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Marietta "Mary" Schembari
September 17, 1925 ~ December 24, 2023 (age 98) 98 Years Old
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Yes, her name was really Marietta, a song-like mouthful that she never used except on official documents, like this obituary. Marietta, 98 (that’s not a typo), a seven-decade resident of Milford, died on December 24, 2023 at Milford Hospital after a brief illness.
Mary was born in Plains, Pa., on September 17, 1925 to Enrico and Filomena Balestrini and graduated from Sunbury High School, where she played in the marching band, in 1943. While many of the girls in her class took homemaking classes, Mary signed up for welding, so when she then followed her beloved older sister and best friend Josephine to Connecticut, Mary was snapped up by Chance Vought to weld a part on the wing of the Marine fighter-bomber F4U Corsair. It was the plane flown by “Pappy” Boyington and his Black Sheep Squadron. As her grandson Joseph said, her building planes that helped win the war was bada--. You can read about her Corsair exploits in Mary’s exhibit at the Connecticut Air and Space Center in Stratford.
She is survived by her daughter, Diana Dunna of Milford, who cared for her mother the last few years, allowing Mary to realize her wish to remain In her home as her mobility declined; her son, Jim, and his wife, Christine Negroni of Old Greenwich; granddaughter, Marian Schembari, her husband, Elliot Speed, and daughter, June Schembari of Oregon; grandson Antonio Schembari and his wife, Dr. Jenae Linville of Arizona; grandson Samuel Schembari of Michigan; grandson Joseph Schembari
of Michigan; goddaughters Kathryn Balestrini and Janet Sanders, both of Milford; and several special nieces and nephews.
She is predeceased by Jimmy, her heart-throb husband. Together they ran the Beach Dry Cleaners, near St. Gabriel Church in Milford, where she was the seamstress. Somewhere in the back of an old gent’s closet must still hang a pair of trousers that she had to let out; by nine siblings, more Balestrinis that you can shake a stick at; and her son-in-law and best buddy, Craig Dunna.
Although churning out Corsairs and helping to run a small business
were major accomplishments, Mary was also a magician in the kitchen. The extraordinary Italian dinners she would produce fed the boisterous extended family that worked in the defense factories and fought in some of the major battles of the war that historians are still writing about. Harry was at Guadalcanal, Jim was in D-Day, Angelo was in Italy, Leo was a paratrooper who helped relieve Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge, and her husband proudly rode a battleship salvaged from Pearl Harbor into Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. You can applaud now.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on December 28, 2023 at St. Gabriel Church, 26 Broadway, Milford, at 11 a.m. There will be no calling hours and interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, you may donate to the charity of your choice.