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Grace Barone, 84, devoted matriarch of a large family

She was a news junkie who was knowledgeable about many subjects.

Grace Barone
Grace BaroneRead more

IF ANYBODY in the Gallo or Barone families needed information about current events, sports, medicine or any number of other subjects of interest, they didn't go to the library or the computer. They asked Grace.

"Ask Aunt Grace," nephews and nieces would say. "She'll know about this."

And very often she did know, because Aunt Grace was a news junkie who not only kept up with what was going on in the world and the city, but also checked out the latest advances in medicine, and knew who was doing what to whom on the basketball courts, ice rinks and football gridirons.

Grace America Barone, who worked for a short time for Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., but whose main job was always as a homemaker, died Dec. 12 after a long illness. She was 84 and lived in South Philadelphia.

Her middle name was bestowed on her by her parents, Adeline and Frank Gallo, immigrants from Calabria, Italy.

Her family firmly believes that if Grace Gallo had grown up in a different era and in a different social milieu, she might well have gone to college and made a career in a profession or business.

She certainly had the brains and the drive for any number of career choices, but such choices were not readily available to a South Philly girl, the daughter of Italian immigrants, growing up in the '30s.

Instead, she became a loving, devoted wife, mother, grandmother and aunt.

"She was a remarkable woman," said Anthony Gallo, one of her nephews. "She was sharp as a tack."

Grace grew up in the Bella Vista section of South Philadelphia, at the time a largely Italian neighborhood.

As a student at South Philadelphia High School, she won an American Legion Award, given to students for outstanding academic accomplishment.

She married Alfred Barone, a salesman, in 1954.

Grace was a perfectionist in everything she did, from folding shirts just so, to typing term papers for her children and nephews and nieces, to keeping accurate records of upcoming family events, including birthdays, christenings and anniversaries.

She was always the first to send a card - "written in her impeccable handwriting," Tony said.

He was one of the beneficiaries of her typing skills.

"She was a tremendous typist," Tony said. "She used to do all our term papers, double-spaced with precision and accuracy."

She was a stickler for proper usage. "She'd say, 'You might want a period here,' or 'You should make a paragraph there.'

"I didn't want to hear all that. I just wanted to get it done, but she insisted on making it perfect."

"She would call us in the middle of the night before a paper was due to tell us what changes to make," said Tony's sister Lisa Ketterlinus. "She was a remarkable woman. We're all going to miss her."

Grace was a devoted reader of the Daily News. "When her husband was sick, I tried to get her a subscription to the paper," Tony said. "She insisted on picking it up herself at the corner store."

Grace was an outstanding cook in the Italian fashion.

"Her fried meatballs were the greatest," Tony said. "She also made wonderful lasagna, pasta imbottito in Italian."

Grace also had an artistic bent. When Tony's parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, Grace created a collage of photos with clever captions. She also made other photo layouts with similar captions for the family.

Grace had a wicked sense of humor and, when amused, her laugh would shake the house.

In her 80s, when her voice and hearing became impaired, she learned to express herself on the iPad her family gave her, not letting new technology faze her.

Grace was active in St. Richard's Church, especially when her daughter, Angela Fazio, was the school principal.

She and her husband had a song - Tony Bennett singing "Because of You":

Because of you, there's a song in my heart . . .

Alfred died on Jan. 2, 2004.

She also is survived by a son, Frank Barone; a sister, Mary Giunta; a brother, Frank Gallo Jr., and six grandchildren.

Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Richard's Church, 18th and Pollock streets. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.