Mafalda Darnell

October 19, 1928March 31, 2021

Mafalda C. Bonacquisti Darnell passed away March 31 in her home in Rockford. She left peacefully in her sleep at the age of 92.

Born October 19, 1928, in Rockford to Ambrogio and Angelina Furno Bonacquisti, she was the eldest daughter of eight children. She married Robert E. Darnell in Chicago in 1948 and together they had two sons: Clifford in 1949 and Randolph in 1955.

Known to most as “Red” for the color of her auburn hair, Mafalda grew up in Rockford’s then-Italian South Side, her father having immigrated from Ferentino outside Rome in 1914 and her mother from Roccamena, Sicily, in 1907.

Besides being a devoted mother and grandmother, Mafalda was matriarch of the extended Bonacquisti family who organized holiday gatherings over many decades that featured traditional Italian dishes, her meatballs and sugo being the centerpiece. Everyone who knew Red loved her for her sunny disposition and ever-present sense of humor.

Red thoroughly enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. She went from frequenting garage sales as a hobby to scouting vintage clothing and jewelry for a Rockton boutique. In her youth, she relished nights out dancing with Robert and tried out for the fabled Rockford Peaches, landing a spot on the practice squad. Well into her old age, she routinely emptied the pockets of players decades her junior at kitchen table poker games.

During World War II, Mafalda worked as a teenage Rosie the Riveter at Rockford Screw Products where she met Robert. She continued working while Robert served in the U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marines; they married after his return and later purchased their first home on Tenth Avenue. Mafalda often worked part time while raising her sons and served as an election judge in the Brown Hills neighborhood where they moved in the early 1970s and where Tina, a Border Collie, joined the family.

As a mother, she taught her sons the value of working hard, laughing often and celebrating with family. Mafalda played an important role in the lives of three or her grandchildren after the untimely death of their mother, Lisa M. Key Darnell.

As a child, Mafalda enjoyed attending Saint Anthony of Padua Church, where her parents had been married in 1924 by Father Marchesano, and she began worshipping there again in her final years. Mafalda is survived by her sons, Clifford (Andrea) Darnell of Rockford and Randolph (Catherine) Darnell of Richmond, VA; grandchildren Adrienne (Justin) Spencer of Parkersburg, WV, Ashley, Austin (Cierra), Abbey and Ally Darnell, all of Richmond; step-granddaughter Veronica Darnell of Rockford; great-grandchildren, Easton and Cohen Spencer and Cora Darnell; step-great-grandchildren Caprisha and Chastity Myers and Daneisha Clemons; a sister, Sylvia Bonne of Rockford; brothers-in-law, James Darnell of Machesney Park and Jack Knight of Roscoe; sister-in-law Lillie Bonacquisti of Rockford; numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by Robert in 2017; brothers Frank, Vincent, Angelo and Ambrose; sisters Jennie Hillers and Pearl Knight; and a granddaughter, Marilyn Moorman.

A Funeral Service will be held at 2pm on Friday, April 9th, 2021 in The Chapel of Peace at Sunset Memorial Gardens (8800 N. Alpine Rd, Machesney Park, IL 61115). Entombment to follow.


  • Funeral Service

    Friday, April 9, 2021


  • Entombment

    Friday, April 9, 2021


Mafalda Darnell

have a memory or condolence to add?

Dianna Hillers

April 8, 2021

There are so many memories to share but here are a few. It was "Aunt Red and Pearl " who taught me how to do the Twist back in the 60s. Those two knew how to dance. Together we hit so many Saturday garage and estate sales over the years. We had a understanding, I had to stop her from buying anymore "perfect" pots and pans. She stopped me from getting anymore wall art. We'd laugh till we cried over the "oops and mistakes" we would some times purchase and high 5 over super finds. For laughs we'd reminisce over the one paddle hand mixer story. And if you saw her quickly walk out of a garage or in a store make a get away you knew you were going to walk into the fragrance she'd just left behind. After the loss of my mother she was my shoulder and for that I will always be grateful.