When Nancy Campanella was growing up in South Philly during the Depression, she aspired to become an artist.
One of nine children, she worked in her father’s grocery store after school and on weekends.
She showed artistic talent while at South Philadelphia High School for Girls, and was offered an art-school scholarship but had to decline it because of family responsibilities.
“When I was ready to go to kindergarten at age 5, she was the person to take me to school for the first day,” said her sister Frances DelCiotto, 76. “Any time there was a parent meeting, my mother would send one of the older daughters.”
Nancy Campanella became Nancy Catelli Frasca after two marriages. She died Friday, April 12, of cardiopulmonary arrest at Buckingham Valley Rehab & Nursing Center in Newtown. She was 92 and lived in Southampton.
She never got to train as an artist, but found ways to express her talent. Before and during her marriage to Anthony Catelli, whom she married in her early 20s, she worked at Rembrandt Studios in South Philadelphia, colorizing sepia photographs of high school graduations and weddings.
“I remember she had boxes of photos [the owner] would drop off at their apartment when she was married,” her sister said. “She was a stay-at-home mom, and that’s how she earned extra money.”
She was married for 19 years to Catelli, the owner of Catelli Meats in South Philadelphia. The couple had seven children, whom they raised in Huntingdon Valley.
When the two divorced in her late 40s, she continued colorizing photos. In her early 50s, she married Alfred Frasca.
“She had golden hands,” DelCiotto said. “She always had an art project going.”
Once the children were grown, Mrs. Frasca worked for 15 years developing film at a Jack’s Cameras lab near her home. Her shift was 4 to 11 p.m. She retired at age 79 only because “her kids put their foot down,” her sister said.
Mrs. Frasca talked a mile a minute, her sister said, about, for instance, what it was like to pick asparagus on a farm in Woodstown, N.J., as a teenager.
“The people they stayed with had strict rules,” DelCiotto said. “It was a good life and prepared her for many things down the road. When you have tough times in your youth, it makes the road ahead a piece of cake compared to what you lived through.”
Mrs. Frasca was the first in her Italian American family to file for a divorce.
“It took a lot of courage to do that, but she had my mother’s approval,” her sister said. When she later sought a divorce, she had Mrs. Frasca’s support.
“She was such a good role model,” DelCiotto said.
Known for her upbeat personality, Mrs. Frasca enjoyed needlepoint, oil painting, cooking, bowling, jigsaw puzzles, and spending time at the New Jersey Shore.
She was a member of St. Albert the Great Church in Huntingdon Valley and its Over 55 Club.
Both former husbands died earlier. In addition to her sister, she is survived by children Elissa Fellman, Joseph, Linda Rosanio-Talamo, Anthony, James, Nancy Gattis, and Michael; 14 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Grace Anela and Marie Macrane.
A viewing from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at Joseph A. Fluehr III Funeral Home, 800 Newtown-Richboro Rd., Richboro, will be followed by a second viewing on Wednesday, April 24, from 10 to 10:45 a.m., and an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 611 Knowles Ave., Southampton. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.