Marie Concetta Mazzagatti Cloninger

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  • "Concetta was two years older than I . My brother Tommy I..."
    - Albert Lombardo
  • "So sorry for your loss Julia- thoughts of your mom and mine..."
    - Michele Allen
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    - American Heart Association
  • "We are so sorry for your loss. Love you lots Pate..."
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1919 - 2016 Marie Concetta Mazzagatti Cloninger, 96, of Beaumont, passed away on Monday, August 22, 2016. She was born on December 7, 1919, in Beaumont, to Genoveffa Colagiuri Mazzagatti and Joseph Mazzagatti, immigrants from the province of Reggio Calabria, Italy, and part of a large extended family from Tresilico and nearby countryside. A Calabarian dialect was her first language, but in school she precociously assimilated English and put those articulation skills to delightful use for the rest of her life. Concetta became interested in theater while still in high school, but when she was in Lamar Junior College studying under Irene Arnett the interest became serious. She was in ten major productions and was selected as the Outstanding Actress of the Year while winning a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts in Pasadena, California. She graduated from The Playhouse cum laude and was invited to return for post graduate work. In her four years at The Playhouse, she acted in well over thirty plays, also working on the technical side of many productions. She was associated with such people as Gilmo Brown, Onslow Stevens, Victor Jory, Russ Arms, Eleanor Parker, Dana Andrews, and many other prominent theatrical personalities. At the completion of her post-graduate work, Concetta, aka her stage name Connie Marlo, went to New York City, moved into the Rehearsal Club and secured professional status by performing in one play and several radio productions. While living in New York City, she nurtured lifelong relationships with another branch of extended family from Tresilico who had settled on Long Island and were progeny of her mother's sister Julia Colagiuri Mileto. Concetta married her first husband in 1943. They divorced in 1953. She devoted herself to rearing her three children, supporting them by working as a legal secretary for Tatum Camp and Ball. Meanwhile, she maintained her dramatic enthusiasm, having become the first director of the reorganized Beaumont Community Players when Beaumont Little Theater closed in disrepair. In 1947, Concetta directed their first production, The Drunkard in the Hotel Beaumont Rose Room, Guest In The House in 1953, and in 1955 cast Morris Cloninger, a former English teacher, in his stage debut role as Dr. Sloper of The Heiress. Cast members Lou Carmack, Virginia Moon, and Marilyn Munsterman became lifelong friends, and Morris began a courtship of Concetta and her three children, Robert, Joan, and Julia. On March 1, 1958, Concetta married Morris. She pulled him into her extended family from the start by honeymooning in New York and visiting all Long Island relations. On May 9, 1959 their daughter, Diana, was born and that same year Morris adopted Concetta's three children. Together, Morris and Concetta became patrons of The Beaumont Music Commission, the Beaumont Community Players, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, The Symphony League of Southeast Texas, and Friends of the Arts at Lamar University. Trinity United Methodist Church became the important center of their lives. Concetta, in her devotion to taking care of family, became a cook extraordinaire, one year making a different cheese cake every week to find the best one, and daily gathered the family around the table, continuing the traditions of her parents, and often including her brother Nick Mazzagatti, her brother Roy Mazzagatti's family, Morris' sister Winnie Cox and friends of the children who came eagerly to share in lively discussions. Concetta, an avid reader, turned her performance gifts toward book reviews. She joined The Own-A-Book Club and continued to entertain organizations with one hour memorized reviews, such as The Listener. She loved to travel with Morris on his nation-wide travels as a Vice-President and renowned speaker for Optimist International. She supported his work for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, The Salvation Army, The American Heart Association, and Boys Haven. She was president of the PTA so often that they made her a Life Member. She