Life Story / Obituary
Anne Sagolla was a warm and intelligent woman who lived an incredibly full life. She was a loving wife for sixty years to Salvatore J. Sagolla. Anne and Sal raised three children, and felt blessed to have nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Anne’s love of family, food, and culture created a loving family home steeped in tradition, music, laughter, and delicious foods. Her door—and heart and mind-- were always open to anyone and anything.
Anne was born on September 14, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She grew up in an Italian neighborhood in South Philadelphia with her mother Mary DiElsi, father Frank DiElsi, and siblings Carmella and Pat. Her childhood was full of delicious Italian meals (mostly cooked by her father) and a meticulously clean home (a priority for her mother). Anne got her passion for cooking from her father. The family apparently had an extra kitchen in the basement to prepare food for large family gatherings and holiday meals. Anne did not like all of her father’s foods. She explained that a small crack in the floor of the upstairs bathroom allowed her to see into the kitchen to see if her plate of vegetables had been cleared away so that she could return to the kitchen. Her favorite food was polenta, which her dad served on a communal board for the children, who enjoyed making “tunnels” with their spoons to meet each other. Anne had fond memories of playing “sissy handball” as a child in the alley behind her house, and of her grandfather (her mom’s dad) selling penny ice cream cones at the schoolyard during lunchtime. She excelled in high school, always up to the task with her excellent memory and strong writing skills. She began college, but left school to begin a job as a secretary at the American Red Cross in downtown Philadelphia.
While working at the Red Cross, Anne met Salvatore J. Sagolla, a young navy veteran. His first day at the office he stepped off the elevator in sight of the secretarial pool and Anne commented to her then best friend, “He is gorgeous, I’m gonna marry that man!” On September 5, 1953, she did, and they stayed married until Sal’s death in 2013. They spent two years in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, where together they would take a train, bus, trolley, and then another bus to get to and from work every day. In 1958, Sal and Anne left the East Coast and moved to Lansing, Michigan when Sal took a job as director of the Lansing Area United Way.
Anne spent many years working at Lansing Catholic High School, Lansing Community College, and Association for Child Development, a non-profit that focused on nutrition education. She began as receptionist at Association for Child Development and over six years worked her way up to director. Anne was always the one to arrive early and stay late. She often remarked that she could not believe her colleagues left at 5pm on the dot. She was an excellent communicator, a great writer, and a sharp, analytical mind. She also had the warmth and approachability that made her very easy to work with.
Although Anne excelled at work, her passion was her family. Anne and Sal raised David, Christine, and Laura, with strict rules (no dating until age 16) but also lot of fun and games. Frequent vacations to the east coast always included a cooler full of snacks (prosciutto and salami sandwiches) and drinks (mom’s favorite was cream soda). On the way back to Michigan, the trunk was full of Italian bread because, according to Anne and Sal, there was no good bread in Michigan. Frequent trips to Petoskey and Glen Lake meant fun family time in the water—except for Anne, who strongly disliked water and was generally skeptical of most things outdoorsy. When asked by her daughter Chris what she didn’t like about the outdoors, she replied, “Everything! The wind! The bugs! The dirt!” Even after decades in Michigan, Anne very much considered herself a city girl, which included dressing for every occasion. Her jewelry and outfits were notoriously coordinated, and she was known to tell her daughters now and again to “put a little lipstick on.” She had firm opinions about clothing--pink and blue do not go together—and of course about food, including that her son David was a much better cook than either of her daughters.
One of Anne and the family’s favorite celebrations was on Christmas Eve, where the entire family and extended family (this year it will be 23 people total) celebrated the Feast of the Seven Fishes where together they spent hours preparing and eating seven delicious fish courses, pizza, pasta, eggplant parmesan, and the mouth-watering twenty pounds of crab cooked in tomato sauce!
Anne loved music. She shared a love of opera with her father, but also appreciated any pop or jazz music with a strong vocalist. Her favorite was Frank Sinatra. Anne often recounted going to a Sinatra concert at 13 years old where she and her friends wore large buttons that read “we love you Frank!” Anne always sang around the house and encouraged her children to sing—even at the dinner table was fine. She knew the lyrics to hundreds of songs and enjoyed listening to and critiquing Laura’s singing. Anne also loved her perennials. Again she had firm aesthetic opinions—the flowers on hostas should never be allowed to grow—and somehow managed to brave the dirt and bugs if a beautiful garden was the result.
To her grandchildren, Anne was known as “Mimi” and she shared a unique relationship with each of her nine grandchildren. Each night she said a different special prayer for each grandchild. She enjoyed talking flowers with Hannah, rolling homemade pasta with Audrey, cooking for Ashley and her family, and for Harry and his friends. Anne was also a loyal friend, with some of her closest friendships lasting sixty years. Anne was a caring and attentive listener, remembering the details of the lives of her friends, their children, and their grandchildren.
Although Anne’s family and friends now say goodbye, they will forever treasure the many beautiful moments they shared with such a loving and warm woman. She will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.
Anne Marie Sagolla died on June 11, 2019. Anne will live on through her family who are challenged by her example to live life to its fullest, always to be kind, loving, forgiving and respectful to everyone they meet, and to continue her legacy of cooking masterful and delicious meals for those they love!