Antoinette Rotolo, a popular lunch lady at Portland High School known for her Italian cooking and passion for family, died on Saturday after a six-year battle with cancer. She was 93.

She was a loving wife of Philip Rotolo for 65 years and a devoted mother to their three children. The Rotolos lived on Munjoy Hill in Portland and moved to the North Deering neighborhood in 1979.

Mrs. Rotolo was a homemaker. Her children took turns Monday describing a woman who dedicated her life to family.

“We always came first,” said her daughter, Therese “Terry” Flaherty, of Yarmouth.

“She would go without so we had what we needed growing up. She was always there for each of us, no matter what.”

Mrs. Rotolo was well-known in Portland, partly for her work at Portland High School, where she prepared and served lunch to students for about 10 years. Her son, Philip G. Rotolo, of Portland, said the students and staff loved her. He said his mother would give extra helpings to students in need.

“My mother would always give them an extra potato or something,” he said. “The teachers used to say your mother was unbelievable. She would make them meatball sandwiches or something like that. People in the neighborhood were drawn to her house.”

Mrs. Rotolo fed many in the community. Her children said she was known for making Italian cookies, meatballs and sauce, pizza and other traditional Italian dishes. Like many women of her generation, she kept her recipes well guarded.

“There was always food,” her son said. “She could put on a feast in the spur of the moment. When we were kids, it was a house full. People always raved about her cooking and her cookies.”

Mrs. Rotolo’s obituary, published in Tuesday’s newspaper, notes that in July of 2010, she baked 500 Italian cookies for her granddaughter’s wedding.

“When the word got out about her cookies, I saw people putting them in their pockets and purses,” her son remarked. “There was none left.”

Anne Marie Smyth, of Orono, the oldest of her children, touched on her mother’s natural elegance in the kitchen.

“She would do a pinch of this and a pinch of that,” Smyth said. She never measured anything and (the food) always came out so good. Her cookies melted in your mouth.

“They were made with love right from her heart.”

Mrs. Rotolo was a devout Catholic and a member St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church for over 65 years.

Flaherty said her parents attended the Sunday morning Mass for many years and always sat in the same pew on the left side of the church.

She was diagnosed with stomach cancer about six years ago and declined treatment. Her health began to deteriorate in September.

“Even when she was laying in this bed, she would say, ‘Did you eat?’

“She was a mother that always worried and always put us first,” Flaherty said.

“I lost my husband two years ago. I have a big hole in my heart. The other day, it got bigger, but I feel very blessed that I had her for 93 years. I’m going to miss her.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com