PORTLAND — Under the photo of Anna E. (Cartonio) Russo in the 1937 Portland High School yearbook were a few words that would prove prescient: “Energy is eternal delight,” the inscription read.
“They must have known something in 1937,” said her daughter, Mary Taliento. For more than nine decades, Mrs. Russo showed a boundless energy and zest for personal relationships, the food on which she thrived, her family said.
Mrs. Russo, of Portland, died Thursday of natural causes. She was 93.
“She was just one of those endearing people,” Taliento, 62, of Portland, said Sunday.
Mrs. Russo was part of the old guard in Portland’s Little Italy section on Middle Street, one in a tight-knit group of women who supported one another for decades, playing cards and saying the rosary together. She was a consummate family woman, her children said, and took in relative strangers and family acquaintances frequently for a hot supper when they needed it.
She married Alphonso Russo in 1942, and the couple had six children. Together they operated Al’s Luncheonette at 45 India St. until 1964, when they sold the business to a neighborhood man who was hawking Italian items from the trunk of his car, said her son Joseph Russo. It would become Micucci’s grocery.
“She wanted to sell it to a local person,” he said. “That was who she was.”
After they sold the luncheonette and moved to Munjoy Hill, Mrs. Russo worked for Fairchild Semiconductor for 25 years.
As her children grew up, Mrs. Russo became involved in their schooling and served as president of the Munjoy Hill Parent-Teacher Association until all of them finished high school. It was one of several groups and clubs to which she belonged.
Her activities also extended to politics, and she frequently hosted in-home fundraisers for candidates, including former Gov. John H. Reed and former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, with whom she had a lasting friendship.
Through her children’s involvement in various high school sports, Mrs. Russo became a lifelong fan and was a frequent presence at games. When her son Joseph became basketball coach at Portland High School, her interest only intensified, and she soon was cooking spaghetti dinners for her grandchildren’s teams, attending games until her health and eyesight prevented her from enjoying them.
After Mrs. Russo’s first husband died in 1980 of cancer, she remarried Alfred Neff in 1986, a longtime friend of the family and neighbor whose wife had died previously. Alfred Neff died in 2003, also of cancer.
Through her large extended family, Mrs. Russo was a constant care-giver who made fast friends and knew how to make people feel special, her family said.
From her first marriage, Mrs. Russo is survived by her six children, Joseph Russo, Mary Taliento, Michael Russo, Margaret Russo, Ronald Russo, and Joanne Desjardins. From her second marriage, she is survived by three stepchildren: Allan Neff, Stephen Neff, and Linda Neff, 63. Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral and Cremation Services, 660 Brighton Ave., Portland. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 72 Federal St., Portland, followed by interment at Calvary Cemetery in South Portland.
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:firstname.lastname@example.org