December 13, 1927 – November 30, 2018
Carmella Lucia Savoia Nertney
After nearly 91 years, Carmella has passed from this earth to her eternal rest. Carmella was born to Italian immigrants John Savoia and Josephine Petrillo on December 13, 1927. She was born in the family home on Zavatt Street in Inwood, Long Island, New York.
When Carmella was 10 years old, her mother passed suddenly from a heart attack. Her young life was not easy. But she had a wonderful family of brothers Pat, Al and Tony (Bobo). And her loving cousins Connie and Jeannie. She made it to the 12th grade before having to leave school to work. She left home to live in Brooklyn off Flatbush Avenue with her brother, Al, and his wife, Marge, who took care of her while she began working. She attended typing school in the city. The owner of the school recognized her potential and helped her land a job as a switchboard operator at the Hotel Taft in Times Square. She rode the subway to work every day for a nickel. She enjoyed life in the city, and her manager at the Hotel Taft invited her to see Broadway shows when the hotel had extra tickets. She briefly moved to Los Angeles in her 20s to live with friends but decided that New York was home.
At age 31, her brother Al introduced her to Bill Nertney. Bill was then a jockey agent for thoroughbred horses up and down the east coast of the United States. They were married in 1958. She gave birth to their only child, John, in 1959 in Hialeah, Florida. She would often describe the years that followed as the best time of her life. They traveled from New York to Florida and back each year and had many great friends in the track community.
When John began school in 1964, he and Carmella stayed in New York year-round while Bill made the annual winter journey for the Florida meets. But Carmella and John took a trip each year to south Florida to visit Bill and escape the cold winter. It was on these trips that John came to love Florida, and this would eventually lead him to come south for college.
It was in the late 1960s that Carmella re-entered the work force. This time, she got a job as a waitress at the Seawane Country Club in Hewlett Harbor, New York. Her brothers Pat and Bobo had bartended there and recommended her for the job. She had not been a waitress before but as with everything in her life, she figured it out. She made many friends and gained the respect of the members and management at the club. But at some point, the late hours made the job too much for her. She left Seawane but told them to call her if a job in the office ever opened up. And one day she got that call. As she would tell many times after, the phone rang and the person on the other end said, “Carmella, put your lipstick on!” They offered her the position of switchboard operator. Within just a few years, Carmella had graduated from switchboard operator to assistant bookkeeper. And by the end of her career there in 1977, she had become office manager.
During her time at Seawane, in August of 1975, Bill took ill while at a Saratoga meet. Carmella and John rode a bus from Long Island to Saratoga to get Bill and drive him home. Bill worked for a few years beyond this in various capacities but was soon forced to retire. Carmella continued to work at Seawane until the summer of 1977 at which time Carmella and Bill moved to Hollywood, Florida and John began college in Gainesville.
Carmella found work as a bookkeeper in Hollywood at the Surf 5&10. She worked there for 10 years until she and Bill moved to Sun City Center in 1985 to be closer to John who by then lived in Tampa. She got a golf cart and joined the club. She really enjoyed this time of health, recreation and a little bit of freedom. Bill’s health continued to decline, and he passed in March of 1989. She was his selfless caregiver for over 10 years. Carmella continued to work bookkeeping jobs in Sun City until 1995 when she moved to Central Park Apartments in Temple Terrace to be closer to John, Lorrie and the truest light in her life, her granddaughter, Angela. Carmella continued to work odd jobs. She conducted phone surveys for a marketing company. She was proud to receive an award as a top fundraiser while working with the American Cancer Society. She also volunteered as a poll worker with the elections office. She finally truly retired around 2007 after working for over 60 years. She knew work her entire life.
She spent the last 19 years living at Nantucket Bay Apartments in Temple Terrace. There, she had many friends and enjoyed poker, pinochle, and bingo. In the last 10 years, however, her body began to give way. Years of toil and stress took their toll. It began with the need for a walker. Then a scooter. She drove herself in her van to restaurants and the grocery store until early 2017. After that, she needed help to go places but was able to get in and out of the car to join at restaurants, parties, and shopping. She celebrated her 90th birthday recounting the day and night before she gave birth to John.
But time marched on and in the summer of 2018, her ability to care for herself began to quickly deteriorate. She became dependent on others for the first time in her life. This was not easy for her to accept. She began to realize that this life was coming to a close. However, her fight never left her. The night before she passed, when asked by the Hospice nurse what she wanted, she said, “I want to walk.” And she refused to take pain medicine. She said that pain medicine was for people who could not take the pain. And she could take it. But on the morning she passed, she called John to ask for a pain pill. She realized at that moment that she could not live without the pain medicine, and she would rather not live with it. John spent two hours with her, and she told him, “It’s ok, you can go now.” The caregiver called one hour later to say she had made her peace and she had gone.
Carmella was smart and tough and not afraid of any challenge. She had seen it all before, and she never backed down.
We would like to express our gratitude to Gail and Kimberly and the Ruby Team at Hospice, Brad, Christine, Jane, and Britney of Acti-Kare, as well as caregivers Vesna and Carol. Carmella very much appreciated her long-time doctor, Dr. Himanshu Patel, and his wonderful staff.
- Visitation Friday, December 7, 2018
- Catholic Blessing Friday, December 7, 2018
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