Benilde I.C. Sansone, homemaker, dies at 102

She was an avid Food Network viewer and gourmet cook

  • Benilde Incani Cesta Sansone
Benilde Incani Cesta Sansone
December 15, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Benilde I.C. "Nonna" Sansone, an Italian immigrant and homemaker who loved preparing dishes from her homeland, died Monday of complications from a fall six weeks earlier at her daughter's Lutherville home. She was 102.

Benilde Incani Cesta, the daughter of farmers, was born in Collelongo in Italy's Abruzzi region and raised on her parents' farm.

In 1932, she married Angelo Sansone, who immigrated before World War II to Baltimore to work at Bethlehem Steel Corp. at Sparrows Point, leaving his wife behind in Italy.

Mrs. Sansone spent the war years in Italy.

"She watched the Fascist Party in Italy come to power and had to give up all of her jewelry, including her wedding band," said a granddaughter, Paula Stoller, who is a national account executive for The Baltimore Sun Media Group. "Her town was occupied by German soldiers, and she would hide in the hills."

It wasn't until 1948 that she was able to join her husband in Baltimore's Little Italy neighborhood. She worked for a number of years as a seamstress in Baltimore's garment district.

Mrs. Sansone and her husband left Little Italy and lived for several years in Loch Raven before moving to Lutherville, where they resided for years.

Her husband died in 1959.

Mrs. Sansone enjoyed cooking and each day prepared dinners for "five to 15 people, depending on who dropped in," Ms. Stoller said.

Every week, she prepared her homemade pasta sauce, which she distributed to family members. She also was a Food Network fan and especially enjoyed shows that featured her favorite chef, Emeril Lagasse.

Mrs. Sansone, who remained active until she was 100, enjoyed gardening and reading. She was also a devout Roman Catholic who never missed Mass and said the Rosary on the first Sunday of the month.

Mrs. Sansone's family attributed her longevity to her eating habits and remaining physically active by working in her garden.

"Nonna never smoked; she did enjoy a glass of red wine or a beer on occasion. She was a really healthy eater, no processed food, just fresh fruits and vegetables. She always used extra virgin olive oil when cooking and fresh herbs," her granddaughter said.

"Her mind was sharp until the end," Ms. Stoller said. "She read the newspaper every day and voted in all the elections. Not your typical 102-year-old."

Mrs. Sansone was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday.

Also surviving are two daughters, Theresa Sansone Costa and Imelda Sansone, both of Lutherville; two other grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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