Mary Tantone was from a generation that valued hard work and enjoyed its rewards: a nice house and a family gathered around the dinner table.
"She liked to have everyone over to their house," said her son, Frank A. Tantone, of the large family gatherings. "They had a pool, and when the kids were little, they would like to hang out all day in the pool."
Tantone, of Ronkonkoma, died Sunday from complications from lung cancer. She was 76.
Born Mary Acquavito, she grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and married Frank Tantone in 1958.
The couple moved to Ozone Park in Queens, then to Ronkonkoma in 1970. She worked for decades in the shipping department at the vitamin company NBTY of Ronkonkoma, her son said.
Her family was her primary source of joy. "Her whole world, the constant theme, was their children and grandchildren," said Tantone, chairman of the Islip Town Republican Committee.
Her dedication to family started early. She insisted that all of her children go beyond high school. "There's one thing about my mother that she was adamant about, and that was higher education," Tantone said, noting that neither of his parents attended college.
"They were both high school graduates. My mom was in a factory, my dad worked as a garbage man. So all of us had to have professional degrees," he said. "I can remember being in kindergarten and her emphasizing that we had to do well in school."
The Tantone children were rewarded for good grades, he said. "If we did well in school, they gave us whatever we wanted," he said. "We were a modest family. But we always had everything we needed."
Her focus paid off. Her children went on to careers in law, finance and social work.
Burial was at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale on Thursday, after a funeral at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Ronkonkoma.
She is survived by her husband and her sons, Frank of Ronkonkoma and Richard of West Islip; a daughter, Veronica Thatch of Las Vegas; a brother, Michael Acquavito of Freeport; and five grandchildren.