Eulogy of Olga Stanganelli as delivered by Steve Stanganelli, June 7, 2017:
Today, we’re here to remember a good woman who recently celebrated the forty-fifth anniversary of her 39th birthday. A life filled with love. An enduring love and devotion for her family … her seven brothers and sisters, her husband and dance partner of 55 years, her sons, Joe, who she called her “sunshine” and her “rock”, her younger son, Steven the squawker and “apple of her eye” and finally her grandchildren.
Hers was not an extraordinary life. But she was OK with that. It didn’t have to be. She was not destined to do “great” things but she did do so many “good” things greatly and touched so many lives.
All who met her will agree that what stands out when you think of Olga was her boundless almost exhausting energy, her quick and ready smile and devotion to her family through thick and thin.
From her journals – i.e notes on her calendars and photo albums: “I had a good life. Freddie and my two sons were my world. I love them.”
That world like her heart expanded when her grandchildren came along … more so when her granddaughter was born, her “little girl and jewel and little flirt”, the first in a family of all boys.
It is said that wealth is best measured not by material possessions but by the connections you make in life. In that Olga was wealthy beyond measure. If you found her in a shopping aisle, she would chat you up and make you a life-long friend. I can’t tell you the number of times, I would visit and she would introduce me to her new friend she met shopping that day. Two ladies just gabbing away over coffee. And if you said you needed something, she was quick to give it to you. That’s how we lost the parts to a spare dishwasher at home once.
She was not intimidated by authorities. Once she was called down to Holy Rosary by the nuns because my brother got into a fight in the playground. She went down, listened to the nun and then turned to Joe and said, “No fighting on school grounds. Hit him once you step outside the wall.” She then turned to the nun and said, “Will that work?”. A stunned nun simply said “yes”.
She instilled in us two enduring values: education and respect. She never pressured us but told us to do our best. She didn’t care what we did with our lives as long as we were happy and were “good” to each other and to other people.
She was never one who was impressed by material possessions. As she liked to say, “I can have everything the rich have but for my level.” And she did. New cars every now and then, beach-side vacations at Old Orchard Beach, a home she owned and some travel to faraway places like Florida, Hawaii and Italy where she would go to indulge at McDonald’s. The travel part was a bit surprising since she walked away from the plane that was going to take them to Florida for their honeymoon so many years before.
She was the motivation that moved our tiny family to the “suburbs,” first Prospect Hill, Lawrence and then a new home in Methuen. There was no sacrifice she and Fred would not make for her kids. She and Fred supported us in every endeavor, after-school projects, business ventures and even buying our homes.
I don’t want to give the impression that she was a saint. She wasn’t. She’d be the first to admit that. If you wronged her family, you were on the list, cut off and ignored by her. And all those magazines she had, she “borrowed” them from her doctors’ offices.
And for all her good qualities, there was one thing she really couldn’t do: cook. Unless it had sauce on it.
She made up for this with her nearly single-minded focus on keeping a clean home. While my father would run around with us doing errands or bringing us to this or that school thing, she was cleaning. If my brother were working on some home improvement or repair, she was there helping out … typically with a broom while you were working to sweep up the nails or screws you needed for the project. She hated clutter which is why when she saw a box of parts hanging around for our pool that we had recently repaired, she threw them out.
But I think that all the cleaning was because it was her therapy … dealing with three men in the house. And because our home was the center of events. We had birthdays and holidays there. I can’t remember a weekend when there weren’t friends or family visiting.
As she wrote in that “journal”, “We were a close family. Visiting all the time.”
Another thing about Olga, she never really had a great sense of humor. She could never get a joke or understand a punch line. And in a house with Fred’s one-liners that was hard as they always flew over her head.
But she used to like to tell this one. “I used to say I had a baby on February 4 and got married on February 5th” just to get a laugh. Of course, she wouldn’t tell people that it was one year apart. She liked the shock value.
Those who know Olga may recall that she’s had a tough road these past six years. While she cherished the time with her family, especially those grandchildren, she seemed lost without her Freddie.
Every June she seemed to write the same thing:
“I’m ready. I’ve lived too long. It’s time to go.”
“I want to go and take care of Freddie.”
“When I die, quiet … go out with the biggest trip. Beautiful to be born, grateful to live. Best of all live, love, be happy. Freddie did. I will, too!”
“God let me go peacefully. I loved having my children, the best.”
Early last Friday morning God granted her that final wish.
We each come into this world with nothing and we leave with little more. In between, we can only hope to make the world a little better place for having been here, bringing a smile to those who remember us. Olga did.
So, in her memory, do something nice for someone, say hello to that stranger in the store aisle, hug your kids and be nice to one another. Or go get lunch and an ice cream for McDonald’s. She would.
Oobla Dee, Oobla Daa, Life Goes On.