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In her typical no-fuss-no-fanfare style, Virginia Mammarella Martin, quietly and peacefully passed away on January 31, 2024, in St Luke’s Nursing Home, Coaldale Pa, at the age of 95.
Now united with her beloved husband, “Ducky” Marshall Edward Martin, professional trumpet player, who preceded her in death, in 1992, she is, without a doubt, listening to him playing in Glory. Oh, what a triumphant sound that must be.
Although always choosing the supporting role in life and self-described as “just the average person” Virginia was far from average. Her life exemplified extraordinary love and service to her family and friends, demonstrated through her hard work, resilience, and resourcefulness. Rather than the unassuming person she outwardly displayed, she was a trail blazer, as one of the few working Mom’s at a time when most women stayed at home.
She began working in the factory, at 18 years old, the day after she graduated from Mahanoy City High School in 1945 and worked every single day of her life, for 75 years, until she was 93 years old.
She was employed at City Shirt Factory, Mahanoy City, for 47 years. She sewed epaulets and was clocked as one of the fastest workers in the factory, on her operation. Not only was she a leader in turning out quality piece work at break-neck speeds, but she was also a leader among her coworkers. Beginning as a Floor Lady, mediating disputes between workers and management, she eventually became a chairwoman for the Amalgamated Garment Workers Union. Traveling to the national union convention in Chicago, 1977, Virginia represented her co-workers back home. In concert with the union, Virginia worked toward better working conditions and fair and safe conditions in the workplace for garment workers, in addition to personally aiding women in resolving grievances and workplace injustices.
Garments made at City Shirt were those destined to be worn by police officers and emergency personnel. One of Virginia’s greatest pleasures, one she spoke of frequently, was the idea that one day, her son would be a police officer, wearing one of the shirts she made. That dream was realized. Angelo Martin, the youngest of her three children, climbed the ranks of state trooper, eventually retiring as a Major in the Pennsylvania State Police. It gave her great pride and comfort knowing that the epaulets that laid on his uniform could have been sewed by her, and in a special way, allowed her to lay her hands of protection on his shoulders daily. Angelo and his wife Kathy, Selinsgrove, Pa, gave Virginia three grandchildren; son, Angelo, Selinsgrove, and daughters Casey, New York, and Kaitlin, Pittsburg Pa. Kaitlin, and husband, Jordan Conners, gave Virginia two great grandsons, James, and William.
In addition to Virginia’s full-time employment, she nurtured an active family in a home that was always filled with music, and not only from her musician husband and children, but with her own music too. Virginia loved to sing, especially as a member of the Sacred Heart Choir, when it was active; as well as, in her everyday life. It was a regular occurrence for Virginia to be song leader on bus trips, car trips, family gatherings and holidays. But her most important audience was her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and even her great great grandchildren! She passed along American patriotic and folk songs from as far back as the 1900’s and long forgotten Italian lullabies to four generations of her descendants. She never stopped singing, even serenading her nurses before the time of her passing.
Virginia’s love of music was equaled to her love of reading. An often-heard joke in her home was that she finished novels as quickly as some people finished a box of Chiclets. She was such a well-known visitor to the Mahanoy City Public Library in the 60’s and 70’s that her name was automatically added to the reader wait list when the newest releases of Jacqueline Susann, James Michener, or Danielle Steel arrived. So, it is of little wonder that she nurtured music and writing abilities in her children, ongoingly in her first daughter, Nikki Todd, Mahanoy City Pa, musician, music teacher and writer, and then spreading out into the family tree for generations; including Angel Ciarvella Dugan, and husband, Brian Dugan, Frackville Pa, and their children Paige and Brian Dugan; and grandson Joe Ciarvella, and his children, Ava, and Rosa, along with Alyssa Heintzelman, and Alyssa’s children, Mia, Sophia, and Mateo, making Virginia a great great grandmother, marking 5 generations in Virginia’s lifetime! Virginia’s continuing support of music and the arts, positively affected each generation, supporting five (5) professional musicians thus far in those families.
In addition to music and reading, cooking crowned the trifecta of Virginia’s interests. There was always a home-cooked meal on the table for her husband and children every single night, even after working at her full-time job. Weekend meals for her family were fine dining experiences, lasting one to two hours gathered around the kitchen table with interesting conversations and lots of laughter.
Her culinary abilities rose to the level of restaurant quality. So much so, that she turned her cooking skills into a second career, after her first retirement, maintaining a position at her parish, as chief cook for over 15 years, retiring from that position at age 80.
Priests and bishops alike raved at Virginia’s cuisine, marveling not only at the deliciousness of her food, but also at the love and care cooked into each meal she served them. She was also a baker, famous for her Pizzelles and Ricotta Cookies. Large family events were always punctuated with heaping portions of her cookies on large shiny silver trays.
Beyond being sought out for her cooking and baking, Virginia was most pursued for her intercessory prayers for others. She prayed intensely, with a brave and trusting heart. Her prayers were generally answered, positively. In addition to the Mass, the Rosary and the Nine Hour Novena to the Infant of Prague were her unfailing devotions.
She was a faithful Member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church, St Canicus Church, and Sacred Heart Church, all of Mahanoy City Pa.
Virginia was the quintessential caretaker. Her lifelong service to her family and friends refined her natural abilities of nurturing and supporting others. Once again, these skills lead to yet another career change. After she retired from the rectory, she began a new position, as caretaker of her niece, Nikki Mammarella, Mahanoy City.
Leading Nikki on bus rides to area stores and frequenting area restaurants, in addition to assisting Nikki with daily needs, were among the activities Virginia provided. The pair enjoyed life, seeking daily adventures. After more than a decade of caretaking service, Virginia finally permanently retired at 93 years old.
So, who takes care of the caretaker after a lifetime of caring for others? Her second child, Victoria, provided her beloved mother with all the loving care and comfort she deserved in the final years of her life, including maintaining Virginia’s always stylish clothing and appearance. In the same fashion as her mother, Vikki Brutto, Barnesville, did so concurrently while; working fulltime as Reginal Property Manager at Michaels Management, and as wife, to Paul Brutto, Barnesville, and mother to two children Pamela Brutto, Philadelphia, and P.J. Brutto, Mahanoy City, and grandmother to PJ’s two children, Allison and Zoey.
Virginia was preceded in death by her sisters Emma De Angelo and Gerry Scully, Mahanoy City Pa; and three brothers, George and Nicholas Mammarella, Mahanoy City Pa, and Rev. Dominick Mammarella, Berwick Pa. Virginia has two remaining siblings, Theresa Kistler, Harrisburg Pa, and Dolores Murtin, NJ.
Virginia’s life was a life well lived. She called herself “just the average person” but she was extraordinary. She worked hard, prayed even harder and loved to the utmost. She will be remembered as a great lady; as one who feed the hungry, looked after the little ones, helped and prayed for those in trouble, and truly loved God and others.
In death, as in her life, Virginia continues to help others. She has donated her body to science. Therefore, funeral services will not take place until the studies are completed. All funeral services will be private.
Virgina’s family would like to acknowledge the Nurses and entire Care Team at St. Lukes Nursing Home, Coaldale, Pa, for their excellent and loving care.
To send online condolences visit www.jarrettfuneralhome.com