It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our mother, Maria Rocca on March 7, 2023. She was born on February 25, 1940 in Malaga, Spain. Her parents were Antonio Alonso Galvez and Aurora Sanchez Rodriguez. She was one of nine children. She was the mother of Luigi (Charlotte) Rocca and Rosie (Paul) Doiron.
Mom’s upbringing was very modest. Her father fought in the Spanish Civil War and was a fisherman by trade while her mother stayed home to raise 9 children. To help support her family, Mom left school at a very young age to work jobs ranging from a house maid to a labourer in a local shoe factory. She loved going to movies with her sisters and brothers and was something of a free spirit. She had a mischievous streak and told tales of sneaking out and putting makeup on but washing it off before she came home so her father wouldn’t see. He was a strict man and against his wishes, she left home at the age of 22 and moved to Zurich, Switzerland to live with her sister, Lola, and help with the care of her children. While there, she found a job as a chambermaid in a downtown hotel and met our father, Luigi, who also worked there as a porter. She wanted to get to know him better so she quickly learned Italian so that they could communicate better. Mom broke things off with a suitor in Malaga and eventually married Dad in Zurich in May of 1966.
Dad convinced Mom that they should follow his brothers, Filippo and Nicola, and emigrate to Saint John, New Brunswick. So in November of 1966, already pregnant with her first child, she agreed to leave everything she knew and move to Canada to begin their lives together and raise a family. All they had was a suitcase and some clothes but through hard work, determination and tremendous sacrifice, they raised two children and gave us all that we needed including an education that they could never afford for themselves.
Mom married a chef but she was a prodigious cook and mastered Italian cuisine quickly. No restaurant (or even Dad) could match her homemade lasagna or spaghetti sauce. When we were in university, her care packages were legendary! She loved to feed us and our being away for school was not going to stop her. Even as adults, Mom made sure our freezers were full of frozen lasagnas, pizzas, delicious “Grandma Jam” and “Grandma bread” as Joseph fondly called it.
As soon as we were both old enough to be in public school, Mom found employment as a custodian with the former school district 8 and worked at Saint John High School beginning around 1976. She chose the night shift so she didn’t have to find child care during the day for us. This was hard for her but she was grateful that principal Dennis Knibb was so very kind to her. Mr Knibb eventually helped arrange for Mom to get a transfer to the school we attended, Seawood Elementary. There, she was a five minute walk from the family home on Molson Avenue so that she could work the day shift and be home after school and at night with her children. She walked home at noon every day to prepare lunch for us. Of course, we loved it that Mom was never far away even during school hours.
Just like Dad did, Mom taught herself to speak and read English. Sometimes our friends would remind us how heavy her accent was but we understood her just fine! Her guilty pleasures were Harlequin romance novels and her weekly tabloid magazines from the grocery store. In that way, Mom lead by example. If she could teach herself to read, surely, we could achieve great things with the luxury of an education in Canada and the opportunities it would provide! Among Mom’s proudest moments were when she saw her children graduate with university degrees. Mom and Dad came to Canada to provide a better life for their children and we will always be grateful for that.
She was a wonderful mother. She was strict but also doting. She was fiercely protective. Above all, Mom imbued us with the confidence that we could be or do anything we wanted. Thank you, Mom!
Perhaps Mom’s greatest joy came from being a grandmother or Abuela as her grandchildren sometimes called her. We are so grateful that she lived long enough to meet and know all six of her grandchildren. She loved every minute of it. She will be deeply missed by Noah, Hannah, Joseph, Elizabeth, Olivia and Isabella.
Mom was diagnosed with lupus when she was in her late 40’s and was forced to retire from her work as a custodian. As a result of this devastating disease and the resulting health issues, her physical condition was always challenging but began to deteriorate quite rapidly in the last few years. The gradual loss of mobility and independence was truly devastating for her and with Rosie’s constant help and support, she fought valiantly to maintain it. In the end, while Mom’s mind stayed razor sharp, her body simply gave out.
Mom was predeceased by her former husband (our Dad), Luigi, in 2014.
We are grateful for the help Mom received from her caregivers Lena, Nancy and Hazel. We will also always be grateful to Homecare by Design for always being there and going above and beyond to help Mom.
Arrangements are under the care of Kennebecasis Funeral Home, 152 Pettingill Rd. Quispamsis, (506-849-2119). As per Mom’s wishes, there will be no visitation and no funeral. An interment will take place for immediate family in the spring. If you wish to pay tribute to our mother, we would be so pleased and honoured if you would consider donating to the Arthritis Society or Lupus NB in her name. You can also leave a condolence at www.kennebecasisfh.com.