Rose G. Puleo, a woman who was filled with warmth, kindness, and love, passed away after an extended illness on Wednesday morning, May 4, 2022. She was 90 years old.
Rose was born in the family home in Everett. One of four children of David and Rose Minichiello, Rose grew up in a home filled with Italian traditions and values, where family always came first. Her dad owned his own cobbler shop, and Rose, her siblings, and her mother all helped in the store. Rose graduated from Everett High School in 1949.
She married Anthony Puleo in 1953, and they settled in Burlington in 1956 to raise their family. It only seemed natural that one of her sisters and her brother also moved from Everett to Burlington as well, and that eventually, her brother purchased the home across the street from hers.
Rose worked as a secretary at John Hancock until her marriage. She then devoted herself to caring for her family. She had a welcoming home that always had delicious aromas emanating from her kitchen. She was a fantastic cook thanks to the many hours spent in her mother’s kitchen as a child, and no one ever left her dining table hungry. She was also a talented crocheter, and made numerous hats, mittens, afghans, scarves, sweaters, and lap blankets for family members and friends.
Rose and her husband Anthony made a wonderful couple and were deeply in love for their nearly 56 years of marriage. They loved going out to lunch and dinner, taking trips, going dancing, and entertaining family and friends. As a couple, they were active in Burlington’s Council on Aging and Senior Citizens Organization. It made Rose so proud when Anthony would sing a song for friends at senior events.
Rose was a great communicator who connected with everyone she met. Her special gift was her ability to make everyone feel important, to impart wisdom in a gentle way, and to spread joy, laughter, and optimism in her daily contacts with others.
As a mother, she was always there with her endless love and support for her children. She was the source of strength, comfort, warmth, and compassion that bonded her family together.
When asked for advice or guidance, she was honest and straightforward, but in a compassionate and understanding way. She had a wonderful smile, loved to laugh, had a great sense of humor, and sometimes even unintentionally could say some of the funniest things.
Rose loved her grandchildren dearly, and while they were growing up, cared for them two or three days a week so their parents could work; the grandchildren cherish those memories and often reflect on the enormous impact she had on their lives.
After the passing of her beloved Anthony in 2009, Rose remained in her home for several years, but it felt empty and isolated without her true love. So, she moved to Stonebridge Assisted Living in Burlington, and the “Stonebridge family” helped to re-energize her. She made many new friends, partook in all their activities, and even became a big fan of the Patriots and Celtics. The simple pleasure of enjoying meals and spending time with friends made the final nine years of her wonderful life so much more pleasurable and meaningful.
Rose Puleo will be remembered for her devotion to her family, her warmth, kindness, strength, courage, inviting smile, and the love she shared with all who touched her life.
Rose was the beloved wife of the late Anthony W. Puleo. She was the loving mother of Stephen Puleo & his wife Kathy of Weymouth, Denise Barry & her husband Richard Ostromecki of Laconia, NH, and Kenneth Puleo & his wife Karyn of Tyngsboro. She was the sister of Lena Cronis of Quincy, the late Mary “May” Christiano, and Modestino “Tino” Minichiello. She was the proud grandmother of Patrick & his wife Kristine Barry of Woburn, Nicole Hevehan & her husband John of Salem, NH, Alaina Puleo and her partner, Ray Hayden of Novato, CA, and Zachary Puleo of Tyngsboro, and great grandmother of Colin & Kayci Barry and Liam & Sienna Hevehan. Rose was also survived by a sister-in-law, Cathy Minichiello of Burlington, a brother-in-law, Jack Puleo of FL, and several nieces, nephews, and friends.
Visiting hours will be held at the Edward V. Sullivan Funeral Home, 43 Winn St., Burlington on Monday, May 9 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Funeral from the Sullivan Funeral Home on Tuesday, May 10 at 11 a.m. for respects, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at noon at St. Margaret Church in St. Veronica Parish, www.stveronicama.org, 111 Winn St., Burlington, MA. Services will conclude with a burial in Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Burlington.
Memorials in Rose’s name may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, www.stjude.org, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
Good afternoon…I’ll start by doing what mom would always do – and did right up until literally the last day she could speak – say ‘thank you.’ On behalf of the whole Puleo family, thank you all so much for being here to celebrate her remarkable life…she always had a bit of a mixed feeling on funerals and wakes – on the one hand, she’d say, “don’t wait until I die to say nice things about me” …on the other hand, if a person had a nice turnout at their funeral, that was a sign of a life well-lived…So thanks to you for one of those – and I’m glad we didn’t wait until she died to say nice things – makes me feel like I can do some of that now…
I could say so much about my mom in the way she related to her family – an amazing wife to my dad, to pa, her beloved Anthony; a loving mother and mother-in-law; a devoted grandmother, a proud great-grandmother, a wonderful sister, aunt, and friend…and all of those were so important – MOST important to her. Nothing more precious to her than family…and she cherished her many great friendships too…no question about it… each of those relationships was filled with her boundless love, her endless faith, and her deep and special brand of warmth and gentleness..
