Our entire family feels blessed to have had our beautiful mother with us, and it is with great sadness that we announce her passing at age 94. Born on Christmas Day at her grandmother's house in Elm, NJ, she was the first of two daughters born to Tom (Gaetano) and Jeanette Grasso. Named Caroline Rita, she excelled at academics and was a lifelong learner. A vibrant, happy and humble woman, she asked for nothing but gave everyone her beautiful smile, a welcoming hug, and a laugh everyone remembers. She was married for nearly 70 years to her husband, Benjamin, a WWII Veteran who served his country in the United States Army. Sadly he preceded her in death in 2021.
She was a proud Italian American, born into a family of several first generation immigrants. Her mother was one of 11 children and her father one of 13, resulting in a wonderful childhood filled with cousins, aunts and uncles, several of whom were the same ages and she and her sister. They were a hardworking, close-knit Catholic family, instilled with the pride of becoming Americans. They passed on to us the values of honesty, loyalty and kindness to others for which we are truly grateful.
She is survived by her sister Helen Rigolizzo of Berlin, NJ, four years her junior, with whom she was very close. After completing secondary education she began what would become her nearly lifetime career in the legal field. As a young secretary, her friend and co-worker Helen Nutter asked to her to come to dinner at her home in Camden, NJ before a dance, explaining that her twin brother would be there, but he was very quiet and reserved. As it would happen, her friend introduced her that night to the surprisingly talkative love of her life, and they would be married in 1951. Just 10 months later they welcomed the first of their three children, Linda (Lyn), Robert and David whom they raised in Cherry Hill, NJ. She is survived by all three children, 6 precious grandchildren whom she adored, and her great grandchildren ranging in age from 1 to 17 years. Of all the things in her life, her family was the most important, lighting up whenever any of her children came into the room, delighted to be a part of their lives and thrilled to celebrate those occasions when we could all be together. She was the most loving mother, wife, sister, aunt, mother-in-law, Godmother to John Rigolizzo and JoAnn Rigolizzo Guerenlian, grandmother, and loving champion of all of their dreams.
She was a two time breast cancer survivor, overcame the disease and ran the Komen 5K in San Diego three times after she and her husband moved to CA in the late 1980's. Of all the places the two of them would live or visit over the years, her very favorite was Hawaii and they would visit often after their first time in 1986. Her favorite flowers were gardenias and orchids, favorite rose was Mister Lincoln, music was swing band sounds especially by Artie Shaw and his orchestra, favorite respite was the garden, and later in life she was drawn to the beautiful classical operas, notably when performed in Italian by Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli. A highlight in her life came when her children treated them to a performance of The Three Tenors. She adored her two sons and loved their many visits to her, and her daughter who was privileged to be with her nearly every day for the last years of her life.
She lived her life in gratitude, happy in almost every situation and found the bright side in every challenge. We loved her dearly, and will miss her smile which she still offered to all of us daily. In the end, her loving caregivers, nurses and friends gained as much from her strength as her family did and are only glad that she is at last reunited with her husband and sweetheart, never to be separated again.
Donations may be made to Alzhieimer's San Diego (ALZSD) in her name. Her services will be held at the Miramar National Cemetery on Friday, May 19 at 11:15am. We gratefully acknowledge and thank our many friends and loved ones who have cared for and loved her as much as we always will.