WHEN HER family tries to describe Candida D'Anella, only superlatives will do.

"She was the most beautiful, the most tenacious, the most spirited," said her sister Rosemarie Garay. "Her life was marked with beauty and grace throughout. She was the model of beauty and grace."

Candida D'Anella, a loving mother and grandmother who didn't let any occasion pass without a celebration, and a woman who was devoted to the needy, died Saturday after a brief illness. She was 79 and lived in South Philadelphia.

"She was always two minutes away from a party," said one of her daughters, Mary D'Anella.

Another daughter, Donna D'Anella, recalled the Valentine's Day parties her mother threw for the children every year.

"She made us dresses out of red velvet," Donna said. "We would have a formal sit-down dinner with a red tablecloth, and our father would take pictures.

"She loved to celebrate things," Donna said. "She didn't let anything go by."

Candida's big heart also went out to the community. As a member of the Lioness/Lions Club, the former ladies wing of the Lions Club, she went every Christmas to the Edith Rudolphy Home for the Blind in West Philadelphia and handed out gifts to the residents.

Candida held every position in the Lioness club, including president twice. "She was a driving force with them," Donna said. "She was a charitable activist."

She also was the one who organized the annual reunions of the class of 1947 of South Philadelphia High School for Girls. She and a few pals from kindergarten were regular attendees.

"She always loved to be doing things," Donna said. "Every day she wanted to know what we were going to do that day. She couldn't sit still . . . . She was out to dinner just last week."

Son-in law Michael Mercanti, who is photo editor at the Daily News and Mary D'Anella's husband, said, "Candida was a stunning beauty, as beautiful inside as she was out."

Candida was born in Philadelphia to John and Mary Russo. After high school, she worked for a time at her family's variety store at 11th and Wolf streets.

She married Vincent "Robideau" D'Anella Jr. in 1950. He was the owner of Robideau's Express, a trucking and warehouse company. He died in 2000.

The young couple honeymooned in Cuba, when such a trip was allowed. They traveled extensively during their married life, making numerous trips to Europe.

Candida was also an active member of the Girard Estates Residents Association, the Knights of Columbus and the Columbus Lodge of the Sons of Italy.

Also, she received an outstanding- service award from the Sons of Italy.

As chairwoman of the Lions Club's participation in the annual Columbus Day Parade, she marched from Broad Street and Washington Avenue to Broad and Oregon, refusing to board a trolley offered to transport some of the older members.

"She was beautiful, kind and generous," her sister Rosemarie said. "She was thoughtful of people in general. She was a very spiritual woman."

Besides her daughters and sister, she is survived by another daughter, Candida Lowry; a son, Vincent D'Anella III; three other sisters, Florence Barbato, Lorraine Garay and Janet Daddario; and 11 grandchildren. She was predeceased by another brother, John Russo.

Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Monica's Church, 17th and Ritner streets. Friends may call at 7 p.m. Wednesday and at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Pennsylvania Burial Co., 1327 S. Broad St. Entombment will be in Calvary Cemetery, Cherry Hill.

Donations may be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 225 City Ave., Suite 104, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004. *