Gilda Mazza, 84, Talented artist and extraordinary wife and mother
Gilda Mazza had a lifelong passion for art that began at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia.
Encouraged by her teachers to pursue art school, Jill was denied that opportunity by her responsibilities as the eldest of 6 children.
At 20 years old, Gilda Planamente began working as the assistant to Prespert Eckert, the University of Pennsylvania professor and father of the first computer, Eniac. “My mother was fascinated by Dr. Eckert and her talent helped her transcribe his notes and drawings on Eniac. My mother was so proud of her small role with the project” said her youngest son, Thomas.
Gilda Planamente knew Paul Mazza from the neighborhood and she made it a point to walk by his house when she heard he was home from serving in the European Theater in WW 2. Beautiful and stylish, Gilda in her high heels, accompanied Paul to see the movie, Mildred Pierce. “After the movie, my mother walked out of the theater and promptly fell to the ground off of her high heels” said her daughter Marian, “my dad looked down and said ‘been walking long?’ What became a 60 year love affair almost ended before it began.
Gilda and Paul Mazza were married in 1948. They had 4 children, Paul Jr., Marian, Mark, and Tom, all born 2 years apart. Paul Jr. passed away in 1986. A warm and caring person, Jill loved to cook and entertain for friends and family. Her husband was her best friend and they had a joyful relationship of more than 60 years filled with love and mutual respect.
Her ready smile and genuine warmth made fast friends of everyone who visited her home. Her son Mark, a talented Chef in his own right, said “My Mother was incredible in the kitchen and it made her very happy to see how much everyone enjoyed her cooking especially the homemade pasta’s.”
Paul Sr. 85, sold insurance for Metropolitan Life for 25 years before starting his own business at 50, Mazza-Siegel Associates in Jenkintown. The company was sold in 2003 to Heffler and Co. after Paul’s retirement. Paul Mazza Sr. always said the most fortuitous decision in his business career came from Gilda’s confidence in him. “I was 50 years old with 4 teenagers and very little money. I told my wife that if this new business failed, I had no idea how that would affect our family or what we would do. She looked me in the eye and said, ‘I believe in YOU and whatever happens I love you and support you.’
Paul Mazza’s business was successful and afforded the couple a wonderful life that included 21 trips to his native Italy where deep ties were formed and the bonds of family were stretched across the ocean. “My wife was like a movie star with our family in Italy, they literally argued over whose house she would visit and how long we would stay” said Paul.
Denied the chance to attend art school as a young woman, Jill Mazza became a passionate student and friend to the Cheltenham Art Center. After many years of working with paints and acrylics, she began working with clay as a sculptor in the 80’s and produced many beautiful pieces that were often treasured gifts to friends and family.
The saddest chapter of Gilda’s life was the loss of her son Paul Jr. at age 34. Paul Jr., who was a gentle soul and talented artist like his mother, battled a substance abuse problem for much of his adult life. “My mother had a wonderful relationship with Paul Jr. She never gave up on him and always loved him and supported him unconditionally” said Thomas. “My mother never understood why she could not save my brother but she never stopped trying.”
One of Jill Mazza’s greatest joys was the opportunity to become a grandmother to Matthew and Sarah in 1995 and 1997. Matthew, in particular, spent many hours in Grand mom’s care. Her husband, “All of the joy she felt as a young mother came back to her with her grandchildren. She adored them.”
Gilda Mazza is survived by her husband Paul, daughter Marian, sons, Mark and Tom, daughter in law Amy, and “adopted daughter”, Yvonne LaMar. Grand children, Matthew and Sarah, sisters, Delores Capriotti, Lucy Sylvester, Anna Farrell, sister-in-law, Dolly Planamente.
Viewing and Funeral Services at 9:30 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at St. Albert the Great Church on Welsh Rd. in Huntindon Valley, PA with burial at Holy Sepluchure Cemetary.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Gilda Mazza’s name to
3616 South Galloway Street
Philadelphia, PA 19148
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