Amelia Lattari was afraid to fly in 1956 when she had to cross the Atlantic from her native Italy to join her husband in the United States.
So she booked passage on the Andrea Doria, an Italian luxury liner.
"After that, she was always afraid to travel by ship," said her son, Lewis Lattari. "When she would go back to Italy she would always fly."
Amelia Lattari, 89, a survivor of the Andrea Doria sinking and a Lynbrook resident for more than 50 years, died Saturday after a long illness. She had been hospitalized since Jan. 24, he said.
Lewis Lattari said his mother always felt blessed she had survived the sinking. On July 25, 1956, as the Andrea Doria was speeding toward its New York destination, it collided with the Stockholm, a Swedish passenger ship. Fifty-one people died, including 46 on the Andrea Doria, and about 1,660 survived.
"She said she lost everything she had," Lewis Lattari said, "and my Dad remembers he was interviewed by Walter Cronkite."
Amelia Lattari and her husband, also Lewis, grew up next door to each other in Marina di Fuscaldo, a village in Calabria, Italy, said their son. "They were from poor families," he said, "and they knew each other all their lives."
Initially, Amelia didn't want to marry her neighbor, her son said. "Mom was hesitant," he said. "They had some trials before she gave in and said yes."
His father died in 1999 and since then he had been taking care of his mother, Lattari said.
After the ship sank, the Lattaris settled in Lynbrook where they both worked for a Valley Stream clothing company. "At work, Dad was the foreman but at home Mom was the boss," Lattari said.
In the neighborhood, Amelia often would deliver homegrown vegetables to needy neighbors on early-morning walks, her son said. She would wrap handles of bags packed with vegetables from her garden over their doorknobs, Lattari said. "For a long time, people didn't know who was leaving the vegetables, then one morning someone got up early and saw it was her," he said.
Lattari, a longtime college soccer and lacrosse coach, said his parents "lived a happy, loving life together."
One of his mother's proudest moments, he said, was when she became a U.S. citizen in 1972.
"I was the one who quizzed her on the citizenship questions," he said, "and I'd always try to trick her."
The test was difficult, Lattari said, because his mother did not speak English very well.
"But the day she came home after becoming a citizen, she was waving a small American flag, and it just broke me up.
"She was so, so happy."
In addition to her son, she is survived by a brother, Eduardo Tocci, 93, who resides in Italy.
Viewing is Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Flinch & Bruns Funeral Home, 34 Hempstead Ave., Lynbrook. A funeral Mass is Friday, 9:30 a.m., Our Lady of Peace Church, Lynbrook, followed by burial at The Cemetery of the Holy Rood, Westbury.