Mary Pushaw, 81, devoted to Italian heritage

Posted: October 08, 2012

MARY D. PUSHAW was so proud of her Italian heritage, she became fluent in the language, studied the culture, cooked the food and made numerous trips to Italy.

She also was active in a number of organizations in the Philadelphia area devoted to Italian heritage and culture.

Mary, a real-estate associate who was born Mary De Francesco to Italian immigrants, a patron of the arts and a gourmet cook, died suddenly on Tuesday. She was 81 and lived in Havertown.

"Family defined a large part of Mary's life," her family said, "and [she] was widely known as an avid and wonderful cook, effortlessly whipping up gourmet meals for her extensive network of family and friends."

Mary worked for 40 years in the real-estate field, most recently in the Haverford office of Prudential Fox & Roach.

As a devout Catholic, Mary worked tirelessly in fundraising activities for the parishes to which she belonged. Her family estimates that she raised "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to help support Catholic schools and charitable organizations.

She was a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Bryn Mawr, where she served on the Altar Guild and as a lector.

She was president of the Malvern Preparatory School's Mothers Club, working on behalf of its Diamond Endowment campaign.

She also raised money for the various charitable causes of Prudential Fox & Roach Charities and the St. Francis Inn.

As a cook, Mary could whip up a mean timbale (a custard-like dish of cheese with chicken, fish or vegetables), pan di spagna (Italian sponge cake) or spaghetti alla chitarra (with rough-cut noodles), all specialties of the Abruzzo region from which her parents came.

"We'll probably never be able to duplicate how she made these dishes," said her daughter Cynthia Reeves.

Mary was born in Philadelphia to John De Francesco and the former Anna Giove. She attended St. Donato's Parochial School and graduated from West Catholic High school at age 16 in 1947.

"Throughout her life, Mary maintained an avid interest in learning, studying a wide range of subjects, from Italian language and culture to gourmet cuisine to scripture and spirituality," her family said.

A supporter of local cultural institutions, she was a member of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walnut Street Theatre and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Mary also supported Pennsylvanians for Human Life and traveled and lectured for the group.

Mary visited Italy 15 times, some of the trips through the National Italian American Foundation. She was treasurer of Benvenuto Lodge 2572, of the Sons of Italy, and was a member of the Associazione Regionale Abruzzese.

She married Robert J. Pushaw in 1954.

Besides her husband and daughter, she is survived by two other daughters, Mary Anne and Karen R.; two sons, Robert J. and Christopher E.; a brother, John K. De Francesco; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Services: Were Saturday.

Contributions in her name may be made to St. Francis Inn, Box 3746, Philadelphia 19125, or Pennsylvanians for Human Life, 590 Snyder Ave., Suite 201, West Chester PA 19382.

Contact John F. Morrison at or 215-854-5573.

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