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Helen E. Spadafora


Another of the “Greatest Generation” has left us. HELEN ELVIRA CHIACAFERRO SPADAFORA died on Thursday, July 13, 2023, in Mystic, Connecticut. She was 103 years old.

Helen was born on March 15, 1920 in the coal mining town of Iselin, PA, to Cecelia and Francis Chiacaferro, who emigrated from Italy. She was one of four children when her father was killed in a coal mining accident. Her mother remarried Francis’ best friend, John Flaver, and they had a child together. Francis and John came over from Italy together and had a pact that they would take care of each other’s family should anything happen to them.

When Helen was five years old the family moved to Rome. They lived in East Rome where most of the Italian immigrants lived. When she was young, Helen enjoyed playing the mandolin, softball, and anything her brothers were doing. Her mother was her role model, teaching her to cook, make pasta, sew, and to be welcoming to everyone. Helen joked that growing up in their home always had a load of people in it!

Helen graduated from Rome Free Academy and was often on the Honor Role. After high school she worked at W.T. Grants department store, making twenty-five cents an hour! While working there she met Alfredo Antonio Spadafora. Helen and Al were married on August 14, 1943 in St. John the Baptist Church and spent their honeymoon in Old Forge, New York while he was a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Al was a gunner in a B-17 bomber and was shot down over Belgium during the 2nd Schweinfurt Raid, captured by the Gestapo, and spent eighteen months in a German concentration camp in eastern Austria. During that time, Helen received love letters from Al, but she needed an English dictionary to decipher what he was trying to tell her….he was using big words to confuse his capturers! They enjoyed life together and loved to dance the fox trot to Big Band music. After having children, Helen worked as a secretary for the Girl Scouts, and then for Revere Copper and Brass Research Center. Helen was known for her generous spirit, was an active member of Twigs where she volunteered her time at the Rome Hospital Snack Bar until she relocated to Mystic Connecticut at the age of ninety-four.

Helen is survived by her loving children: Judy Spadafora, Joseph Spadafora, Susan Oppen (Mark Welshons), and Alan (Nancy) Spadafora. Her greatest joys later in life were her seven grandchildren: Katrina (Jack) Oppen Leone, Eric (Brittany) Oppen, Jason Spadafora, Joshua Spadafora, Amanda (Jeffrey Moretti) Spadafora, Erika (Joshua Roberts) Spadafora, and Alan (Evan) Spadafora; and her seven great grandchildren: Enzo and Margot Leone, Adalyn, Julia and Emmy Oppen, and Colby and Oliver Roberts, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Helen was predeceased by her husband, parents, baby daughter Elaine, grandson Jason, brothers William (Chucky) Chicaferro, Geno Chicaferro, and John Flaver; and sister Pauline Hoff; sisters-in-law: Rose Spadafora, Concetta (Dolly) Flaver, Clara DeCristo, Theda Chicaferro, Flora DiMaggio, Alba (Ollie) Smith; brothers-in-law Jerry DeCristo, Vincent Hoff, Joseph Spadafora, Foster (Mac) Spadafora, Fred DiMaggio, and Robert Smith; son-in-law Mark Oppen; and, daughter-in-law Johanna Matthews Spadafora.

The family wishes to acknowledge the loving and professional care given to Helen by Academy Point and Apple Rehab Mystic of Mystic, Connecticut.

A celebration of life will take place in Rome in the Spring of 2024, and details will be announced at a future date. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to The Bottini Funeral Home, 120 W. Embargo Street. The family requests that donations in Helen’s honor be made to Jervis Pubic Library, 613 N. Washington Street, Rome.

Until then, Helen would want all to go on —- gather, cook and eat anything Italian, lift your glass of wine in a toast to her, and above all DANCE, DANCE, DANCE! Remember her motto: “My childhood was difficult, but I learned to find happiness. You have to let life be what it’s going to be; there’s more to be happy about in life than to be sad.

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