A tribute to...

Carmela Rossi

Published: 19/12/2022

Eulogy for Carmela Rossi (nee Vinciguerra) delivered by Peter Rossi and Maria Montatore at St Ignatius Catholic Church corner of William and Queen Streets, Norwood on Wednesday 9th December, 2021.  

Our much-loved and adored mum, nonna and bisnonna was born in Torre Annunziata, Italy a town located on the bay of Naples, not far from Pompeii on the 7th of July 1926.   

Mum was one of nine children. Her father Felice died when she was eleven and to make ends meet her mother Maria along with her older sisters would make and sell items of clothing. The importance of family unity was reinforced during these difficult years. As a consequence, mum was extremely family oriented and strongly instilled this in us.  

As a teenager mum lived through the second world war. Her recollection of this time was horrific as she experienced a lot of fear and poverty. She also considered herself very lucky to survive as during one of the air-raids a bomb landed between their apartment building and an adjacent one but failed to detonate. Mum often talked about how they cheated death that day and was grateful to have had the opportunity to forge a beautiful life in Australia.  

In late 1956, at the age of thirty, she migrated to Australia, meeting up with two of her younger sisters, my Zia Clara and Zia Rosalia and their families in a quest for a better life. As fate would have it, she met dad, and, after a short courtship, married in July 1958. In the years that followed they formed their family with my arrival and then some years later my sister Maria was born.  

Food was extremely important in mum's world, and we regularly ate her homemade pasta and sweets. Her lasagna and rice cake were the absolute best. Anytime you visited her at home the first thing she would ask was if you were hungry and no matter what the response, she would start preparing you a plate of food. The rumour was that I would make it a habit to visit mum just before lunch whenever I needed a feed.  

Then there were our fond memories of mum on sauce making days. On these days she was more interested in making coffee and breakfast for everyone and preparing pasta with the freshly made sauce which we enjoyed at the end of the day than making the sauce. This was much to the frustration of our dad who was more focused on the workflow needing to happen to get the job completed.  

Mum's faith was important to her. There were quite a number of religious symbols around her house, particularly in her bedroom. This included a crucifix, a figurine of the Madonna, a Last Supper wall light, numerous religious cards and medallions of her favourite saints. In her latter years, while still living in her home, you would find her listening to Italian Mass on her radio on a Sunday morning. When she moved to Milpara aged care facility she would attend the weekly Mass service irrespective of whether it was an Anglican, Methodist or Catholic service. We never had the heart to try and explain the situation given the confusion it would have created due to her dementia. She also regularly received Holy communion from a church volunteer who would visit her at Milpara.

Mum was an intensely doting mother and grandmother. She would take great pride displaying clippings of our achievements, birthday invitations and photographs of the family on the fridge, which were then placed in her photo albums.  

Mum enjoyed listening to music on the Italian radio station and whenever you visited her the radio in the kitchen would be blaring. You would also occasionally catch her singing some of her favourite Dean Martin songs such as 'Volare', 'Arrivederci Roma' and 'That's amore' as well as, Doris Day's song 'Que Sera Sera'.  

On July 20th 2001, dad passed away. No-one could have predicted mum's true strength and that she would outlive dad by over 20 years. With our help and support, mum's determination, resilience and 'will to live' grew stronger. Even when everyday tasks became more challenging due to her arthritis, she never complained, was resourceful, and learnt to solve problems in an endeavour to not burden us. Mum would celebrate even the smallest of achievements, such as her method of unscrewing a tight lid, and proudly shared this with us.   

As mum neared 90 years of age, she decided that she needed greater care and hence, she became a resident at Milpara. She enjoyed dancing, listening to visiting bands and the children from Emali sing, colouring in, and other activities offered at the nursing home. Often when visiting, we were going between upstairs and downstairs to find her. Even when she slowed down, she still spent time walking up and down the corridors with her walker. Mum loved being active and had a real zest for life.

In September of this year, Mum had a bout of pneumonia and was hospitalised. With the help of medical staff and her own determination, she fought this setback. Once returning to Milpara, Peter and I were able to gain exemption which meant we could see Mum at any time and not be limited by visiting hours. This enabled us to take turns to feed Mum at the nursing home as often as we could. This was a very special and precious time for us which I'm sure we will both treasure. It didn't matter to us if she didn't know who we were or if she thought we were carers, she would thank us and look forward to seeing us the following time. I recall recently asking her about her children, 'Are they good kids?' I said, 'Oh yeah', she replied without any hesitation.   

A few days ago, I found Dad's memorial card in Mum's bag while I was going through her belongings from the nursing home. This brought a smile to my face as I realised that Dad had been with her right until the end. 

Mum was a remarkable woman, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, auntie, and friend to many. Mum has been an integral part of our lives and we will miss her dearly. Everyone who knew her was touched by Mum's kind and caring nature, and you all have a special place in her heart.   

We love you Mum and appreciate all you have done for us over the years. Thank you for your generosity and loving care. You mean so much to us and we will always hold you dear to our hearts. We will treasure our fond memories of you and have been spoilt by your presence for so long. Now it is time for you to enter God's heavenly kingdom and be reunited with Dad. May you rest in peace.  

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