Littleton, Massachusetts: Santa Joan DiStefano Sastri went to be with our Lord on May 6, 2015 with her daughters by her side. She faced the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease with the grace, dignity and sense of purpose that characterized her life. Santa was a loving mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. The daughter of immigrants from Sicily, Amelia and Carmelo DiStefano, Santa was born on March 14, 1918 in Norwich, New York. She grew up on Sheldon Street in Norwich; attending St. Paul’s Catholic School and was a member of the St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church and Altar Rosary Society. Because her parents needed the money, Santa left school to work and help support her family. She spent many years in the Norwich Knitting Mill earning “piece work” pay. She met the love of her life in 1938. Antonio James Sastri (“Tony”) was a friend of Santa’s three brothers. Tony joined the U.S. Army and fought in World War II. Santa waited for him until the war ended and they were married on October 26, 1946. The happy couple moved to 21 Chenango Avenue, Sherburne in 1949 once their house was built. She worked as a waitress and housekeeper early in her marriage. Tony and Santa desperately wanted children but were unable to have them for 12 years. She was finally blessed with a pregnancy and understandably, they were ecstatic. Santa raised two daughters instilling a belief in higher education from the time they were born, knowing how much she struggled with only a middle school education. Working in the Sherburne-Earlville Central Schools (S.E.C.S.) while raising the girls, Santa eventually stayed there for over 31 years. She was loved by all of her co-workers, teachers, principals, maintenance workers, and fellow cafeteria staff. In 1981, tragedy struck when Santa lost her loving husband of 35 years to cancer. She continued to work and stayed in the house they built together in Sherburne. Never having received a driver’s license, Santa walked everywhere which contributed to her longevity. She was a fantastic cook, making her famous Italian cookies for family and friends to enjoy. She supported her children in their music education by being a member of the Band Booster club, cooking for the spaghetti supper fund raisers. She finally retired from S.E.C.S. at the age of 75 in 1993. While in Sherburne, she was a member of St. Malachy’s Catholic Church and Altar Rosary Society. She was very proud of her children and grandchildren who lovingly called her “Nona”.
Once Santa realized she could no longer care for her home of 53 years, she made the difficult decision to sell her house in Sherburne and move to Massachusetts with her daughter, Joan and family. In 2002, Santa suffered a serious fall while walking. This lead to a concussion and brain bleeds which ultimately lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nashoba Valley Life Care Center in Littleton, Massachusetts cared for Santa for the last seven years of her life. She received excellent and loving care from everyone on staff at the Life Care Center.
Santa is survived by her daughters, Mary Amelia Thomas and husband John of Washingonville, NY and Joan Marie Cucchiara and husband Gregory of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, and four grandchildren, Amanda Joan Thomas, 23, Evan James Thomas, 21, Katherine Rebecca Thomas, 18 and Gina Santa Cucchiara, 16. She is also survived by her sister Carmela Doyle of Norwich, and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her loving husband, Antonio and brothers, John, Anthony and Thomas DiStefano.
Donations may be made in Santa’s memory to the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley, 191 Foster St., Littleton, MA 01460 or to the Alzheimer’s Association noting Santa’s name with either donation.
Friends and family may call on Friday, May 8 from 6 to 8 pm at the Burgess & Tedesco Funeral Home in Sherburne. The funeral mass will take place at St. Malachy’s Church in Sherburne on Saturday, May 9 at 9 am. Burial will be at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Norwich, NY immediately following the funeral mass.
To send a condolence and Sign the Book of Memories online go to www.burgessandtedescofuneralhomes.com.