But today I ALSO wanted to give you a little more insight into Rose Puleo, the individual, the unique person, whose qualities and attributes ALLOWED her to be such a loving family member and friend…calling her a great mother, a loving grandmother, etc., is defining her in relation to others – again, something she cherished without question – but the things that define HER as a person – well, they allowed her to do what we all feel was God’s work on Earth for most of her life...they were qualities that she passed on to us, sometimes through her words, but mostly through her actions – which spoke so much louder.
And I put these qualities in 3 big buckets:
No. 1) she knew who she was and was comfortable in her own skin;
No. 2) she was an amazing communicator, one of the best I’ve ever seen; and
No. 3) …mom was the strongest and most courageous woman I’ve ever known (and I’m blessed to have many strong, brave women in my life –she set the standard).
Now the first of those – being her own person, being comfortable in her own skin, being fiercely independent – is best conveyed, I think, by talking about some of her idiosyncrasies, some of the quirks that made her…well…Rose Puleo. My mom had many and our whole family knows them… a few examples
Mom drank coffee almost every day of her life, but she could only drink coffee from a white or light-colored mug – beige, light yellow, some other pastel…if you only had dark bugs – brown, black, dark blue, dark purple, dark red…she could not drink from it…
Mom could not eat with a thick-tined fork. It had to be a thin-tined fork. Thick tines “felt funny” in her mouth…so when we got together on Thanksgiving, or Christmas Eve, or Easter, we had to make sure mom had the thin-tined fork…
Mom would never use an 81/2” by 11” sheet of paper when a two-by-two inch scrap of paper would do…You’d see notes on scraps of paper around her house with a single word that only she knew the meaning of…I walked into the house once and saw the word “freezer” on a scrap – could mean mom needed to defrost the freezer, could be she wanted to get something out of the freezer; could be she needed dad to fix the freezer; and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get mom to use larger sheets of paper…we’d bring stacks of legal pads, note pads to her to no avail. One day Ken and I brought several legal pads and put it down on her telephone table. The next day I was talking to her, telling her some information, and she said, “I have to write this down.” I hear rustling and movement and she says to me: “I can’t find any paper.” I say, “Mom, how is this possible? We brought you so much paper yesterday?
She answered: “I don’t mean that kind of paper.” She meant the two-by-two inch scraps.
The point of this: We all have quirks and sometimes we hide our quirks from others…maybe we’re afraid we’ll be laughed at…or maybe we’re a little embarrassed – but NEVER for mom. My mom embraced these quirks, embraced them as part of who she was, the individual human being created in God’s image – and she never, ever apologized for that. If anyone thought these little quirks were strange – and believe me, we did – she almost relished it! She had so many that Ken, Denise, and I promised to collect them and cross-reference them into the Rose Puleo Handbook – she couldn’t’ wait for us to get started – she asked often, “How’s my handbook coming?”…This is who I am! She’d say, and she was always proud of it
This little diminutive lady – five foot four at her tallest, and – Denise and I estimated – maybe four-foot seven (or six?) at the end of her life – stood tall, her own person, who never really cared what other people thought – “take me as I am,” she said, and almost everyone she met once or encountered over and over did so. And they came away loving her for it – and they came away better people themselves for it!
Number 2: Her communications skills – my mom was one of the best communicators in every sense of what that means…she was a great listener – always making you feel like the story you were telling her was the most important story EVER. Even to the most mundane things – “I went to the grocery store, I had a good day at work…” mom would say, “What else? Tell me more.” She listened and she imparted great wisdom, not in a preachy way, but in an understanding one…and she would do it honestly, forthrightly, sometimes with right-between-the eyes directness that you might not expect… I learned early, when I was 11 years old, when I told mom I wanted to pick out dad’s Father’s Day card. She said sure and took me to buy the cards. On Father’s day, we were gathered around having cake, and when it was time to open cards, I gave mine to dad…he opened it, had this puzzled look on his face, and said, “Thanks, pal.” My mother noticed this perplexing look, suspected something was up, and looked at the card. On the front it said: “You are like a father to me.” Mom looked at me deadpan and said, “Stephen, he IS your father..” Yes, I know, I said I didn’t know the difference between “like” and “as” – I meant – you’re exactly like a father should be! She said, “I’ll explain it later…” I don’t think she let me buy another card until I moved out of the house after college….and that’s how she was…Honest and direct, but always with a sense of who could handle what when she spoke to them…
And she had these great communications instincts while very much being a 20th century lady when it came to technology….she tried a cell phone for a while, never really liked it…never really got the concept of one: “I’m going to call Ken,” I’d say – She’d say: “You can’t – he’s not home yet.” Uh, “doesn’t matter mom.” We gave up after the ninth time she told us her cell phone was “in my pocketbook, turned off so I wouldn’t waste the battery.”…
But this incredible woman – who never sent a single text, a single email, never Googled anything, did not know ‘social media’ from ‘Social Security,’ and who once stumped me with the simple question, “Stephen, what IS the Internet?” – [answer that one fast – I dare you] – this woman was a MAGNIFICENT communicator…
She used her phone…she used face-to-face conversations…she wrote cards and notes…those were her tools…but more to the point, she used her wisdom, her kindness, her love, her empathy – those were her attributes…she knew it wasn’t WHAT you used to communicate that mattered; it was HOW you connected with people…that you gave them your attention, that you made them feel special, that you knew just the right thing to say based on the moment…and everywhere she went, people loved her for it – family, yes, of course – it wasn’t your birthday until mom called you and sang “Happy Birthday” [a tradition she and dad started and she continued] – but it was also staff members at her assisted living place – the wonderful people at Stonebridge – nurses at hospitals, physical therapists at rehab centers…sometimes they wanted to take pictures with her…”Your mom is an absolute doll,” “we love your mother,” they said…and we ALWAYS knew why.
