AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Lena Matilda Pilla, 93, passed away suddenly but peacefully at St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Youngstown on Friday, July 30, 2021, with her children by her side.
Lena was born on August 25, 1927 and raised in Fairmont, West Virgina. She was the daughter of Angelo and Teresa Zaccagnino, who emigrated from Bagnoli del Trigno, Province of Isernia in Molise, Italy.
While holding a cascading bouquet of calla lilies – her favorite flowers – Lena married Joseph Achille Pilla on January 18, 1947, moving to Youngstown following their nuptials.
Lena worked at Simco Shoes in downtown Youngstown for a number of years, beginning her career as a clerk and retiring as a manager. She later went on to work at various shoe stores at the mall and also co-owned and operated J & L Beverage Center in Lincoln Knolls Plaza alongside her husband.
A 50+ year member of the TriGold Chapter of A.B.W.A. (American Business Women’s Association), Lena was twice awarded the coveted Woman of the Year honor. She was a longstanding member of the Ladies Bagnolese Club for more than 70 years.
When she was still able to do so, Lena enjoyed cooking for her family, especially around the holidays when she would make homemade spaghetti or cavatelli with meatballs, braciole and sauce; the traditional Bagnolese spezzatto and scattone and the scarpelle and pizzelle cookies her family so looked forward to.
Lena enjoyed spending time with her family and doing “whatever,” which is a word she used just about every single day of her life. In fact, whenever plans were being made or too many options were presented at once, Lena would eventually shrug and say “Well, whatever,” as her final answer.
Regardless of her whatever-ing, she would expect those plans to take place on time. “You better hike it, buddy,” was her stern advice if anyone dared to dally. She was a stickler for promptness and regularly checked her watch to make sure that everything happened when it was supposed to. All of her many timepieces were set between five and 15 minutes fast, just in case and no one was permitted to dawdle around on her watch.
Pragmatic and no-nonsense, Lena was determined to make sure everyone wore their shoes and coats at all times. If one of these items was not present and accounted for, she would most certainly inquire about it and give a look of displeased “whatever” if the response was “I don’t need my coat” or “I don’t like shoes.”
In Lena’s world, shoes were required for everyone of all ages, including infants incapable of walking. If you didn’t wear shoes, you were living your life incorrectly – especially if you were her granddaughter.
Lena was fiercely protective of her daughter, a woman who was always expected to be home before the streetlights came on – even though she is in her 60s. And yes, she would call at dusk to check.
Lena had a surprisingly mischievous streak for someone so serious. During the pandemic lockdown at her assisted living facility, when contact was limited and her family could only drop things off for her, she would find any reason to walk out into the hallway and approach the door. Sometimes it was to deliver a bag of Hershey’s Kisses or a piece of junk mail, while other times, she conveniently “forgot” that she wasn’t supposed to leave her room, just to sneak a peek and wave at her family from a distance. Those quick interactions made her entire day.
Although the past year and a half were marked by much change, Lena managed to find pleasure in the little things, like attending weekly bingo games and small group exercise activities at her assisted living facility. In recent weeks, she greatly enjoyed outings with her longtime companion and her daughter, taking in lunch and even visiting the Rose Garden at Mill Creek Park as life returned to a little more normalcy.
Although her family deeply mourns the loss of its matriarch, they take comfort in knowing that she lived a long and full life.
Lena was preceded in death by her parents; her husband of 54 years; an older sister, Irene Martino; a son-in-law, Albert Bush and a grandson, Lee Bush.
Lena leaves behind to cherish her memory her daughter, Jolyn Bush of Berlin Center, who already misses her mom’s morning and evening “checking in” phone calls; her son, Richard (Karen) Pilla of Canfield; grandsons, Richard Pilla (Amy Bosshart) of Savoy, Illinois and Michael (Shirly) Pilla of Belleville, Illinois; granddaughter, Alison (Kevin) Huff of Berlin Center; stepgranddaughters, Lisa Strange of McDonald, Della (Paul) Elia of Struthers and Darla (Anthony) Ferradino of McDonald; eight great-grandchildren; six great-stepgrandchildren; four great-great-grandchildren; several nieces and devoted longtime companion, Michael Kisak of Austintown, with whom she enjoyed music in local parks and dining out.
Lena will be greatly missed by all of her extended family, her friends at the Ladies Bagnolese Club and TriGold A.B.W.A. and her friends at AustinWoods.
Family and friends may call on Thursday, August 12, 2021 from 1:00 – 1:25 p.m., with a Mass of Christian held at 1:30 p.m., all at St. Dominic Church, 77 E Lucius Avenue, Youngstown.
Even though the current mask regulations have been lifted, Lena’s family requests that all attending calling hours and funeral services are to where a facial covering and please keep social distancing.
Her family would like to thank the gracious staff of Woodlands Assisted Living at AustinWoods for the dedicated care they provided to Lena during her residency.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the professional care of the Rossi & Santucci Funeral Home, 4221 Market Street, Boardman. Family and friends may visit www.rossisantuccifh.com to sign the guest book and send condolences to Lena’s family.