Mary was diagnosed in her youth with scleroderma, a rheumatic disease, and doctors didn't expect her to live to 40, her family said.
But she did, for one simple reason: Her family needed her.
"Family was her center, her cause and her joy," said Anthony.
Mary's nickname was Cookie. "And how ever so fitting," Anthony said. "Richly sweet, always comforting, Cookie was caregiver for anyone who walked through her door.
"She wielded an attentive ear and a kiss and a hug, and somehow always knew what to say. Even toward the end, when her health had failed her, she made it a point to proclaim that she was 'perfectly fine. Let's talk about you.' "
Mary was born in South Philadelphia to Lou and Domenica Antolina. She graduated from St. Monica's Parochial School and the former St. Maria Goretti High School for Girls.
"She was a stunner in her youth, with her long black hair, dark eyes and Roman nose," her nephew said.
She did some modeling and she flirted with the idea of getting into television and moving to New York City, but she couldn't face leaving her beloved South Philadelphia.
When her son, Joseph Tomasetti, opened a children's clothing store, Boys Town-Girls Town on Passyunk Avenue, Mary discovered the job for her.
"She loved helping girls buy their first communion gowns," Joseph said. "She loved the idea of making kids beautiful for communion."
Mary worked in the shop for 20 years and became, as Anthony Gargano put it, the "ambassador of the avenue."
Mary was "amazingly cultured," said her son. "She enjoyed literature and art. She was a modern woman with old-world values. She was interesting, well-read, very cultured. She was ahead of her time."
Mary was also a skilled craftsperson, making Christmas wreaths and other decorations for family and friends.
"Cookie was the embodiment of home, whether it was her house on Gladstone Street or the apartment above the store on Passyunk Avenue or the cottage in her beloved Wildwood days."
Mary is also survived by her cherished granddaughter, Domenica Tomasetti.
Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Monica Church, 17th and Ritner streets. Friends may call at 8 a.m. at Monti-Rago Funeral Home, 2531 S. Broad St. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Scleroderma Foundation or the Parkinson's disease Foundation.