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Matilda Fumo, 92, guided tourists around Phila.

Matilda DeFlaviis Fumo could often be seen in the Independence Hall neighborhood, turned out as a well-dressed 18th century lady.

Matilda DeFlaviis Fumo
Matilda DeFlaviis FumoRead more

Matilda DeFlaviis Fumo could often be seen in the Independence Hall neighborhood, turned out as a well-dressed 18th century lady.

In springtime and autumn, from the mid-1980s into 2009, Mrs. Fumo was a costumed guide for Centipede Tours. A very patient guide.

The last tour that Mrs. Fumo worked alongside Centipede guide Sally A. Downey was especially memorable.

Though the tour groups often consisted of local schoolchildren, this one was peopled by adults from out of state. And they were late.

"It was one of our worst groups," Downey said.

And because they were late, National Park Service rangers would not let them into Independence Hall for the timed event, which was already underway.

The group leader was apoplectic.

Mrs. Fumo "would be very courteous," Downey said, and "could deal with difficult people." And again this time, she was and she did.

On Sunday, March 15, Mrs. Fumo, 92, of Mount Laurel, died at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly.

Born in Mosciano Sant'Angelo, in the Abruzzo region of Italy, she came to Camden when she was a teenager.

Because she was fluent in Italian, "everyone loved her when she did our Italian tours," Virginia Roberts, president of Centipede, said.

"She was a lovely lady. Very classy."

But the bread-and-butter tours were for schoolchildren, ranging from fourth graders to high school seniors, said Downey, a former Inquirer reporter.

To qualify as a guide, applicants had to attend American history classes for six Saturdays.

For someone who had not grown up with tales of wild colonial times for breakfast, Downey said, "it must have been challenging."

She already had faced a few challenges.

Mrs. Fumo came to Camden in the late 1930s with her mother, Maria, and brother Ralph, to join her father, Alessio.

In 1949, she returned to Italy to marry her husband, Mario, whom she had met during a 1947 vacation there, son Robert said.

The couple settled in Caracas, Venezuela, from 1952 to 1954, when she returned pregnant to Camden so her first child, Rick, could be a U.S. citizen.

After she and her son rejoined her husband in Caracas, the family lived in Italy from 1956 to 1958, when Mrs. Fumo's husband was finally admitted to the United States.

A civil engineer, architect, and real estate developer, her husband in 1969 opened, under his own name, a practice that is now Fumo & Associates Inc. in Cinnaminson.

By the time her three children were grown, Mrs. Fumo had heard about Centipede from a friend and gave it a try.

"She just loved doing that," Robert said. "It was her passion."

Besides her sons, Mrs. Fumo is survived by son Vincent, a brother, and three grandchildren. Her husband died in 1993.

A life celebration and viewing were set from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Church of the Sacred Heart, 103 Fourth St., Riverton, N.J., 08077, before an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass there, with entombment at Calvary Mausoleum in Cherry Hill.

Donations may be sent to the church at the above address.

Condolences may be offered to the family at