Third and last – for today, anyway – her bravery and toughness – my mom endured difficult physical problems literally since the moment she was born…she struggled to come into the world – mom and her twin sister, Christine, were born premature at home, and Christine died just a couple of days after birth. Mom fought hard to survive and did…early in her life she developed severe back issues that eventually became the scoliosis she struggled with her whole life…from the ages of 6-16, from 1937-1947, my mom would accompany my grandfather to Children’s Hospital in Boston for treatment on her back – often crude early treatment. For a while doctors put her in a full body cast in an attempt to straighten her spine…
Afterwards she was the subject of a teaching seminar, where she stood in front of the room while aspiring doctors would watch as the instructor pointed out the curvature issues with mom’s spine…she told us she was often scared and a little embarrassed at this, but hoped it would help her and others – always others with her…
The scoliosis abated somewhat in her young adulthood and even middle age, but as it often does – it came back with a vengeance later in her life…very tough stuff that affected so much more than her spine…and yet, believe me when I tell you this – my family will verify it – mom almost never complained, not until her last days, really. You would have to ASK her if she were feeling pain…she almost never volunteered it. She was cheerful in a way that made you almost well up and start to cry, because you KNEW what she was going through…I told mom that if she were old enough, and the Army allowed women in combat on June 6, 1944, she would have stormed the beaches of Normandy – that’s how tough and brave she was.
And it wasn’t just that she never complained – that in some ways is a bit of a negative thing: That’s what she DIDN’T DO – “She never complained.” …More to the point is what she DID do… despite her pain, mom always COUNTED HER BLESSINGS…and urged us to do the same. There were many people worse off than her, she’d say; God had blessed her in too many ways for her to make the scoliosis – and complications from it – the center of her life. Count your blessings always, she said…and we learned that from her words – but more from her actions…and we do it – in honor of mom, of Mari, of ma, of gramma…we do it in honor of Rose.
So those are just a few of the qualities and attributes that made Rose “Rose” – comfortable with who she was; being able to connect and communicate with almost everyone; and being strong and always thanking GOD by counting her blessings. Which were so, so many…
That’s the Rose Puleo we know and love…I won’t use the past tense… it's always going to be “KNOW” and “LOVE”, and never “KNEW AND LOVED” for us – and I hope for you too…because now she’s very much alive in heaven with dad, and her parents, and her brother Tino and her sister May, whom she loved so much.
I’ll close with this: Mom had one other idiosyncrasy that we loved: When you finished a phone call with her, or you were leaving after visiting her, she would not let you say GOOD-BYE. Goodbye was too final – Goodbye meant she might not get to hug you again, or see you again, or share her great love with you again…so we always closed with “I love you,” of course, but then the words: “So long for now.” Mom told everyone she knew to use “So long for now” – friends, acquaintances, strangers…part of her direct and honest communication! One of her dear friends at Stonebridge, Tracy, told us once, “Your mom yelled at me today because I told her good-bye when she was leaving.” After that, Tracy always said “So Long for Now’– For mom, “SO LONG FOR NOW” was a temporary parting of ways – it meant, I’ll see you soon; I’ll talk to you soon; We’ll be together soon.
So please do mom – and the Puleo family – this favor…when you pray for her today at Mass, and I hope you do; or at the gravesite, and I hope you do; or, in the days to come – which I really hope you’ll do…please close your prayer with her favorite words –
“I love you….And so long for now…”
POEM, read by Rose's great-grandson, Liam
A Poem for Mari
Going through these tough days, we must stop and think of you.
Remembering the laughs, smiles, and conversations, we now let our feelings show true.
Even during the times when we felt so alone in the dark, we always had you by our sides, comforting us, with your loving heart.
Now you have moved on to a more beautiful and peaceful place, but your memory stays strong as tears stream down my face.
You are the one that always raised my spirit, and we grant your only wish. Because whenever I sleep, your voice, I can always hear it.
You never gave up, everybody was your friend, and when family was apart, you would bring us together again.
Through trials and tribulations, a strong heart is what you've given me, we could never forget you Mari, you'll always be in our memories.
We couldn't be there when you heard Pari's voice calling, and you found God's grace, but we know you're happy now, and that's all I need to put a smile on my face.
I will never have the words to describe everything you meant to me, but I feel your graceful eyes watching down upon our devastated family.
Yes Mari, our prayers go out to you now, as well as our hearts. But you're in Pari's care now, and inside, we will never be apart.
No more pain, and your discomfort has ceased. With the greatest love, Mari, rest in peace. We love you, Mari, and so long for now.