Lena Epifane of Merrick, was the epitome of the old-school...

Lena Epifane of Merrick, was the epitome of the old-school Italian mama. Credit: Courtesy of The Epifane Family

At 96 years old, Lena Epifane, formerly of Roosevelt, Wantagh and Merrick, was the epitome of the old-school Italian mama. Except for the part about being a woman working in computers as early as the 1960s.

“She was a homemaker. She was a great cook. When I was a kid she used to make her own clothes,” remembered Joe Epifane, of Lindenhurst, one of her and her late husband Andrew’s four children. Yet among other jobs, she was a key-to-tape operator — entering computer data directly to magnetic media rather than through intermediary keypunch cards — for the Garden City publisher Doubleday and Co., her son said. She later was named data-entry manager, he added.

When she died May 28 at a hospital near her home in East Windsor, New Jersey, it was of natural causes, her family said — after having years ago beaten colon cancer as well as six bouts of pneumonia and two of COVID-19. Twice she had a broken pelvis, said Joe Epifane, “and she refused to use a walker or a cane. She just had a strong constitution.”

“She was out shopping literally hours before she succumbed,” said another son, Tony Epifane, of East Windsor, who noted, “She drove until the last day.”

“Even though she was 96, she looked and sounded 20 years younger,” added her eldest son, Andrew Epifane of North Babylon. “When I took her to see my daughters in the high school band at football games, the people collecting admission thought I was her husband!” 

Josephine Lena Mazza was birthed via midwife at the Roosevelt home of her Italian-immigrant parents, Nazzarina and Dominick Mazza, on Sept. 22, 1927, the only one of the couple’s four children to be born in the United States. Dominick Mazza, said Joe Epifane, was a stone mason who helped build the tower at Jones Beach.

Lena graduated from Hempstead High School in 1944 and then worked as a bookkeeper. She met her future husband, union carpenter Andrew Epifane, a World War II Navy veteran, in 1946 at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Roosevelt.

They had a long courtship, not marrying until 1949. “There was a 10-year difference between them, so she thought he was a little too old for her,” Joe Epifane related. “But my grandfather stepped in and said, ‘Yeah, you'll marry this guy, end of story.’”

It proved a wise choice. They had four children and remained devoted to each other through his incapacitating heart attack in 1967 — forcing her return to work, relying on extended family for child care — and his death in 1977, by which time the family had moved to Wantagh.

“Our dad died when I was 13,” said Rosean Weiss, of East Windsor, the youngest child, “and she did not want to lose the house and didn't want to uproot her kids. She worked multiple jobs in order to make ends meet as a single mom, and she did it with grace and dignity and never complained about it. She was a very, very strong woman, with an incredibly infectious and vivacious personality.”

Retiring in 1989, she moved to a Merrick apartment three years later. In 2000, following her successful cancer treatment, Lena moved to East Windsor to live with her daughter’s family. She was active with the volunteer organization Catholic Daughters of the Americas on Long Island, and in the Hightstown, New Jersey, church St. Anthony of Padua. 

In addition to her children, Lena Epifane was survived by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren

Visitation was held at Wantagh Abbey Funeral Home on June 2 and a funeral Mass was celebrated the following day at St. Francis de Chantal Roman Catholic Church in Wantagh, with interment at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood, in Westbury.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Updated now A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Updated now A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

Latest Videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME