Barbara LaSpina tended to be forthright and candid, much to the delight of her 12 grandchildren.
Perhaps those qualities helped the longtime Long Island resident surmount both the Great Depression and World War II.
“She spoke her mind, right, wrong or indifferent,” said daughter-in-law Maria LaSpina of Deer Park, who married a son, Stephen LaSpina. “They just thought it was a hoot.”
LaSpina, of East Patchogue, died Feb. 23 at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, two days before her birthday, her family said. She was 92.
LaSpina’s experience growing up in a large family in Queens without a great deal to spare gave her a sense of discipline that stayed with her all her life, her family said.
“She was a minimalist” who loved her routine, Stephen LaSpina said. “She really didn’t want for much.”
A determinedly hard worker, LaSpina met her husband, Vincent LaSpina, at a local Howard Johnson’s, where she was a waitress and he was a manager.
After the couple married in 1959, they bought a house in Flushing. LaSpina, who warmly welcomed a stepson into the new household, went on to have six children, said Stephen LaSpina.
“She was a great mom, very caring,” he said.
The family moved to Mastic Beach in 1974. Her husband died five years later.
Barbara LaSpina eventually settled in Patchogue, and she enjoyed playing the slot machines at casinos, and watching or reading light romances — and Newsday.
Another son, Michael LaSpina, works in Newsday’s printing department and leads the newspaper’s union as president of Local 406 of the Graphic Communications Conference/International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
“I remember during a snowstorm — it was actually a blizzard — before I was president, she called and said, ‘I didn’t get the paper,’ ” said Michael LaSpina, who also serves on the executive board of the 250,000-member Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “I said, ‘Mom, there’s a blizzard out there. Are you aware there’s a blizzard?’ ”
But that wasn’t a sufficient excuse: He gave his mother the number of the paper’s publisher, and she called and complained, he added.
LaSpina kept her sense of humor and independent spirit, still handling all her appointments as she grew older, her family said.
At a recent doctor’s appointment, she told her physician her secret to good health was “the two glasses of wine I drink every day,” Stephen LaSpina recalled.
In her later years, “She loved to watch her children dancing and having a good time, she really did,” he added.
Additional survivors include daughters, Barbara Lucchese of Shirley and Maureen Alteri of Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania; a stepson, John LaSpina of Hicksville; sons, Thomas LaSpina of Atlanta and Paul LaSpina of Manhattan; 12 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be Tuesday at Claude R. Boyd/Caratozzolo Funeral Home in Deer Park from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Cremation is planned.