was a member of the Tyrell Historical Library Association, The Heritage Society, Scholarship Chairman of The Woman's Club, and most importantly, a member and three times President of the Friendship Sunday School Class. In 1965, Concetta sailed with Morris and their children to England on Cunard's Queen Mary and began a road trip that carried then through Europe to Milano, Italy where they visited Concetta's aunt Giovanna Colagiuri, and then on to Tresilico, her mother's childhood home. Cousin Vincenzo Mileto, son of her aunt, Julia Mileto, welcomed them into this extended family with a meal under a grape arbor in the backyard. The seed's of Concetta's desire to preserve the stories of the Mazzu, Mazzagatti, and Grillo families took root. She worked with Rocco Liberti in Tresilico to uncover Italian documents of her family history and turned for oral histories to the world that had made her, the strong community of Italian immigrants to Beaumont who shaped her early life, to her memories of her strong paternal grandmother Mazzu, a woman of social and spiritual insight, to the stories of her three uncles and their families, to her memories of her immediate family, to her father's brother, Dom, his wife Kay and progeny, and to her favorite cousin, her forever and best friend, Lucille LeBlanc to preserve the memory of the arc of that community. Concetta spent years gathering the stories of the immigrant elders she had grown up with in Beaumont and Golden Triangle. She recorded their stories and helped organize two family reunions at the Harvest Club so that families could share stories and seek missing pieces. By 1991, Bucky Callas and Chuck Wilcox were training her to use a computer so she could organize her accumulation of documents and chapters of a family history of the five families who had made the journey from Tresilico to Beaumont. The family consisted of the descendants of three brothers, one sister (Concetta's Grandmother), and a niece. From Calabria, Italy to Beaumont, Texas. U.S.A., The Mazzu, Mazzagatti, and Grillo Families was a 556 page treasure trove of oral history, genealogy, and documents still pointing to absences. Concetta is preceded in death by her parents, Joseph and Genoveffa Colagiuri Mazzgatti; her husband, Morris Sheppard Cloninger; and three brothers, Phillip, Nick, and Roy Mazzagatti. She is survived by her children and their spouses, Dr. C. Robert Cloninger and his wife, Sharon, of St. Louis, Missouri; Joan Marie Wilcox and her husband, Charles Howard Wilcox II, of Reston, Virginia; Julia Cloninger Shelton of Houston, Texas; and Diana Sue Pate and her husband, Gordon Pate, Jr., of Lakeway, Texas; grandchildren, Bryan Joseph Cloninger and his wife, Emma of Maple City Michigan; Kevin Michael Cloninger of Kerhonkson, New York; Lauren Ashley Wilcox Sackett and her husband, Stephen Sackett of Woodbridge, Virginia; Michael Phillip Wilcox of Reston, Virgiania; Ian Scott Shelton and his wife, Kristen, of Pasadena, California; David Scott Shelton and his wife, Rose, of Houston, Texas; Elizabeth Marie Shelton and Hayley Shelton of Houston, Texas; Eric Pate, Josh Pate, and Hannah Pate of Lakeway, Texas; great-grandchildren, Baptiste Henri Cloninger of Grass, France; Michael Stephen Sackett of Woodbridge, Virginia; Stella and Leah Shelton of Houston, Texas; and Luke Alexander Shelton of Pasadena, California; nieces, Barbara Carter and her husband, Dr. Dan Carter of Lufkin, Texas; Linda Mazzagatii of Bellaire, Texas; Mary Cox of Seabrook, Texas; and nephew, Roy Pasqual Mazzagatti, Jr. of Richmond, Texas. Her family wishes to express their deep appreciation to her caregiver, Pearlie Mae Woods, and also Charles Johnson who assisted in many ways. A gathering of Mrs. Cloninger's family and friends will be from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., with a time for family remembrances at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, August 25, 2016, at Broussard's, 2000 McFaddin Avenue, Beaumont. Her funeral service will be 11:00 a.m., Friday, August 26, 2016, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 3430 Harrison Avenue, Beaumont, with her interment to follow at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Beaumont. Memorial Contribution may be made to Trinity United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 5247, Beaumont, Texas 77726. Complete and updated information may be found at:

Published in The Beaumont Enterprise on Aug. 25, 2016
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