Maria Forcellini, 99, and her daughter, Annunziata "Nancy" O'Connor, 73

O'Connor
O'Connor
Posted: April 25, 2014

DANIEL O'CONNOR IV lost two remarkable women this month: his mother and his grandmother.

His grandmother, Maria Ricci Forcellini, died April 12, just 20 days from turning 100. His mother, Annunziata "Nancy" O'Connor, Maria's daughter, died Tuesday at the age of 73.

For a time, the family lived together in West Philadelphia, where Daniel, 48, grew up.

"I had two Italian mothers," he said. "I got away with nothing."

Although she was born in Pittsburgh to Dorinda and Ernesto Ricci, Maria was taken at age 4 to Italy and remained in the Abruzzo region until the age of 35, when she came to America.

She arrived with her husband, Filippo, a tailor, and three of her five children, Annunziata, Amelia and Alba.

Her husband died at the age of 45, leaving her to raise and provide for their children. Their other two children, Anna and Antonio, soon joined the family in Philadelphia.

Maria never learned English, but she could talk on the phone for hours in Italian with friends and family, and lived in a largely Italian neighborhood.

She was a devoted member of St. Donato's Church, an Italian congregation at 65th and Callowhill streets.

Maria also would spend time with the retired nuns at the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the St. Cabrini Residence in West Philadelphia, chatting with the nuns and the nurses.

"Our father used to joke that they kept a habit hanging on a hook just for her," Daniel O'Connor said.

Maria, an artist with needle and thread, worked 35 years for a former clothing factory at 33rd and Market streets that made military uniforms, among other products. She also created blankets made of yarn with intricate designs for her family.

Maria had a knack for connecting with others.

"She had a way of making a big deal out of everybody," Daniel O'Connor said. "Whether it was a little kid or an adult, she made them feel like they were the most important people in the world. She tried to make you feel special."

And, of course, she was a great cook in the Italian style. Everything was homemade from recipes kept strictly in her head.

"She would spend five hours on Sunday cooking a meal, and we would eat it in five minutes," her grandson said.

Besides her children, Marie is survived by a brother, Domenico Ricci, and a sister, Giuseppia DeSimone.

Services: Were yesterday. Burial was in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Her daughter, Annunziata "Nancy" O'Connor, whose late husband, Daniel O'Connor III, was a Philadelphia police officer, taught the family a lesson in endurance and sacrifice.

She received a kidney transplant that didn't last and she spent her final years in intense pain, her son said.

"She suffered enough for 10 people," Daniel said. "But she never complained."

Nancy, who attended Overbrook High School, worked as a bookkeeper for several small companies and stores.

"She was a very kind, loving woman," her son said. "She lived a simple and powerful life."

Besides her son, her brother and three sisters, she is survived by a daughter, Teresa M. Gallo, and three grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Donato's Church, 65th and Callowhill streets. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery.

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