Cherished matriarch, devoted mother and grandmother, dear friend, avid New York Giants and Yankees fan, longtime Belleville resident, 85.
Shirley DiBenedetto (nee Rettberg), 85, a longtime Belleville, NJ, resident, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Saturday, Aug 4, 2018, after a short stay at the Vitas Healthcare Hospice in Wayne, NJ.
The Funeral Mass, officiated by Father Thomas M. Cembor, will be on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 120 Prospect St., Nutley, NJ. Shirley will be laid to rest following the mass at Holy Cross Cemetery, 340 Ridge Rd., North Arlington, NJ. Following the interment there will be a repass to celebrate her life at The Commonwealth Club, 26 Northview Ave., Montclair, NJ, (973) 746-2984.
Born on Jan. 26, 1933, in Newark, NJ, where she was raised and graduated from Barringer High School in 1951. She married Donald DiBenedetto on April 27, 1952. After a cross country honeymoon trip to Washington State, the couple settled in Neah Bay, WA, as Donald began his Air Force service. They returned to Newark in 1954 where they raised their children until 1967 when they moved their family to Edison, NJ.
Shirley worked for 25 years as the Adminstrative Manager of the Media Resource Department at UMDNJ-Rutgers Medical School before retiring in 1999. She moved to Belleville in 1977, where she resided happily for more than 40 years.
Shirley took great pride in her independence and her home, which she diligently maintained. Her home always served as the the heart of her family and was open to all. She spent massive amounts of time preparing and cooking multi-course holiday meals for the family. She rarely sat down herself to eat, preferring to watch everyone else enjoy the feast. Her Chicken Cordon Bleu, lasagna, meatballs and turkey stuffing are forever favorites.
Her family has many great memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations spent eating way too much, and evenings spent reminiscing, telling stories and laughing; along with many cherished memories of summer vacations in Florida at the Blue Mist and Charter Club. Shirley also enjoyed playing cards on Friday nights and treasured trips to Atlantic City with the girls. She had a natural curiosity, always thirsty to learn, and would often read a book cover to cover, frequently staying up all night to do so. Shirley was her family's personal media information specialist, sending out newspaper clippings pertinent to topics she knew were dear to them. She was also the family's weather hound and her coverage extended to anywhere her family was living or traveling. All knew if there was weather to fear, mom would have warned them, so forget that weather channel.
Anyone who knew Shirley, understood she never liked a fuss made over her and would rather celebrate others. Somehow we were able to surprise her on her 85th birthday with a small party this past January, not an easy feat! Oh, but what special remembrances we now have.
Shirley shared her love of sports with family and friends, but everyone knew not to call her on Sunday during football season. Her ardent fandom for the New York Giants was well known to all. Michael Strahan was her all-time favorite player. When the Giant's were playing she was often too nervous to actually sit down and watch the game. She would wander in and out. This reached its peak during Super Bowl XLII, when she hid in the basement bathroom during the Giants historic comeback against the Patriots. Thankfully, with the advent of DVR, she was able to enjoy the game, stress-free, after it ended. Shirley was a longtime fan of the New York Yankees. She attended many games through out her life, the most coveted was Game 6 of the 2009 World Series. At Yankee Stadium she was able to see her Yankees clinch their 27th world championship in person. Her favorite Yankee was Derek Jeter, who she lovingly called, “My Derek.”
Shirley grew up as an only child, a confusing fact for her children to uncover, as they grew up calling everyone "aunt" and "uncle". The truth is that Shirley touched so many lives, amassed life long friends and became part of so many families, including the Iannis, Russells, and Prices. Over the years she shared her home with whom ever was in need and was generous to a fault. The many strong bonds she developed and the huge extended family she cultivated were some of her greatest testimonies. Shirley though, was most proud of her children, instilling in them her devotion to family, God, service and the joy of giving to others.
Her generosity and sense of humor never diminished, even in her final weeks. She was always thinking of others before herself, right until the very end, when she made sure to continue to ask how others were doing, including her caregivers. Our Matriarch gave us marching orders until her last breath, ensuring that all those she left behind were thought of and reminded how much she adored them. She was a true Renaissance woman, navigating life independently in a loving, gracious, self sacrificing, sensible and forgiving manner. Shirley served as a tremendous role model to all, in particular, an inspiration to her granddaughters.
Shirley was predeceased by her daughter, Donna Lee DiBenedetto; her parents, Ralph Rettberg and Lee Pevarnik; step-parents, Eva Rettberg and Joe Pevarnik; her cherished sister-in-law, Rose “Ro Ro” and her husband Sammy Corso; brother in-law, Anthony and his wife Josie DiBenedette and her former husband, Donald, the father of her five children.
Shirley is survived by her four beloved and devoted children, their spouses, whom she loved as her own, and their children: son, Mr. Michael DiBenedetto and his wife, Cathy, of Kendall Park, NJ and their children, Michael, Matthew and Kelly; daughter, Dr. Barbara Ianni and husband, Dr. Daniel Ianni, of Chillicothe, OH and their children, Brian and Alexandria; son, Mr. Mark DiBenedetto and his wife, Lynne, of Montclair, NJ and their children, Katherine and Sarah; son, Mr. Donald DiBenedetto and his wife, Rebecca, of Kingston, OH and their children Gabriel, Caitlin, Keira and Gavin.
She is also survived by her cousins, Alice, Dora Mae, Conrad and Donna along with nieces and nephews, Joanne, Rick and Steve Corso, and Diane and Nick DiBenedette.
The family would like to express gratefullness for the enduring friendships their mother had with the following: her First Avenue Elementry School pals affectionately known as “The Club Girls", Camille, Vinnie, Kathryn, Rosalyn, Sandra and Marie; her Barringer High School Phi Beta Pi chapter sorority sisters, that also included Vinnie and Marie along with Joan, Mina, Eleanor, and Catherine; her UMDNJ-RMS media resource department gang that included Jo Ann, Karen, Bill, John, Gary, Linda, Rita, Michael, Ken, Neil, Roy, Eugene, Peggy and Nancy; her dearest friend Julie, our step mom, and step sisters Patti and Laura; her church family from Our Lady Of Mount Carmel in Nutley, especially Jack and Anna along with Laurie, Jill and Rosealie; the Touch of Beauty girls, Evelyn, Donna, and Tracy; her devoted pal Linda and her family; along with other dear ones Bryant, Nick, Carol, Mike, Neil, Marie, and Ginny.
A special thanks to Shirley’s loving neighbors for the past 18 years, Anna and Kevin, and their three sons, Tristan, Nathan and Carter, who were always so caring and kind, becoming part of her extended family. Shirley was overwhelmed with gratitude at the outpouring of love and support she received from her family and many friends during her final few months. We want to convey our deepest appreciation to the excellent staff at Summit Medical Group, Mountainside Medical Center and Vitas Healthcare Hospice along with Drs. Nitti, Imbesi, Fresco, Conti and Bellardini for their compassionate care of our mother.
The charity, that was closest to Shirley heart was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Her request was that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, or online at stjude.org/donate.