Former Williston Park resident Rosemarie Abruzzo Perkowski, an active community volunteer who had served as vice president of the Williston Park Library, died on Sept. 8 after a long illness. She was 89.
Perkowski married Leonard Abruzzo at Our Lady of Loreto Church in East New York on November 19, 1944 and together they moved to Presque Isle, Maine, where Leonard was in military service.
Pregnant with their first daughter, Annette, the couple returned to Brooklyn in 1945 so Rosemarie could tend to her dying mother. Three years later their second child, Suzanne, was born.
In 1953 Rose and Lenny Abruzzo bought a house in Williston Park where she lived until the early 1980s. In 1953, their third daughter Janet was born.
Suzanne Abruzzo said her mother described her home-making and child-rearing years as the happiest times in her life - with family trips to Bar Beach, the Roslyn Duck Pond, Westbury Drive-In movies, a treat at Hildebrandt’s ice cream parlor, and adventures into Manhattan to visit the landmarks. She enjoyed sewing and lovingly made most of the clothes for herself and daughters – including coats, a cheerleading outfit, and prom dresses.
Suzanne Abruzzo described her mother as “a very loving person,” who was “very hospitable, very generous, and very welcoming of people.” She also remembers her as a woman with a good sense of humor.
Rose and Leonard both became very active in the St. Aidan Church Parish. Lenny was a founding father of the “Sports and Youth Council” and Rosemarie was elected president of the Mothers Club in 1959. Suzanne said her mother ran parish card parties, fashion shows, dances and fundraisers for the Rosary Society, Catholic Daughters of America, and eventually for Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead where Annette and Suzanne attended high school.
Members of the Rosary Society attended the funeral service at Weigand’s Funeral Home last week and said the rosary in Rosemarie’s honor.
“She truly was welcomed back in a fitting way,” Suzanne said. She said members of the Rosary Society recalled her generous nature, saying “If you wanted to get something done, give it to Rosemarie’
In 1976 Rosemarie was appointed vice president of the board of trustees for the Williston Park Library.
As part of her volunteer work, Rosemarie was among the ladies who regularly cleaned the chapel at St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset. She also was at the top of the phone list for Sisters of Charity needing car rides.
Rosemarie’s life changed dramatically in 1964 when Lenny became terminally ill with Hodgkin’s Disease.
Three months later she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized. Suzanne said doctors gave her mother one year to live. After four years of various hospital stays for herself and her husband, Lenny died in 1967 at the age of 46 leaving Rosemarie a 45-year-old widow.
The couple had both studied and received their insurance broker’s license but knowing she needed a more secure job for her family, Rosemarie enrolled in Nassau Community College.
After graduation she left her job at the Wickshire Elementary School in New Hyde Park and began as a teacher assistant position in Roslyn High School, where she worked with students for most of the next 15 years.
Suzanne said Joy returned to Rosemarie’s life with the birth of her first grandchild, Christopher, to Annette and her husband, Joe Calabrese, in 1972.
Rosemarie’s home was once again the center of gatherings for both family and friends who enjoyed her Italian cooking and the tour of her magnificent garden.
In 1974, Rosemarie resumed her community volunteer work, creating the North Shore Widowed Group to support those who had lost a spouse in their younger years.
“It was a very supportive group. My mother was always very supporting. That was a real gift she had,” Suzanne said.
It was in that group that Rosemarie met, and later married, Ted Perkowski, and together they moved to Rockville Centre.
Upon retirement Rosemarie discovered her talent for watercolor painting, took up golf, and enjoyed travel. Suzanne said Rosemarie started a family tradition of an annual family “Girls Weekend” to Montauk each June began around this time and continued for 25 years.
In 1996, 15 years after her second marriage, Ted died and Rosemarie was widowed once again.
Suzanne said her mother was suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease at the end of her life, but still retained her cognitive abilitites.
“She was very aware up until her last breath,” Suzanne said.
She is survived by her three daughters, Annette, Suzanne and Janet, two granchildren and three great grandchildren.
Her 14-year-old grandaughter Annie delivered the eulogy at the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Aidan and played a piece by J.S. Bach in her grandmother’s memory.
Suzanne, a sister of charity for 30 years, said her friend, Father Michael Petrano, pastor of Sacred Heart of Mary and Jesus in Southhampton, presided at the mass for Rosemarie at St. Aidan on Sept. 12. Following the service, she was interred at Holy Rood Cemetery
The family requested donations for the Sisters of Charity in Rosemarie’s memory.