Donatella ‘Donna’ A. Ricotta (nee Pegazzano)

July 22, 1927 - Feb. 22, 2007

Donatella "Donna" A. Ricotta (nee Pegazzano) of Waukesha passed away peacefully Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007, at age 79 in Waukesha after a courageous struggle with cancer. Donna was born in Florence (Firenze), Italy, on July 22, 1927, to Leone and Emilia (nee Chiostri) Pegazzano.

She received her teaching certificate there, but instead chose the more adventurous path of becoming a "war bride" in 1947. Donna met, corresponded with and later married an American G.I. who was part of the occupying force in Italy toward the end of World War II. They became engaged by mail. She sailed across the Atlantic in January, landing in New York; 15 days later she got married. She always loved adventure.

As a teenager during the war, she endured the bombing of her home in Florence, as well the German occupation of a country home to which her family had moved. She told stories of how her sisters and female cousins had to hide from enemy officers who had taken over her home. Donna also remembered vividly the day all the Germans left, as the war had ended, and she saw what was believed to be a Red Cross truck departing the country road, but later they discovered that the Germans had used that as a cover to plant land mines in one final war-like gesture.

Donna lived for 45 years in Rochester, N.Y., where she worked for Eastman Kodak Co. as an inspector of items produced there and used by federal government. She needed classification to do this top-secret work, and she was proud that she was able to be so classified despite being foreign-born. She later worked in the travel business, working for several travel agencies and eventually started her own small agency, Wayfarer Travel. She also relished being a tour leader and escorted tours of Italy; Medugorge, Yugoslavia; and Lourdes, France. She loved the benefits of world travel, and especially enjoyed the "familiarization trips" that took her to places like Alaska, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Iceland.

For many years, she sewed clothing, knitted sweaters for adults and children and created beautiful dried flower pictures, which she later sold at retail stores. Donna was also a Bluebird Leader for Campfire Girls when her children were young. She was also known for all her summer food canning, which included peaches (from the back yard), pears, cherries and tomatoes, among other things. Donna also loved to collect antique glassware and "pretty things." She enjoyed cooking and eating good food. Although she didn’t know how to cook when she was first married, she eventually became a fabulous cook, as everyone would attest. Donna liked to say, "If you can read, you can cook." Her family knew it was not quite that easy.

In 1994, she moved to Waukesha to live closer to her oldest daughter, since none of her children lived in Rochester any longer. In Waukesha, she worked again as a travel agent, and later became a cooking teacher at The Clubhouse, a facility for disabled adults sponsored by St. Aemelian’s. This enabled her to combine her love of cooking with teaching. After Donna retired, she was able to devote more time to her collecting and yard sale shopping hobby, and filled her home with art and other beautiful things.

Donna will be sadly missed by her daughters, Suzanne (Marty) Frank of Waukesha, Jacqueline Ricotta (Randy White) of Newtown, Pa., and Lynne Ricotta of Corning, N.Y. She is further survived by her grandchildren, Chadd (Effie) Frank of Waukesha, Elizabeth (Tom) Lang of Chicago, Brenton Frank of Waukesha, David Ricotta and Drew Lambert of Corning, Samuel and Jacob White of Newtown, and the lights of her life, her great-grandchildren, Sofia Donatella and Anthony Samuel Frank of Waukesha. She is also survived by her former husband, Samuel J. Ricotta of Rochester; sisters, Maria Grazia Carisio of Florence and Vittoria (Christian) Schaefer of Grosse Pointe, Mich.; brother, Alberto (Claudia) Pegazzano of Greve-in-Chianti, Italy; goddaughter, Sabina Chiostri Lastrucci; special cousin, Nicchia Raffo Furian; and nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Franco Pegazzano; and brother-in-law, Gilberto Carisio.

Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. Mass on Monday, Feb. 26, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 225 S. Hartwell Ave., Waukesha, with the Rev. James T. Volkert officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: St. Mary’s Catholic Church, address above; Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN), 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, CA 90245; or to the Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Attn: Development Department, 6055 N 91st. St., Milwaukee, WI 53225.

For more information, call Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home and Cremation Services at 542-6609 or visit www.waukeshafuneralhome.com for online obituaries, directions or condolences.