“Aunt Dee Dee”
At age 12 she could be seen running home from school to help work in the family bakery. From that point on you could see her running everywhere to help other people. Whether running down a criminal, who stole a woman’s pocketbook or running a small restaurant in the Poconos, Mary “Dee Dee” Iarossi never lost a step
She was born (February 5, 1926) and raised in Newark. Her parents, Marietta and Pascquale owned and operated a bakery in Newark’s West Ward for over forty years.
While working at her family’s bakery, Mary took an interest in photography. She started taking pictures for weddings and parties; eventually she moved on to newspaper work, being one of the first female photographers in the state of New Jersey. She was once hired by Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra, both of Yankees fame, to do all the photography for the grand opening of their new bowling alley. She was a lifelong Yankee fan.
Although she enrolled at New York University as a Journalism major, the outbreak of WWII forced her to return home and work in the family bakery. She later spent 33 years making furniture as a wood-worker in South Kearny before going into the wholesale business for herself.
Mary was a life-long parishioner of St. Rocco’s Church in Newark. Following the spirit of her Catholic faith, Mary gave tirelessly of herself to various charities and civic organizations. She took seniors on trips for the Sons of Italy and for the Sacred Heart Senior Citizens in Vailsburg. She donated food and clothing, and she worked with the homeless and the aged at St. Rocco’s. She provided St Rocco’s with a new roof for the church and a new stove for the cafeteria area, never forgetting her inner city roots.
She was the founder and president of the Damiano Nittoli Association, a group well known for its dedication to community service. Mary was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the Celtic Theatre Company at Seton Hall University. Her work with various theatres has endeared her to countless casts and audiences.
Mary was chosen as Woman of the Year by the Italian Tribune and rode in a bedecked Cadillac for the Columbus Day Parade. Never losing her smile, Mary threw candy and coins from the car for children attending the parade. Then, in 1996 she was selected for “Who’s Who of American Women” as a model of good will and charity.
On a typical Saturday, you could see “Dee Dee” rolling up in her huge Oldsmobile 98, tooting the horn so her nephews Lance and Glen knew she was there. They would emerge from the apartment and pile into the back seat, where she would then drive them to Two Guys in Harrison, telling them they had a half an hour to fill up their carts with toys. Years later this practice would resurface, with her grandnieces, Kristen and Blair.
Her passion for travelling extended throughout the United States and Europe. She took countless trips with her lifelong companion, Jeanette Centanni, who predeceased her in 1978.
From the early 1940s when she portrayed Santa Claus for troops returning from the war to playing the harmonica for seniors at area nursing homes, to her passion for clowns and performing as a clown, Mary loved to entertain. Now, however, the laughing has ceased and the giving nature has been assigned to someone else. After a full life, at the age of 92, “Dee Dee” was called home to heaven on December 23, 2018, where we are sure that she handed Jesus a bowl of pasta and a balloon, while her little Chihuahua, “Tiny,” follows her. She will be missed dearly.
Mary was predeceased by her brother, Leonard Iarossi and her sisters Fay Iarossi and Natalie Albright. She is survived by her nephews Lance Albright, Glen Albright and his wife Mary, grandniece Kristen Albright James and her husband Truman and their son Sterling, grandniece Blair Albright and her husband Lucio and Cindy Albright, mother of Kristen and Blair.
Visitation will be at Bradley, Smith & Smith Funeral Home, 415 Morris Avenue in Springfield, NJ on Saturday January 5, 2018 from 9 am to 11 am. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11:30 at St. James the Apostle Church, 41 S. Springfield Ave, Springfield.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.