Etta and Nick D'Anna were married in 1957 and later...

Etta and Nick D'Anna were married in 1957 and later moved to Massapequa. Credit: Family photo

She was the one who hosted Friday night poker games for her father and his brothers, beating a path from the kitchen to the basement, making sure no one ran out of pretzels or chips or Rheingold, Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Come Sunday, she was the one hosting dinner for the extended family, making the meatballs, making the red sauce, making sure everyone was there.

Making sure everyone was good.

If there was a birthday, Etta D'Anna remembered it. If one of the cousins moved, she was the one you called to find out where.

"Her mother was one of seven, her father one of nine," daughter Dominique D'Anna-Stanley said last week. "So family, it was a big part of her life, an important part."

A Queens native who spent most of her adult life in Massapequa, Concetta Mary Montefusco D'Anna died of congestive heart failure at her home in Huntington on July 19. She was 83.

She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Dominick "Nick" D'Anna; son Nicholas and his wife Lynda Tine-D'Anna; daughter Dominique and husband Matthew Stanley; her sister, Johanna Biederman; and six grandchildren.

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She will be interred in a service later this month at Grace Church in Massapequa.

Born May 31, 1938, in Jamaica, Queens, Etta Montefusco grew up in St. Albans and graduated from Andrew Jackson High School, taking work as the executive assistant to the CEO of a big Manhattan law firm.

"She had a very glamorous young life," her daughter said. "She was very proud of her dictation skills, of how many words a minute she could type, and on her lunch hour she said she'd go get her hair done or go shopping. There's not a single photo of my mother from that era, from before she became a mom, where she was not just beautifully dressed."

Yet at the root of it, there was always family, D'Anna-Stanley said.

That family kept an eye on the precocious young Etta, too.

With so many aunts, uncles and family in St. Albans, try as she might, D'Anna-Stanley said, her mom couldn't get away with much.

"She said she'd smoked her first cigarette at age 13, on her way home from school, and her mother knew about it before she even got home — because someone called."

Etta met Nick, her future husband, when his family moved next door to the house where her grandparents lived in St. Albans. She was still just 13 then and Nick was years older. But, as D'Anna-Stanley said her father told it in later years, "He saw her and said to himself, 'She's going to be really cute when she grows up.' "

So Nick fostered a friendship with Etta, their conversations across the driveway soon evolving to international correspondence, with her writing him handfuls of letters when the Korean War broke out and he'd found himself in the U.S. Army, stationed in Seoul.

"The relationship really started through letters," D'Anna-Stanley said, "the two of them courting through letters."

And once Nick came home, he asked Etta to marry him.

But she was only 16 and her mother forbade it. So, Nick kept asking. When Etta turned 19, her parents finally gave the OK.

That was 1957.

There was a honeymoon in the Catskills. And the two moved in with family, as Etta went to work at that firm in Manhattan. Nick started his own business as a home improvement contractor, renovating kitchens and bathrooms, eventually opening an office in Lynbrook.

Before long the two moved to Massapequa, and Etta gave birth to a daughter and then a son.

Where her family had hosted all those big dinners, Etta took it on herself to continue the tradition. She also hosted all those card games for her dad and his brothers, immersed in life as a good daughter and stay-at-home mom.

Nick D'Anna became an active golfer. He and Etta traveled, making sure every year to go on vacation, just the two of them.

In time, they went to Mexico, Spain, Aruba and many times to Italy. They visited scores of national parks, crossed Canada by train, cruised through the Panama Canal.

Etta taught Sunday school at St. Rose of Lima Church in Massapequa. When the kids got old enough, she went back to work, taking a job as secretary to the superintendent in the Plainedge Union Free School District.

"My parents never had a lot of money," D'Anna-Stanley said, "but I know my mother felt like a rich woman her whole life. She was happily married, had healthy children, tons of cousins, friends. Her and my dad were very social. They were not formally educated but were readers their whole lives — were definitely people who believed in knowledge, believed in education.

"They were truly in love until the end," she said. "Really, truly in love. . . . She had a good life, a great life, just a really great life."

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