Mary Debenedetto was called home to heaven on December 31, 2021, from her residency at Madison Point Nursing Care in New Port Richey, Florida. She was born on Friday, the 13th of June in 1924 to Lena (DiCorti) and John Asta in Brooklyn, NY where she was raised with her younger brother, Thomas Asta. As a child, her parents divorced, her mother remarried and gave birth to Antionette Chapel, Mary’s youngest sibling. Her large extended family all lived very close to each other, some were right across the street, while others resided in the same apartment building. At the age of 17 she married Felix (Phil) DelCampo, who was from Jamaica, NY and together they raised four children, Robert DelCampo; Dolores DelCampo; Philip DelCampo and LeeAnn (Sheridan). Along with their children, Robert and Dolores, they left the big Italian family in Brooklyn and moved to NJ where they welcomed their two youngest children, Philip and LeeAnn. Mary loved being a homemaker. She loved family and always wanted everyone to be together, which brought her and Phil to leave NJ and make their way to LI, where Mary’s side of the family had migrated to from Brooklyn to purchase homes and bask in the tranquility of suburban living. Her younger sister, Antionette, who was now living in Westbury, LI was raising a family of her own while living next door to their mother Lena, and across the street from other family members. Mary & Phil settled in Hicksville, LI where they eventually purchased a brand new 4-bedroom home. Mary came from a large extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and lifelong friends. While raising her family, she was sure to instill in her children strong family bonds and traditions that were passed on to her by her grandparents, and which are still being passed down to her great and great great grandchildren today.
Her children were privileged to have a childhood filled with so many wonderful family memories that included their aunts, uncle’s cousins and grandparents. Sundays were like a holiday gathering where homemade Italian food was plentiful and the love was endless. Mary loved entertaining, cooking, decorating her home and of course gardening. Whether it was her yard or terrace, the flowers were bountiful and beautiful. She was definitely a perfectionist at all she did, even when it came to taking care of herself. One would wonder, where did she find the time, but her hair, skin, nails and makeup was always flawless. At a time when nightclubs were all the rage, her and Phil along with members of Mary’s family would go to shows and see famous entertainers. She was always dressed to the nines, looking like a Hollywood glam movie star. From the time she was a teenager through her 97 years she was stunning, expressing charm and class that wasn’t taught, but came naturally. Mary worked hard all her life, not only in raising her family, but also in the work force. Although she did not work consistently until after her children were grown, she always managed to balance it out so everything ran like a well-oiled machine.
As time moved on Mary’s children grew into adults, and eventually made her and Felix grandparents 8 times. By this time, Mary’s parents and many of her aunts, uncles and cousins had passed away. In 1986 Mary and Phil retired and moved to Tarpon Springs, FL, as their son Philip and his wife moved to St. Petersburg FL. The close knit family values that she was raised with and which she instilled in her family proved itself, because eventually 2 more of her children and their family, as well as her sister and her family, also moved from NY to FL.
After losing her husband, Phil in 2008, Mary married Joseph Debenedetto in 2012. A few years after their marriage, Joseph and Mary moved to Atria Senior living in Hudson FL. Although Mary endured a bit of a struggle adjusting to an assisted living environment, she knew her husband needed the extra care and so she eventually embraced this new lifestyle and made it her home. As Joseph’s health started to fail, Mary found herself alone again, as Joseph needed full nursing care and became a resident of Bear Creek Nursing Home, which happened to be the building next door to Atria. As always, Mary adapted and learned to except this heartbreaking change to hers and her husband’s life. Being the wonderful caregiver she had been all her life, Mary spent all day, every day, sitting by her husband’s side, and would return to Atria in the early evening. 2 years later, Covid hit and that was the end of life as everyone knew it. Prior to Covid creating havoc on the world, Mary had displayed signs of the onset of early dementia, and now needed the nurses to manage her daily medications. Due to the pandemic, Joseph and Mary would not see each for other for over 9 months. Mary did not do well during the period of Covid isolation. The dementia seemed to have escalated, she was very much confused, hallucinating and paranoid. Eventually she became completely run down having to be hospitalized and then transitioning to rehab, where she remained four 4 months. As it turned out, it wasn’t so much that the dementia escalated, the doctor said the isolation took a toll on many of the elderly, especially their minds.
