Virginia “Ginny” Egnoto, 101, of Camillus, quietly passed away Thursday at Francis House. Never someone to make a fuss, she left this world right when her children, sitting bedside, looked away for a moment. That was Ginny, taking care of those around her right up to her last moment.
Ginny’s life was long, filled with love, laughter, and lots of card games. She and Tom, her beloved husband, played gin rummy almost every night at the kitchen table until he passed in 2001. At 101 she was still playing solitaire at that exact same table.
Ginny grew up on the working-class, southwest side of Syracuse. Number three in the line of seven Couse siblings; Vivian, Evelyn, then Ginny, followed by Velma, Shirley, Hazel, and lastly Clifton, affectionately known as “Skip”. Bittersweet that she outlived them all.
Ginny graduated from Vocational High, lettered in cheerleading, and somewhere along the way, she broke an arm playing baseball. Sweet and social, she mixed, mingled, and formed lifelong friendships through early jobs at Associated Laundry and The Board of Education, and later through Tom’s involvement with the Italian American Athletic Club and Knights of Columbus. A dashing couple, they relished these dinner dances, gathered around tables, joking with friends, dancing a mean jitterbug and sipping the occasional vodka and tonic.
While Tom was the adventurer, Ginny kept them on a budget.
She attributed her frugalness to being a “depression kid,” with stories of a single winter coat shared among five sisters, trudging bootless to school in knee-high snow, the one about the dirtiest kid getting in the tub last, and the time her “mean” Aunt Grace made her pay for a single egg. As her own mother, Sadie Couse, espoused, “We may be poor, but soap is cheap.”
Peacemaking was Ginny’s superpower. Having married into a raucous—and at times—hot-tempered Italian family, she would be the cool head to prevail. When occasional rifts occurred between extended family members, Ginny appealed to their ‘better angels within’ to smooth the storm. Once when her efforts fell short, she called in a priest.
A petite, soft spoken woman with a wry sense of humor and a stubborn streak, Ginny rarely raised her voice. She never said an unkind word about anyone, with the one exception of mean Aunt Grace. The worst the kids heard when wreaking havoc around the house was “Wait till your father gets home.” Inevitably, by the time Tom arrived, most crimes were either forgotten or forgiven.
Ginny walked everywhere until she finally got her driver’s license sometime in her fifties. This newfound freedom launched her retail career working part-time at Flah’s at the old Fairmount Fair Mall. Armed with a 15% discount and extra pocket money, Ginny was free to pursue her shopping obsession. Well into her 90s, every outing to Marshalls gave her joy, and she refused to come home empty-handed. She did not however abandon her cautious financial perspective, and always looked for a bargain.
Ginny hesitated to throw anything away, explaining “Well you just never know when you might…” (If you need a twist tie, she’s got bags of them.) She leaves behind a bounty of “finds” in every closet, and every drawer, in every corner, as testament to her shopping and saving prowess.
Finding herself alone in her 80s, Ginny took up watercolor painting to pass the time. Turns out, she was very talented and quite prolific, a modern-day Grandma Moses. Her paintings line the walls in her home, and more are squeezed unframed into closets and armoires. Her children, Gary Egnoto (Julie Pagoda) of Baldwinsville, NY, and Sue Egnoto (Morris Wallack) of Durham NC, along with her five grandchildren: Tom, Emily, Jeff, Grace and Eve will have the pleasure of fondly fighting over who gets their favorite.
The family is forever in debt to Ginny’s caregiver and companion, Mary Masztelar, and neighbors Dave and Rose Prior for all their help in recent years.
The family and friends will celebrate Ginny’s life at Buranich Funeral Home, Friday, February 10. Calling hour is at 10 a.m., memorial service at 11 a.m., followed by a graveside service at Greenlawn Cemetery. The celebration will continue following services at Ginny’s home with lunch.