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The first lady of Pelham Bay passes away

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by DANIEL BEEKMAN

Although her husband Michael Crescenzo led the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association for decades and was known to many as the Mayor of Pelham Bay, Virginia Crescenzo raised a terrific family, lent time to the neighborhood and deserves plenty of praise. The prototypical stay-at-home mother, Crescenzo did her generation proud. She passed away recently at Providence Rest Nursing Home.

“She was silent but did everything her way,” said Crescenzo’s elder daughter, Virginia McHale. “She was always happy.”

Crescenzo was born Virginia Bernado in 1917 in Manhattan. She and her family lived in Country Club, where she attended P.S. 14, then met and married Michael Crescenzo in 1942. The couple first lived in an apartment on Edison Avenue, where they welcomed two children, Anthony Crescenzo and Virginia. The Crescenzos later bought a home on Mayflower Avenue and had a second daughter, Michelle.

“She was always at home,” McHale said of her mother. “She had so many traditions. She was a baker and a cook. She had fine taste and kept a beautiful home.”

Crescenzo relished the holidays. She prepared an impressive Christmas Eve meal – an assortment of fish. On Easter, Crescenzo baked Swedish bread, Italian meat pies and hundreds of raviolis. On St. Patrick’s Day, she served corned beef and cabbage. His mother’s holiday traditions kept the family united, Anthony Crescenzo said. Crescenzo was a world-class knitter and an active member of St. Theresa’s Church. She volunteered with the Catholic Youth Organization and accompanied Michelle on CYO and Girl Scouts outings.

When the Crescenzos grew older, they founded the Pelham Bay Golden Age Center; Virginia Crescenzo served as secretary. She booked senior trips to Atlantic City and a cruise to Bermuda.

“She loved the center,” McHale said. “She was there every day. She would set up the bingo, set up the coffee.”

Crescenzo spent five years in a co-op before moving to Providence Rest, where her ready smile delighted the nurses. New mothers would do well to remember Crescenzo, McHale said. She made raising a family her top priority.

“Money was secondary,” said McHale. “Friends were secondary.”

Crescenzo had seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren. A Mass was held in her honor on Wednesday, July 22 at St. Theresa’s. Anthony Crescenzo spoke about the sacrifices his mother made and about growing up in a three-room apartment.

“She was a beautiful woman,” Anita Valenti of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers said.

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