Edith Vitale was known for her generosity.
In her later years, she received help from caretakers at the nursing home in Melville where she lived. But Vitale was a caretaker there in her own right, frequently lending a hand to her fellow residents.
“She would say, ‘Oh, your hands are cold. Hold my hand, I’ll keep you warm,’” said her daughter, Andrea Snyder, 63, of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
Snyder said she brought her mother shawls, which Vitale would sneak to her fellow residents to make them comfortable.
“Every time I went, they disappeared,” Snyder said. “I couldn’t figure out what was going on, only to find out after she passed that she was giving them away to the other residents in the nursing home, so they could stay warm.
"She was just that person. That’s just an inkling of what she was. She always gave.”
Vitale died May 21 of the coronavirus. She was 91.
Vitale was born on Jan. 4, 1929, in Newark, New Jersey. She grew up in New York City and attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn. She worked for the book publisher Doubleday while living in Carle Place. Vitale later joined Fortunoff while in Plainview, where she lived for more than 50 years.
She met her late husband, Sam Vitale, as a teenager, and the couple had four children.
“Her family, that was the thing she was most proud of,” said her youngest daughter, Sally Messina, 62, of Farmingdale. “She always pushed us to remember that family comes first.”
“Her family was what her drive was,” added Vitale’s oldest daughter, Mary Clinton, 64.
Vitale visited her grandchildren regularly, so often that she became a fixture in their neighborhoods.
“People around my neighborhood were so used to her being here that she was like part of my block,” Messina said. “When we had block parties, she would be here.”
At any special occasion, Vitale would show up with one of her signature dishes: cheesecake, rice pudding, meatballs, roasted red peppers.
“She would always want to feed people and have them come and visit with her,” Snyder said. “That was the joy in her life.”
Besides spending time with family and friends, Vitale enjoyed reading, cooking and doing needlepoint. She delighted in listening to Spanish music and shopping with her children and grandchildren. Vitale also spent time traveling with her cousin and longtime friend, Doris LaPerla.
“She was a very warm person, always a lot of fun,” Clinton said. “She was like a magnet for people.”
Besides her cousin and daughters, Vitale is survived by her son, Peter Vitale, and his wife, Lynnette, and children Samantha, Jesse, Nicholas and Christian; her daughter Mary's children, Christopher and Lisa; her daughter Andrea's husband, Kurt, and their children Erica and Kristi; her daughter Sally's husband, John, and their children Gabrielle, Alexandra and Victoria; and seven great-grandchildren.
Her family held a church ceremony and hopes to hold a Mass in the future to celebrate Vitale’s life.