'Nuts at Christmas'
Christmas was Thelma Cuccinello's favorite holiday, a time when she could deck her house in Wilmot, N.H., with all the ornaments and decorations she had made over the years. And not just her house. Her eldest daughter, Cheryl O'Brien, who lives in Bedford, Mass., recently opened a box of Christmas wreaths, only to realize that every one had been made by her mother. "She made the skirt for our Christmas tree, the decoration for our mantlepiece," Mrs. O'Brien said. "She and Dad would go nuts at Christmas."
When her three daughters were growing up in Lexington, Mass., Mrs. Cuccinello made their clothes and their costumes, as well as the costumes of their friends. Later, Mrs. Cuccinello, 71, made quilts for each one of her 10 grandchildren. To her daughters now scattered around the country, she sent weekly packets of motherly advice: articles about teenage acne and the dangers of Internet access to Mrs. O'Brien, a mother of two boys, and about homemade anti-cockroach poison and bug sprays to her daughter in Florida.
Mrs. Cuccinello, who moved with her husband, Albert, to western New Hampshire, was in many ways a storybook grandmother — cozy and game. She traveled when she could — to Europe, Hawaii and California, where she was headed on Sept. 11 aboard American Airlines 11, to visit her sister and brother-in-law.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 8, 2001.
Thelma Cuccinello, 71, was an active grandmother of 10 who took up golf last year. She was headed to San Luis Obispo for a low-key visit with her sister and brother-in-law, hoping to spend some time on the links.
Cuccinello's trip was booked by her eldest daughter, Cheryl O'Brien, a Bedford, Mass., travel agent. Her discount vouchers expired at the end of the month.
Cheryl O'Brien drove her mother to the bus stop, kissed her, told her to have a good trip and said goodbye. "I told her I loved her," O'Brien said. "She said the same."
Profile courtesy of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.