to school in Italy, but, the focus was placed on domestic duties.  As a result, she became a fine seamstress and cook.

In 1936, Gigi, who was seventeen at the time, her mother Angelina and two younger brothers Ernie and Frank came to New York.
They didn't enter through Ellis Island, since they already had their paperwork in order.  They were docked nearby.  Gigi recalls seeing the throngs of people entering Ellis Island.  A younger brother, Anthony, was born in America, in 1939.  My uncle Frank is now the only one remaining and he resides in Florida with his wife, Emily.

Ernesto attained the American Dream.  He ran a little candy store in New York and the family lived above it.
One day some men paid him a visit and commented on his large picture window – they told him that he needed to buy insurance just in case the window was ever broken.  He sent them on their way and, a few days later, his window was shattered.  The men returned and said he needed them to insure that his window would not be broken again.      
This extortion continued until Ernesto just couldn't take it anymore and he eventually moved the family to Connecticut.
My grandfather had an expression:
He would shrug his shoulders and say, “What are you going to do?”

Gigi was married and divorced twice.  So, as a single mom she raised, Rudy, myself and Angie with the help of her mother, Angelina.  She worked assorted jobs as the years progressed.

In the spring of 1956, the family moved to California and settled in Torrance where the three of us kids grew up. 

We eventually met the Scotto family.  Tom & Nancy used to raise rabbits in their backyard and my mom and grandma became regular customers of theirs.  Some of my earliest memories are of us running down the aisles of rabbits in their pens.

Gigi and Nancy Scotto became fast friends – and they , also, got into the best shouting matches.  One of them would say to the other, “Oh, shut up.” – the other would respond with, “No, you shut up.”  And back and forth they would go!

It was always on the tip of my tongue to say, “Maybe you should both shut up.”  But, I was just a kid at the time and after all – as pop would say, “What was I going to do?”

When Gigi was 51, she met and married Bill Giannuzzi – her knight in shining armor.  They lived happily for 16 years until he passed, in 1986.  We all loved him and miss him dearly.

You, all, honor us with your presence today.  Many of you have traveled hundreds of miles and I can't tell you how appreciative we are of your efforts.  Your sentiments have really bolstered us.

Our friend, Anna made arrangements to have a candle lit at an Italian church near Tuscany, Italy.  Mom would have loved that!

I want to thank my family for their unwavering support.

I also want to thank Rod and Teme Christiansen who have been Gigi's caregivers for the past 15 months.
Because of their efforts, she was able to attend Michelle & James's wedding.
She couldn't get up and dance on her feet anymore, so, she danced with her hands.
At  Anthony & Karen's wedding she attempted to catch the bouquet.
And, at Dominic & Julie's wedding she danced as much as possible.

Last year was a particularly rough one for Gigi.  In March, she fell and broke her left hip and arm and then in November she fell and broke her right hip.

The skilled nursing facility had a name for patients like Gigi.

They called them Falling Stars.

So, as the song suggests, I will catch her falling star and put it in my pocket and never let it fade away!

 Aunt Angie got up and spoke and emphasized the love G.G had for everyone and the warm greeting she always gave.  She mentioned they were not rich monetarily but they were certainly rich in love.

I didn't take any pictures inside the mortuary but I snapped a few at the mauzeoleum where she was laid to rest. 

Dominic(Anthony's twin), Kevin(cousin) and Anthony were pallbearers.  

After 2 days of stormy, cloudy weather, we were greated with a beautiful sunset as the family all gathered together at an Italian restaurant for dinner after the funeral.

Here is the video slideshow I put together for the memorial service. 

I'd like the memory of me
to be a happy one,
I'd like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.
I'd like ot leave an echo 
whispering softly down the way,
Of happy times and laughing
times and bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun,
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.

Arriverderci G.G, you will be missed!!
Thank you for all of your love!


  1. karen this brought tears to my eyes. she sounds like she was an amazing woman.
    eternal be her memory.
    sending thoughts and prayers your way.

  2. Beautifully written. The slideshow was incredible as well. Madalyn & Angie were wonderful. The thing that everyone could agree on was what a warm, giving, loving and genuinely wonderful woman she was. I'm crying all over again. I'll miss those great hugs!

  3. What a beautiful life and story. Thank you for sharing!!

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss, but what a beautiful life she lived. Such a loving, wonderful post about her.

  5. So sorry to hear about your loss. I am sure she is just resting in a better place :) where the sunsets are just as beautiful as that picture you took!! Hoping your family is surrounded by love and sweet memories during this time. xoxo <3

  6. Karen, I am so sorry for you and your family's loss. Thank you for sharing such a special and sentimental story. I watched the video and had tears in my eyes the whole time. You could see she is so full of life and love. Made me :)
    Thinking of you and sending prayers your way.

  7. A life well LIVED and that can make anyone cry but with tears of joy.

  8. I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like such an amazing women. I loved the poem at the end.

  9. What a beautiful woman she was!! My condolences to you and your family xx

  10. Karen, I am sorry for your loss. She sounds like one incredible lady who will be greatly missed by one special family! Hugs, friend.

  11. awwww so sad for you friend! She sounds like such a great blessing!!

  12. ah karen i'm sorry for your loss. she sounds like she was a wonderful life, so full of spirit and love. anyone who is buried in a purple casket says to me they lived life to the fullest and didn't take it too seriously. may your memories of her help you during this time

  13. I am so sorry for your family's loss but what a beautiful tribute and service for her. You're all in my prayers. I have a grandma who is 94 and I often think about how amazing it is the things they have seen and how much the world has changed in their life.

  14. Sorry for you loss. She looks like she was a very vibrant woman!


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