SPARKILL, NY – Anna Evangelist, a no-nonsense New Yorker whose independence was surpassed only by the warmth she showered on those she loved, died Monday at home. She was 95.
Born at Fordham Hospital June 21, 1921 to Salvatore and Carmela (Matteo) Ambrosio, Anna Antonia Ambrosio was the middle of three siblings. She graduated early from Roosevelt High School and worked as a seamstress before marrying Nicholas Evangelist on November 11, 1944.
They settled on Crotona Avenue in the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue neighborhood, raised two children and lived in the same building until Nick’s death in 1992. Anna remained there, defiantly and happily on her own, for another two decades. Before relocating to Sparkill in 2012, her biggest move was from the fifth floor to the second. But her world was hardly small.
Without a driver’s license between them, Anna and Nick toured the U.S. by bus, traveled to Greece, Mexico and Italy and regularly visited their grandchildren in Houston, where Anna had a large network of friends. She proudly returned to Italy on her own after Nick’s death to prove she could.
At home, her tiny kitchen and fold-away dining room table expanded, impossibly, to meet the demands of every Sunday dinner and special occasion – a set-up she referred to as “Café Nina.”
With her children in school, Anna sewed high-end women’s clothing in factories that paid by the piece. She gave no quarter to dishonest bosses – who, if they didn’t like it, could “go scratch what itches them” – and relished the role of translator for and guardian of the other Italian-speaking women.
Tough but amiable, Anna could to talk to anyone – a quality that fueled her success as a Tupperware saleswoman when she shrewdly began hosting Italian-language house parties.
Prolific with a sewing machine and crochet hooks, Anna sent each grandchild off to college with blankets stitched in their school colors. And well into her 80s she took the bus to volunteer at Morningside House Nursing Home, where she sewed wheelchair accessories for residents.
She loved the beach, casinos and good Brandy Alexanders.
In addition to Nick, Anna was predeceased by her brother Alphonse Ambrosio and son-in-law, Michael Carleo.
She is survived by her brother Frank Ambrosio of Pennsylvania; daughter Mary Anne Evangelist of South Nyack; son Joseph (Adele) Evangelist of Port Washington; grandchildren Jasara (Matt), Carianne, Alex (Tara) and Jordan (Kate); and great-grandchildren Addison, Luke, Cassidy and Huxley. Her family is also grateful for the kindness of her longtime aide, Sueyen Seay, who made sure she looked beautiful every day, and the staff of Dowling Gardens.
Friends and family may call Weds. from 4-7 PM at Hannemann Funeral Home, 88 S. Broadway, Nyack, NY, and Thurs. from 2-4 PM. & 7-9 PM at Lucia Bros. Funeral Home, 569 E. 184th St., Bronx, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at 10 AM Friday at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 627 E. 187th St., Bronx, NY. Interment will follow at St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Calvary Hospital, Attn. Calvary Fund, 1740 Eastchester Road, Bronx, NY, 10461, or the Evangelist Family Scholarship, Aquinas High School, 685 E. 182nd St., Bronx, NY, 10457.