Mary did not return to Atria due to the inhumane neglect and solitude they had forced on their residents during Covid, but was so happy with her new apartment at Grand Villas of NPR Assisted Living. Mary’s assisting needs were still minimal, but necessary, and now included help with washing and dressing, little reminders about mealtimes and to use her walker. Life was returning to normal for her and Joseph, as now Mary was visiting him once again. Her mental state vastly improved while in rehab – no more hallucinating or paranoia and the confusion was better. Although she still had dementia, she was so much better and participating in some of her favorite pass times again, such as knitting, playing cards, doing word searches and of course…going out for lunch and shopping dates with her daughter. In January of 2021, just six weeks after moving into her new apartment, Mary fell and broke her hip. After surgery and rehab, it was apparent that she needed to reside full time in a skilled nursing facility (Madison Pointe) as she was an 100% fall risk and the dementia allowed her to forget to use her walker. For her safety, Mary was confined to a wheelchair with daily physical therapy using her walker. But still, Mary could not accept this lifestyle and grew very anxious and unhappy. Once her hip fully healed, the mission was to have her husband transition from Bear Creek to where she was now living (Madison Pointe). She knew it was a mission that was being worked on and was so happy waiting for the day it would become a reality. It took a few months, but it did happen, and they were finally together again after years of living apart.
Sadly, Joseph died just 6 weeks later. Mary only knew that he was sick and that he was taken to the hospital. At times she would say that Joe passed away and then start to talk about something else. Sometimes the dementia was a blessing, as she didn’t have to endure the pain of losing him; however, she still missed him terribly and felt very lonely.
Eventually, Mary finally came to her own and was known to the staff and residents alike as the life of Madison Pointe. She was content, and with that came a personality that was very different from ever before. She was calm, easy to please and very agreeable. The nurses would say that she was their social butterfly and loved to make friends. Mary was very healthy, and at 97 years old that is a rarity. The dementia was now to the point where at times she believed and said things that weren’t so, but she also was still quite lucid at the same time. Sometimes she would realize that what she said didn’t make sense and laugh about it. She was adorable. Her sense of humor was delightful, and her innocence was endearing. The simplest of things made her happy, such as eating an ice-cream or sipping a milk shake. But make no mistake about it, Mary was smart and was still very much the mom to her children that she always was. If they needed advice or were troubled about something, it was almost like the mom gene was immediately awoken. She knew just what to say to comfort and guide.
Anyone who ever knew Mary can tell you that her favorite thing to do was to dance…and she was great at it. Music moves the soul, and it sure did move hers, along with rest of her body. Back in the day, she played vinyl’s all the time. She loved music. Eventually, it was on to cassettes and CD’s. The car radio was always on whenever she was out and about. Dancing and Mary went hand in hand right up to her last week of life here on earth. She was sitting in her wheelchair during the Christmas party at Madison Pointe with her hands thrashing around above her head, and her derriere wiggling about in the seat singing, “Shake, Rattle and Roll”. The charge nurse was tickled to see this and asked her, “Miss Mary, what has gotten into you?” She replied, “Well, someone has to entertain them” (referencing the other residents). Mary was always the true life of all the parties and gatherings she ever attended.
Mary didn’t have the easiest childhood, and yes, she had her share of sorrow along the way. You would never know it by looking at her face. Towards the end of her time here on earth, she seemed like the happiest person in the world. And maybe she was.
In addition to her 4 children and 8 grandchildren, Mary is survived by 11 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren.
To those who knew her and loved her, they will meet her again in heaven. And they will know where to find her…where the sounds of music, laughter and joy are heard nearby.
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Florida National Cemetery - Directions
6502 SW 102nd Avenue
Bushnell, FL 33513
Florida National Cemetery - Directions
6502 SW 102nd Avenue
Bushnell, FL 33513