On June 1, 1947, Mary Capitano walked down the aisle of Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn to marry the love of her life, Charles Capitano, in a wedding dress designed with her own hands.
She was surrounded by bridesmaids clad in the creations she hatched along with her maid of honor, Rose Mussella.
This was just one of the many bridal gowns Mary Capitano fashioned over her years as a seamstress.
"When I got married, she helped make my wife’s wedding dress," said her son, Louis Capitano, of Copiague. "She made the veil and customized some other doodads. She created cuffs and other things on my clothes. She was quite an expert."
Capitano, 94, died April 15 from complications of COVID-19 at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip.
Born in Manhattan on Dec. 8, 1925, to Sicilian immigrants Vingenza and Sebastiano Insinga, Capitano lived there for five years before moving to her grandmother Mariana LoPrinzi’s Somerville, New Jersey, farm. This was where she met her husband, whose family rented a room in the farmhouse during the summers. It was also during her formative years that she took up sewing.
"When she was young, she would do piece work, like sewing buttons, for extra money and became very adept at sewing," her son said.
As Capitano entered her teenage years, her family moved to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Coincidentally her future husband’s family moved in a few doors down in 1945. She attended Utrecht High School and the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City. There, she learned formal dress design and alterations — knowledge she took to Stella’s Bridal Shop in Brooklyn.
After having three children, Louis in 1948 as well as twins Charles and Salvatore in 1954, the family moved to North Bellmore in 1956. She worked from home until she got a job at Betty Wales Bridal Boutique in Garden City, where she developed custom creations through her 50s.
"She was a strong woman, determined, and she wanted us to be the same way," Louis Capitano said. "She was really a loving, good solid Italian mother to us.
"When she became a grandmother, then she became a mush. She adored her grandchildren and couldn't do enough for them. Then she became a great-grandma and was elevated to Nona."
And of course, her Italian food was "second to none," he said. Until she was 68, Mary Capitano would stretch out the dining room table to serve the Sunday meal she’d cooked for her entire family nearly every week.
After Capitano retired, she continued sewing for family, friends and her own pleasure. She even took up bunka, a complicated Japanese embroidery that appears to be an oil painting when seen from far away. Capitano took lessons and joined a local club that met once a week to create more than 20 mounted images for her loved ones.
"She always had a heavy duty industrial sewing machine with the butcher block table, and so she was able to do much more effective sewing than with a regular sewing machine," Louis Capitano said, adding that his mother even took it to The Bristal at West Babylon, an assisted living facility where she moved in 2018. "She kept sewing until she died."
A brief ceremony for immediate family was held at D’Andrea Brothers Funeral Home in Copiague. She was buried at St. Charles Resurrection Cemetery in Farmingdale. The family hopes to hold a memorial service in the future.
Capitano is survived by her children; Louis Capitano's wife, Linda; five grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband in 2012.