Photography

Rita A. (Palmieri) DeFino

July 25, 1934 ~ January 17, 2023 (age 88) 88 Years Old

Tribute

In the hours before sunrise on Tuesday, January 17th, 2023, surrounded by a specific humor and bravado from the three grandsons at her bedside only a grandmother could truly appreciate, visits and calls from loved ones, and a daughter who never left her side, Rita A DeFino passed peacefully.

Born in 1934 in Mechanicville, NY to first generation Italian Americans Dominico Henry Palmieri (1906-1990) and Rose Marie Marino Palmieri (1910-1999), Rita was the oldest of four full siblings and two half siblings. After attending Mechanicville High School and achieving a certificate in Secretarial Sciences, Rita began work at E.D. Jones in Pittsfield, MA. It was here that she met her forever partner in crime, husband and best friend, Donald D. DeFino. The two were married on October 9th, 1959, and would soon have two girls: Kimberly Lynn DeFino Mattoon and Donna Marie DeFino.

Rita held a number of conventional secretary positions at General Electric, E.D. Jones, Hillcrest Hospital, Berkshire Medical Center, and Editions Limited in Pittsfield, MA. Concurrently, Rita and Donald continued to flourish in their partnership through a series of exciting, non-conventional, at times crazy and off-the-cuff entrepreneurial adventures. For example, in 1961, as Massachusetts instated new regulations for hunters regarding the mandatory use of bright colors while in the field, Rita and Donald manufactured Safety Orange vests, beginning just one day before the start of deer season and aiding many hunters in their pursuit for game. At the same time, Rita began a ‘Dial-A-Secretary’ business, recognizing the need for per diem secretarial work,  where she formatted, typed and copied documents of great importance such as thesis papers and formal business letters.

True to her roots, Rita had an unbridled passion for all things food. Rita and Donald grew this passion together when they acquired the newsstand and lunch counter South Street News in 1967. Opening every day at 3am, South Street News would provide hot meals for the third shift of workers at General Electric. Giving back to their community every Christmas and Thanksgiving, meals were available to those on a fixed income or in need of charity - free of cost. They would sell South Street News in 1971 however not to shift far from the industry. Rita and Donald operated the Crumpet House Bakery from 1974 until 1977, located in the business area known as Coltsville on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield, MA. Here, they would concentrate their efforts on baked goods; this was especially true when it came to Italian cookie trays for weddings and Rita’s famous ‘Tanglewood Bread’, an instant favorite with Berkshire County residents.

Through the 1970’s and 80’s, Rita and Donald also enjoyed laboring over custom knit hats, turning their attic into a viable textile and weaving business. From this yellow pine framed attic, Rita and Donald would weave and knit a variety of hats for local schools, sports teams, children and individuals, all with customized lettering, shapes, and color schemes.

In the mid-1980’s Rita returned to the secretarial arts, this time started Medical Transcription, Ltd. This business, relying on experience gained over the years and especially her “Dial-a-Secretary” days, specialized in transcription work for medical professionals largely centered around medical charts. Together they would grow this business to include a dozen employees and be subcontracted for national work for some of the largest hospitals in America. In a time before voice recognition technology, Rita and Donald ran this very successful business until Donald’s untimely passing in 2002. With the significant loss of her steadfast partner, Rita retired in 2003.

Always an active, strong, and independent woman, Rita somehow found time to weave several hobbies and interests into her busy life. She was a Dalton School Board Secretary, an organist for the United Methodist Church, a bagpiper for what is now the Berkshire Highlanders, started a community garden on Williams Street in 1980, ran several marathons and 5k races, was one point away from a Mensa alumni, designed lunch menus and cooked for the Pittsfield Senior Center, and loved to plan bingo and holiday socials for her fellow residents at Rose Manner. She simply never stopped, and always tried to leave the world better than how she found it.

In addition to her parents, Rita was predeceased by her husband of 43 years, Donald Defino (1936-2002), her siblings Dominick Palmieri (1938-2012), David A Palmieri (1945-2008), and Gennaro Palmieri (1948-1948). She leaves behind two half-siblings, Gennaro Palmieri of Colonie, NY, and Sherri Palmieri-Nato of Londenville, NY. Rita also leaves behind her daughters and their significant others, Kimberly Lynn DeFino Mattoon and Paul Ryan of Pittsfield, MA, and Donna DeFino and Gerry Garner of Cheshire, MA, and bonus sons Max Mattoon of Pittsfield, MA, and Billy McCarthy of Pittsfield, MA. To her beloved grandsons and their wives, Christopher and Rebecca Mattoon of Grand Rapids, MI, Ian and Kelsey Mattoon of Richmond, VT, and Shaun and Savannah Mattoon of Adams, MA, Rita and her husband will always be their Teto and Poppy. She also leaves great-grandchildren Carl, Charles, Marvin, Greyson, Benjamin, Miles, Emmett, three bonus great-grandchildren, and a very large extended family of cousins, including the very much appreciated Wendy Kline Herrera. There will be no services at this time, with a private celebration of Rita’s life to be held in the Spring. As was her wish, she will be cremated and laid to rest at Pittsfield Cemetery, together once again with her husband Donald and next to her baby brother, David Palmieri. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her name to the American Cancer Society, at www.cancer.org, and the Alzheimer’s Association, at www.alz.org.


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