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Geneva Jean Dattilio

Geneva Dattilio's devotion was to God and her family

Geneva Dattilio's devotion was to God and her family

November 30, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Geneva Jean Dattilio, who died Nov. 22 at the age of 85. Her obituary was published in the Nov. 23 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Struggling to describe the impact his mother and father have had on his life, Patrick Dattilio recalled a track meet long ago at a distant Pennsylvania college.

On a cold and drizzly day, the bus pulled up, and Patrick and the Western Maryland College track team began walking onto the field. Few spectators had braved the weather to attend.

"I looked up in the stands, saw a black umbrella and there were mom and dad," Patrick said. "They came all that way to wait for my three minutes in the triple jump."

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That summed up Geneva Jean Dattilio's idea of parenting to Patrick, his sister and two other brothers, all of whom are missing their mother, who passed away Nov. 22 at the age of 85.

Born in Hagerstown to immigrant Italian parents, Geneva often told stories of her parents' landing on Ellis Island and becoming American citizens.

When World War II broke out, Geneva watched as her brother, Frank DiFabbio, joined the military service, parachuted on D-Day and was imprisoned in a POW camp.

"Mom went to work at Fairchild as her way of contributing to the war effort," son Michael said. A Rosie the Riveter, Geneva helped build Fairchild planes, including the Flying Boxcars.

Geneva's father apparently wasn't thrilled that his daughter was working in a man's job.

"His biggest objection was her wearing pants," Michael said.

Son Christopher said his objections soon softened when the first paychecks started coming in to the household from her job.

Geneva knew Louis Dattilio from an early age since they both grew up the same neighborhood in Security. Home was company-owned housing near the cement plant where most of the residents there worked.

"I remember the roads were lined with trees that looked like cigars to me," said Vicki, the oldest of Geneva's four children. "The area was called Green Row."

Geneva and Louis got married in 1944 when he was in the U.S. Navy.

"She worked for a while and then she traveled with dad," Vicki said.

Christopher said their father was on submarine patrol, so the young newlyweds got to live in California and Oregon.

Back in Hagerstown after the war, the first three Dattilio children were born on Green Row.

"It was great there," Vicki said. "Mom would take me to Grandma for her to watch me."

Three years after Vicki was born, Michael came along.

"I remember mom in the kitchen," he said. "She was a good cook."

Sunday dinner always was spaghetti and meatballs.

"I remember the smell of spaghetti sauce on Sunday morning," Christopher said. He would get out of bed and head for the kitchen, where his mother would give him a piece of bread dipped in the sauce.

The youngest of the four, Christopher was born after the family moved to South Cannon Avenue -- the first house that the Dattilios owned.

After their father left the cement plant, he went to work for Mack Trucks and retired from there.

"Mom was very strict," Christopher said. He remembered his mother's reaction when truckers would drive too fast down the alley next to the Dattilio home.

"She'd take a garden hose and swing it at their windows when they went by to get them to slow down," Christopher said.

There always were chores in the Dattilio household -- Vicki washed the dishes, Michael dried, Vicki mopped the floor and Michael buffed.

"The kitchen floor was polished every night," Vicki said.

As the children grew up, they remembered their parents' fierce attention to their activities.

"Her passion was sports, and she had an understanding of football, basketball and baseball," Christopher said.

But even greater was her devotion to family and to her God.

Always a gardener no matter where she lived, Geneva often could be found talking while she gardened -- alone.

"I asked her who she was talking to and she'd say God," Vicki said.

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