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Yvonne I. Lauricella

November 26, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Yvonne Lauricella poses on a tank at Bradley Field in Connecticut, in 1944, which her son, Richard, said would have been uncharacteristic for his shy mother.
Submitted Photo

At age 91, Yvonne Lauricella still was an avid reader. The side tables in her living room were stacked with the books she was reading.

James Patterson was a favorite author, and Yvonne's son, Richard Lauricella of Waynesboro, Pa., ordered books online to replenish her supply.

Richard said he's bought every James Patterson book ever printed for his mother's reading pleasure. The latest book was shipped the day Yvonne died, arriving two days later.  

Yvonne Nussbaum was born and raised in Carroll County, Md., an only child. Her parents were protective, only allowing her to date if the date came to their home, Richard said.

Because Yvonne could live with a "spinster" family member, her parents allowed her to go to Washington, D.C., after high school so she could attend Washington School for Secretaries.

"When she got back here, she was very accomplished with her shorthand. I'd see her use it around here," Richard said, referring to the home.

Shy by nature, Yvonne preferred being in the background. Yet, while working as a secretary for patent attorneys in Washington, she met William "Bill" Lauricella while both were out socializing with a group.

They married in 1943, a marriage that lasted 54 years until Bill's death in 1998. Her husband and friends called her "Vonnie."

Bill was a dental technician, in the business of making dentures. They lived in the Washington area, then moved to Connecticut before Richard was born.

It was in Connecticut that Bill met a dentist from Hagerstown who said they needed a dental lab here. The couple settled in Hagerstown in 1948, with Yvonne helping her husband start the William J. Lauricella Dental Laboratory on North Potomac Street. They sold the building in the 1980s.

"It was a good business opportunity," said grandson Michael "Mike" Lauricella of Birmingham, Ala.

"They were a team," Richard said. "They started with absolutely nothing. They got his business going, then owned it."

Yvonne did some secretarial work for her husband's business, but mostly at home. She was a stay-at-home mother and homemaker once their only child, Richard, was born. She had two grandsons and three great-grandchildren.

The Lauricellas started out in a simple concrete block house on a cinder road east of Hagerstown, which they added on to in the 1960s. They then lived on Potomac Avenue before their final move to their Oak Hill Avenue home more than 20 years ago.

Both Yvonne and Bill shared a penchant for frugality, like many of their peers in that post-war era.

Richard recalls that each piece of furniture in the dining and living rooms of their home was purchased with cash, after the couple had saved for it.

"Upon coming home from school one day, I found a cherry table in the dining room with four card table chairs," Richard said. "Four months later, a captain's chair showed up. Four to five months later, another chair showed up.

"My mother's theory was not to buy top-of-the-line, but quality — the best you could buy without going into debt. It kind of sounds like Congress should listen to my mother, doesn't it."

Over the course of six to seven years, they furnished their home.

"The lesson being, take your time, don't buy junk," Richard said.

When Richard was playing Little League, Yvonne went to the field to watch a game. The league's leadership learned of her shorthand skills and asked her to be an officer.

"She never went back to the Little League field," Richard said. "My mother would have been reluctant to do anything but fly below the radar."

That is until her husband got ill.

As Bill was declining from Alzheimer's disease, Yvonne had to take charge. She found an untapped source of strength and a more outgoing personality.  

"It kind of reversed," Mike said. "When Grandpa got sick, she had to step up and she could do it. There was no lack of capability. She was a machine."

Yvonne would visit her husband at Homewood four times a week.

"She had all these buddies at the nursing home that were staff, in their 30s," Richard said. "They thought she was cool."

Bill died in 1998 after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. The first eight years of his illness were spent living at home.

"She was a trouper — very loyal," Richard said. "She stuck by him the whole time."

Richard and Mike marveled at her knack for connecting with people of all ages. Instead of Yvonne telling stories of the way things used to be, she related as though she were much younger.

"She could relate to everybody," Richard said. "When her friends began disappearing, people my age became her friends. As far as conversation, it was like an 80- or 90-year-old, going on 50.

"My mother had that effect on people. They liked to be around her."

Richard did her laundry and would take her to the store. He said she fixed her own meals, and made arrangements to have someone do the yardwork and the heavy cleaning.

"As usual, she was trying to figure out what that would cost," Richard said.

Mike said his favorite memories of his grandmother are of "hanging out and talking with her."

"She was curious and inquisitive," Mike said. "She was always asking about everything. It was something my wife loved as well."

Yvonne and Bill were members at First Christian Church and enjoyed square dancing. Yvonne also was involved in the Order of the Eastern Star.

The couple played cards and Yvonne also played with a female card group, "retiring" at age 90.

"If she were here, she'd tell you she was known for getting bad cards," Richard said.

Yvonne still had her driver's license and was debating whether to renew it when it expired in June 2012. Her health had been slowly deteriorating and she ended up in the hospital because of fluid in her lungs.

She and several of her friends of about the same age wondered why they were still around, Richard said, although she never missed a hair appointment.

"This illness didn't take long. She was finished and not bashful about sharing that," he said. "She had a relatively quiet, hard-working life."

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Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in 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 Yvonne I. Lauricella who died Nov. 12 at the age of 91. Her obituary was published in the Nov. 14 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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