Leona Howland Maffei, 92, who lived her life with grace, courage and humor, died peacefully at the home of her daughter, Dorothy, in New Kingston on Monday, Nov. 28, 2011.
She was born on March 24, 1919 in Center Lisle.
Leona graduated from Marathon High School and attended nursing school at Crouse Memorial in Syracuse.
She married on December 7, 1939. She pursued her education throughout her life and was especially interested in art history, which she pursued as a continuing education student at Syracuse University for many years. That interest exemplified her insatiable desire to challenge herself and to excel in the things that interested her even if they brought her far away from her Southern Tier rural background.
She was an avid traveler and took pride in understanding the art and culture of the many places in the world that she visited. She and her husband also hosted foreign students studying at Syracuse University for many years. They sponsored a School of Management student, Tan Nuygen, his wife, Viet and their children so they could immigrate to the United States after the Vietnam War, and considered them part of their family.
Leona worked tirelessly as a volunteer for both social and healthcare organizations in Central New York. She served on the boards of the American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, the Corinthian Club, the League of Women Voters and others. She loved the arts and supported and attended regularly The Syracuse Symphony, Syracuse Stage, Syracuse Opera and The Everson Museum of Art where she also served as a docent for many years. She contributed to Francis House, Hospice of Central New York, The Leukemia Society and was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood.
She had an enormous love of food and often spoke of how her husband’s Italian-American family taught her to cook and then she continued to pursue both her cooking techniques and skills through her life. At her longtime home on Sedgwick Drive, she had over 200 varieties of roses and she was a lifelong member of the Onondaga Garden Club.
She had three younger sisters, Sylva, Phyllis and Gladys who predeceased her. She was also predeceased by her daughter, Carol Anne, son, Joseph and husband, Neil C. Maffei Sr.
Surviving are a son, Neil C. Maffei Jr. (Patricia Body) of Syracuse, daughter, Dorothy J. Maffei, of New Kingston, her grandchildren, Daniel B. Maffei (Abby Davidson), Sara L. Maffei, Andrew C. Maffei and Max Body-Maffei. Also surviving are several nieces, nephews and relatives.
Calling hours will be at Farone & Sons, 1500 Park Street, Syracuse, on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. ending at noon with a short service and burial at Woodlawn with a reception following from 1- 5 p.m. at Francesca’s Cucina at 545 North Salina Street.
In lieu of flowers, donations to a favorite cause or organization would be appreciated.