From Anthony Portatino:
Sadly, I share the news that my mother Barbara died Friday. She was 81 years old and she had a very full life. Barbara maintained her positive spirit to the end. Many of you met her during her visits to California, were extremely kind to her while she was here, continued to inquire about her and sent your prayers often this past year. My entire family thanks you for your warmth toward our Mom. I was very glad that Ellen, Sofia, Bella and I surprised her on Christmas morning. The girls, wearing bows in their hair, were her presents. Christmas and the two days after it were about the last three days she was up and active. Unfortunately, in the past three weeks, she experienced a quick and deep decline. My brother Phil and my sister-in-law Nancy were by her side when she left us.
As many of you know, my dad died when I was eleven, leaving Barbara and four children with limited means. She did a remarkable job as the foundation of our family and as our nurturing parent. Three of her four children graduated from college and the fourth went on to be a very successful entrepreneur. My oldest brother Phil, who was a high school senior when my dad died, became only the second person in our extended family to graduate from college. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, Mom helped her own mother run a small rooming house. Her father died when she was seven. She graduated from high school in 1950 and became a secretary in New York City. She met my dad, Tony at a Fort Monmouth mixer. The rest, as they say, is history. She quit her job and became a traditional Italian American mom raising Philip, MaryAnn, Michael and me through the 1960′s and 1970′s. I think she did a remarkable job. She loved making Halloween costumes. Almost every year, one of the four of us would win a trophy because of her work. Thanksgiving was a day robustly celebrated at our house with pasta and turkey on the menu. Every Sunday, I came home from church to a frying pan full of meatballs, quickly eaten while I watched the weekly Abbott and Costello movie shown Sunday afternoons at that time.
She never missed a Little League game, Pop Warner football game, or high school event that featured one of her children. She instilled in all of us a positive spirit and warmth that we carry as her legacy each and every day. A truly amazing woman, my mother survived an extremely difficult adolescence and the death of her husband with an uncanny ability to see the best in all people and an amazing belief in her children. She was not a complex person, but inspired big dreams for everyone she touched. In our large Italian family, there is always someone mad at someone else, but no one throughout the last 80 years ever got upset at my mother. She was the one person to whom everyone stopped by to visit with or pay their respects. I am very grateful to all of her childhood friends, my cousins, aunts and uncles who continually visited her in the nursing home this past year. She was truly a “good soul,” as the old Italians would say.