Agatha M. Culotta, 85, co-founder of company that created mannequins

April 19, 2002|By John Patinella | John Patinella,SUN STAFF

Agatha M. Culotta, co-founder of a company that prepared mannequins for their roles in store displays, died of complications from pneumonia Tuesday at St. Joseph Medical Center after a 16-month struggle to recover from hip-replacement surgery. She was 85.

Born Agatha Mary Corasaniti in Baltimore, she was raised and lived for much of her life in Hamilton. She attended St. Dominic Parochial School and was a graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame and Strayer's Business College.

In 1935, she was crowned Miss Hamilton.

She was married for 45 years to Joseph L. Culotta, a tavern owner, who died in 1984.

Mrs. Culotta and her friend, Rosemary Van Stone, opened the Mannequin Service Co. in 1962 in the 2400 block of N. Charles St. Its customers included Hutzler's and Sears department stores and Hiken Formal Wear. They sold the business in 1989.

The company was featured in a 1966 article in the now-defunct Sunday Sun Magazine, which told how Mrs. Van Stone prepared the dummies while Mrs. Culotta determined which personality to give each one.

Mrs. Culotta was quoted as saying, "What I paint depends on the expression of the mannequin. The expression that I see. Whether she's demure, whether she's shy. Sometimes the shape of the mouth will determine what I do with the eyes - where I put them, how large I make them."

Jack Van Stone, the partner's son, said his mother handled the business side of the company, while Mrs. Culotta was involved in the creative side. "She was a magician at painting the faces," he said. "They developed a fabulous following in a unique business and were very successful."

Mrs. Culotta was "a perfect lady," her cousin Rita Ann Ayd said, "a very dignified young lady and woman her whole life."

In a memorial statement, Mrs. Ayd added, "Agatha was a woman ahead of her time in that she knew as a teen the path women would be allowed to take. She was a woman of courage and a pioneer who spoke up for what she believed in. She was a great role model for women."

The family said Mrs. Culotta was known for her Christmas parties and hospitality, and for more than 30 years planned, prepared food and tended to every detail of social occasions for family and friends.

She loved all sports, but she most enjoyed watching and supporting her son, Frank Culotta, when he played baseball and football at Calvert Hall College High School and football at Villanova University.

"I was blessed to have her in my life," said her son, who lives in Phoenix. "I learned a lot from her: enthusiasm, loyalty, determination, persistence and courage."

For the past 15 months, Mrs. Culotta lived at Brightwood Center Genesis ElderCare, where staff remembered her as sweet and artistic, and a person who wouldn't give up as she suffered a life-threatening illness.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to her son, survivors include a brother, John Corasaniti of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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