Shortly after they were married, Rose Oliveri Tantillo moved to Plainview with her husband, Dom, and began attending church at Our Lady of Mercy R.C. Church when its congregation was still housed in a barn.
Over the years, the devoted mother and grandmother became an integral part of that congregation as it grew into a thriving parish. She spent half a century in the community of Plainview, raising two boys here and working for years as a lunch aide in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, only retiring recently.
Mrs. Tantillo died Friday in a tragic accident in her church parking lot. A funeral Mass will be said at the church in her memory this Friday.
"Grandma Rose wasn’t just our grandmother-she was our guide, our storyteller, our Italian-food-recipe go-to," according to Rose’s five grandchildren who, together, compiled a short biography of her life. "She was our source of strength, our inspiration."
She was famous for her "Rosie-isms," phrases her grandchildren repeated with glee: They included:
- “You’re full of beans.”
- "Tootaloo" and
- “I wasn’t born yesterday”
"She always kept us on the edge of our seats, telling us stories about our fathers and of her childhood, remembering even the most insignificant details such as the weather and the day of the week," the grandchildren recalled.
Mrs. Tantillo was born Dec. 16, 1923 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in a traditional Italian household. She grew up there with her parents and two brothers. In February, 1955, Rose married Dominick Tantillo, and the young couple moved to Plainview that same year.
They attended Mass together at Our Lady of Mercy, which opened in 1953 in a converted barn. Soon, the parish would build its stately sanctuary on South Oyster Bay Road as Long Island's population exploded.
Rose was a member of the Columbiettes, the women’s division of the Knights of Columbus. She took part in many church events over the years. She traveled with fellow seniors and spent many nights with the "girls" at the clubhouse, playing poker and mahjong.
She often went to dinner and the movies with her girlfriends and insisted on receiving her “senior discount” on shopping trips.
Despite her active social life, family was her priority. Rose loved the holidays where her special Old-World Italian recipes were shared by the entire family gathering.
Often, Rose would break out the playing cards and pennies to play "Texas Hold'em" with her grandkids, who were well acquainted with her knack for winning.
"So many memories revolve around this extraordinary woman who had strength unmatched by most, a zeal for living life, a passion for helping others, a strong faith in God, and an enduring love for her family," Rose’s grandchildren said.
Mrs. Tantillo was employed as a lunch aide at the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District since the early 1970s. She retired in 2010, and only after much convincing by family members.
Her husband, Dominick Tantillo, died in February, 2003. Mr. Tantillo worked for the Town of Oyster Bay for more than 15 years.
The couple leaves behind two sons, Paul and Fred, and the five grandchildren: Kathy, Nicole, and P.J., children of Paul and Gloria; and Ariana and Tyler, children of Fred and Valerie.
The family will receive friends at the Vernon C. Wagner Funeral Home, 125 W. Old Country Road in Hicksville, on Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. and Thursday from 2-4 p.m. and from 7-9 p.m.
The funeral Mass will be held Friday at 10:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Mercy R.C. Church, 500 South Oyster Bay Road, Hicksville.