March 05, 1910 - February 10, 2012
March 05, 1910 - February 10, 2012
Elena Danisi Crimi crossed over to the realm of the ancestors on February 10, 2012, at 12:15 a.m. She made her transition peacefully after a brief few hours at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, NY, less than a month shy of her 102nd birthday.
She was born Elena Danisi on March 5, 1910 in her home at 1748 First Avenue, between 91st and 92nd Streets in New York City. Elena was the youngest of six children born of Domenica Sangirardi Danisi and Francesco Danisi, who had lived and married in Bari, Italy, and immigrated to the United States in 1903 and 1908, respectively. Her siblings included Eugenia, Vito, Angela, Giuseppe, and Rosamaria. One of her family stories, fondly shared by Elena, was that she was named after a queen of Italy.
Elena attended Washington Irving High School in Manhattan, where she attained “rapid advancement” for her academic excellence. Among her school projects was a series of extraordinary pen-and-ink drawings of original fashion designs, which revealed her keen artistic sense. Graduation was a rare accomplishment among Italian immigrant children at the time, especially women, and Elena wanted to go to college but, to her deep dismay, was told she could not. She thus went on to assist in the design room of the French custom clothing firm headed by Madame Gilis in Manhattan. In 1931, she married Charles J. Crimi of Pelham Bay in the Bronx, and subsequently settled in Pelham Bay.
Living frugally in a first- and second-generation Italian-American milieu, Elena raised with her husband Charles three children, Marie (Rigoglioso), Robert Crimi, and Elizabeth (Crimi Olsson), who became grade school teachers and/or visual and performing artists under the tutelage of their own artistically inclined parents. Throughout her years as a mother and homemaker, Elena pursued university-level courses, regularly attended lectures, museums, and concerts in Manhattan and the greater NY area, produced sensitive water color paintings and artistic works of embroidery, and designed and made clothing for herself and her family. She remained a faithful servant to her own parents and other relatives until the time of their passing, and created a loving family home full of appreciation for the arts and Italian culture.
When she was 100 years old, Elena received a proclamation from the borough of the Bronx honoring her as an upstanding community member and centenarian. Subsequently, she was part of a Fordham University centenarian study. Her parents’ names appear on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island in New York.
As the last surviving member of her immediate family and the oldest member of various family lines, Elena kept track of generations of extended family in the United States and Italy. She was a beloved family historian who passed on her love of genealogy and heritage to other family members. Most important, she was the glue who held everyone together. As an extended family member said, “She always had a place in her heart for everyone,” and that included family members, friends, and even strangers on streets and buses. She was deeply compassionate and generous.
Elena Danisi Crimi is survived by her daughter Elizabeth and her son Robert; grandchildren Marguerite, Mark, and Raymond Rigoglioso, Jonathan and Gregory Capra, and Vanessa Geppardt; and great-grandchildren Hannah, John, and Luke Rigoglioso and Christina, Matthew, and Justin Napolillo. She will be dearly missed and lovingly remembered.
A mass in celebration of Elena will be held Monday, February 13, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Theresa’s Church, 2855 St. Theresa Avenue, Bronx, NY. There will be no wake. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. 17 Battery Place, #210, New York, NY 10004-3507.
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