Lucy Fiandaca was known for baking and cooking food whose savory tastes lingered in the memories of family and friends, but it was a note taped to her refrigerator that held her recipe for life. “Attitude and gratitude,” it said.
She was grateful for the family she was born into, which in turn inspired the family she created with her husband, Joe. She was grateful for the opportunity to help others, whether they were her own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, her numerous friends, or the pupils at the Dante Alighieri Elementary School in East Boston, who were briefly and memorably part of her life.
She was grateful, too, for the inspiration she drew from other patients at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where she learned to walk and talk again after suffering a stroke a few years ago. Some of those recuperating next to her had been injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. “She looked around and said, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’ ” said her daughter Cheryl Fiandaca of Revere Beach.
Mrs. Fiandaca, who lived her entire life in East Boston, died at her home Monday of complications from pneumonia. She was 94.
“She lived her truth,” said Cheryl, the chief investigative reporter for WBZ-TV’s I-Team. “She lived the life she imagined. She created a home where everyone was welcome, where there was food and laughter.”
From her home — where she welcomed friends of her seven children — to the elementary school — where she befriended teachers, staff, pupils, and parents — Mrs. Fiandaca seemed to know nearly everyone she ran into throughout East Boston’s neighborhoods.
“You never had to ask, ‘Can so-and-so stay?’ It was always, ‘Of course,’ ” Cheryl recalled.
During Mother’s Day weekend this year, she was among the women honored at the East Boston Legacy Gala, a benefit for East Boston Central Catholic School that celebrated Catholic education. The event’s theme was “A Legacy of Faith, Hope, and Love,” three things Mrs. Fiandaca’s family and friends said she had in abundance.
“What made my mother special is that she could really transform any situation into love,” said her daughter Gina Fiandaca of East Boston, who is Boston’s transportation commissioner. “She was someone who was your strongest champion, your greatest cheerleader. You could do anything in her eyes.”
Rita Sorrento, a friend for decades and the former principal at the Dante Alighieri school, said Mrs. Fiandaca “was everything to all of us. She was our friend, she was our colleague.”
At Winthrop Marketplace, where Mrs. Fiandaca frequently shopped, owner Marc Wallerce recalled that she was “the most positive person I’ve ever met in my life. She just was outstanding. She cared for people and people cared for her. She made everyone in my company a better person.”
Her kindness cascading from generation to generation, Mrs. Fiandaca “always found the good in people,” said one of her grandchildren, Danielle Rose Visconti of Revere. “You could show up at her house with all your friends, who she’d never met, and she’d tell them they were beautiful. By the time they left, they felt like they were family and were leaving with presents.”
Anyone who visited Mrs. Fiandaca, who was known for her homemade biscotti and eggplant parmesan, could count on departing with food in hand.
“She always made her fried dough or eggplant and put them in little containers in the refrigerator so if anyone came over, they could take one to go, and it was a personal size,” Danielle said.
Such generosity was a lesson Mrs. Fiandaca learned in her own childhood.
Born in the Jeffries Point part of East Boston, Lucy Fagone was the youngest of five children. Her father, Joseph Fagone, was a shoemaker who had emigrated from Sicily. Her mother, the former Rose Cottagio, was a homemaker from New York City.
“They really didn’t have much. I remember her talking about how they lived in a cold-water flat,” Cheryl said. Family members heated bricks in the oven, wrapped them, and brought them to bed for warmth.
Despite those challenges, and leaving high school to work in clothing factories as a teenager to help support her household, “she loved her family and had such a happy home, and she wanted to re-create that. And she did — times 10,” Cheryl added.
While at East Boston High School, Lucy met Joseph Fiandaca at a dance. They married on July 8, 1944. Mr. Fiandaca, who was first assistant clerk magistrate at East Boston District Court, died in 1993.
As a couple, they expressed their love easily and openly. Their children would sometimes arrive home to find them dancing in the kitchen to the music of singer Perry Como. “I was the youngest one, and I would sort of wedge myself between them and it would be this kind of group hug,” Gina recalled.
Mrs. Fiandaca had worked at the Dante Alighieri Elementary School, where “she was the first person anybody would see when they rang the bell for the school, and she was absolutely wonderful,” Sorrento said. “She was kind, and she was great with the parents, with the kids, with the teachers.”
Sorrento said that at times Mrs. Fiandaca must have awakened at 5 a.m. to prepare the food she brought as gifts for the staff and teachers. That dedication to treating others to her baking was part of Mrs. Fiandaca’s life. During the winter holiday season, she enlisted her children and grandchildren to help her prepare hundreds of Christmas cookies, lining hallways with packages that she brought to friends and those in her extended family.
“We were raised with respect, with manners, with chores — with a sense of responsibility to the community,” Cheryl said. “She instilled in us values and tradition, and she did it in a gentle way.”
In addition to her daughters Cheryl and Gina, and her granddaughter Danielle, Mrs. Fiandaca leaves three other daughters, Kathy Picardi of Andover, Roberta Rose of Revere, and Lisa of Lynnfield; two sons, Joseph of Naples, Fla., and Kenneth of Winthrop, a Municipal Court judge; nine other grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
“She did everything so effortlessly and with such love. She took such joy in all her children,” Gina said.
Mrs. Fiandaca would give Gina an angel lapel pin to wear when she ran in the Boston Marathon, and she would make sure all her children had Rosary beads with them for exams, telling them: “The Rosary beads will see you through.”
If ever a neighbor or friend was ill or had a death in the family, “she would be the first one there to bring some biscotti, hold their hand, and have a cup of tea with them,” Gina said.
And Mrs. Fiandaca didn’t complain when illnesses slowed her in her 90s.
“She was always happy, very thankful — even up to her last days,” Cheryl said. “She was always thanking everyone for everything. Anything anyone did for her, she was saying, ‘Thank you, thank you.’ ”Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.