HELEN A. MODICA (nee Mannino), age 100, born June 13 1920, passed away August 3 2020. Helen Antonina Modica of Rochester, Minnesota and Cleveland, Ohio died on August 3, 2020 of natural causes at Samaritan Bethany Home in Rochester after living a century on this Earth with kindness, grace and dignity. Helen was born on June 13, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio to Josephine (Guiseppa) Gaeta and Giovanni Battista Mannino, who both immigrated in early childhood from Italy with nothing and built a successful and productive life for themselves and subsequent generations, personifying the American Dream. Given the name of Antonina Mannino at birth, she went by Helen Ann for most of her life.
Family meant everything to Helen, and she cherished her 3 brothers (Victor, Frank and Joey) and 4 sisters (Josie, Connie, Virginia, and Wanda) who were her lifelong best friends. Helen helped run the family home and care for her siblings so that her parents could work in their family business, a local grocery store. She gladly made sacrifices in her own education, though she later wondered what she could have become if she were born in a different time. As a consequence, she was very proud of the accomplishments of her family, brimming with pride as she spoke of their personal and professional successes. She married the love of her life Ignatius (Bud) David Modica on September 2, 1940 in Cleveland. She had a daughter, Kathleen Suzanne (White) Modica on January 5, 1943 and a son, Louis David Modica (Sandy) on August 12, 1948.
She was a consummate homemaker. She kept a clean and orderly house, decorated beautifully with a penchant for pastels, and maintained lovely gardens that flourished under her green thumb. She was an extraordinary chef and baker who started asking you what you wanted for dinner as she was cleaning up the breakfast dishes. Her spaghetti sauce and cookies were well renowned. A skilled entertainer, she set a spectacular table, and her home was often the site for large family celebrations. She had an interest in fashion and beauty, always dressed to the nines, with manicured nails and matching jewelry. She sewed clothes for herself and her children. Later, she became a salesperson at the cosmetics counter at Halle's Department Store in downtown Cleveland where she shared her makeup secrets and her passion for always looking your most beautiful.
Her beloved husband, Bud, died in 1982; several years later she remarried a long time family friend and neighbor, Anthony Aveni. They traveled between South Euclid, Ohio and Naples, Florida and remained together for 20 years. In 2005 she moved in with her daughter, Kathleen, and soon after they both "retired" to Rochester, Minnesota to be near her granddaughter, Wendy White, and grandson-in-law, Jim Onigkeit, and her three great grandchildren, Jonathan, Lauren and Nicholas Onigkeit. She spent winters in Southern California visiting with her siblings; her son; her grandsons, Jason White and Max Modica; as well as her nieces Kathi Komick Fraser and Ginny Fiorello Irelan. After Kathleen's death in 2009, she lived with her siblings for a brief time. The bond of these sisters and brothers was enviable - their hours together full of love and laughter. She returned to Rochester to move in with Wendy and Jim and their kids in 2012.
Helen had amazing fortitude and generosity of spirit that was the glue that held her family together. Her main "love language" was giving of herself through cooking, cleaning, and sewing. Her generosity extended to her material possessions. She literally would give you the clothes off her back if she thought it would look good on you. The true depth of her giving nature was still obvious even at the end of her life; when you visited her in the nursing home she would offer you her cup of coffee, food off her plate, or even costume jewelry she had won at bingo. Her soul was gentle and kind. She never raised her voice in anger, but rather used tenacity and stubbornness to get her way. She exemplified the strength, selflessness, and stoicism of the "greatest generation".
She is preceded in death by her parents; her husbands, Bud and Anthony; her daughter, Kathleen; her sisters, Josie, Connie, Ginny, Wanda; and her brothers, Joey, Victor, and Frank. She is survived and remembered by her son Louis (Sandy); grandsons Max Modica and Jason White; her granddaughter Wendy White (James Onigkeit); and great grandchildren, Jonathan, Lauren and Nicholas; as well as many other nieces, nephews and cousins.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date, please add your email to be notified of services when scheduled.