Gaetana (Connie) Puglia Spano, 94, a homemaker, extraordinary chef and matriarch to her family and friends, passed away Monday, March 9 in Abilene.
Born in Brooklyn, NY to Gaetano and Maria Valenti Puglia on Nov. 27, 1925, she was a proud first-generation American whose immigrant parents were part of a generation that helped build America and provide their children with the American dream. True to her roots, she believed there was only one food group: Italian. Connie and her sisters Mary and Josie were known to all along “the avenue” and throughout the borough as “The Sisters.” Daily, they’d shop together for the freshest ingredients for their famous family meals which would rival any Michelin 5-star restaurant. A signature event was her Feast of the Seven Fishes each Christmas.
On Sept. 22, 1946, she married the love of her life, Salvatore (Pete) Spano, in Brooklyn, NY where they made their home and surrounded by family, reared two sons, Joseph and Peter. Her great love Pete died in 1980. With recipes in hand, she moved from Brooklyn to Abilene in 1997 to be near her sons and their families. Many of her culinary specialties were featured dishes on the menu and favorites of patrons at Spano’s Italian Cafe. On most days, you could find Connie holding court with her good friend and in-law Barbara Backus while rolling silverware. She entertained shipping magnets, governors and people from all walks of life who could always find a place at her table. A frequent add-on was former Governor of Texas Mark White, who loved to sit and talk with the mothers. He once asked them how they raised such good kids. Without hesitating, Connie proudly told him, “We love. We forgive. And, we love some more.”
Connie was a member of Holy Family Catholic Church. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends who affectionately referred to her as “Mamma Mia.” She leaves a legacy of love, forgiveness and the hallmark of a true Italian matriarch - the most marvelous memories that forever will be savored with each bite of her signature recipes.
She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents, her brothers Tony, Jack, and Frank Puglia, her beloved sisters, best friends Josephine Barbato and Mary Somma, and nephew Sonny Puglia.
She is survived by sons and daughters-in-law Joseph and Teddie Spano and Peter and Cathy Spano, all of Abilene; grandchildren Michelle Spano, of Staten Island, NY, Joseph Spano, Jr., of San Angelo TX, Lacy Spano, of Aliso Viejo, CA, Jason Stelzer, of Keller, TX, Kelli Grigsby, of Abilene; and great-grandchildren Joseph and Alex Urbano, Maddie and Mason Spano, Chloe Hajali, Karson and Kelton Grigsby, and Madi and Briley Stelzer; a brother Sal Puglia of Long Island, NY; sister-in- law Mary Spano, of Brooklyn NY; and many nephews and nieces.
The family expresses sincere thanks to her niece Marie Musarella, the nursing staff at Windcrest, Dr Tom Headstream and Teresa Headstream, NP.
A private family burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery in New York City. Memorials may be given to the charity of your choice.
Memories may be shared and condolences submitted online at www.HamilFamilyFuneralHome.com
The family first began in the funeral business in 1933. The Hamil's legacy, beginning with the Elliott's to John and Jo Ann Hamil and now continuing with Robert and Karla Hamil, is to serve families in their time of need.