Francis Edward Abessinio
Francis Edward Abessinio, "Vito," passed away suddenly at home after a short battle with cancer which he had no time for because he had work to do. Born May 26, 1949, he was 71 which is hard for his family to believe. We were sure he had enough energy to live past age 100.
Francis and his twin brother, Rocco, were born in Wilmington. Their first home was right in the city in a beautiful, old apartment building at 13th and Washington, now the parking lot for Christiana Wilmington Hospital. At age 7, they moved to the suburbs in Penny Hill and attended St. Helena's School together where they competitively tried to sell the most wrapping paper in a school fundraiser, and did, their parents stuck with a lifetime supply of wrapping paper in their basement as a result.
Francis and Rocco attended Salesianum High School, four years that Francis never forgot. He carried Salesianum in his heart forever. He was a generous alumnus who counted many of the Oblates as patients in his thriving Optometry practice.
After high school Francis went on to LaSalle College in Philadelphia, always happy to live in a city. He attended The Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN, but he never gave up his dream of coming home to Wilmington and setting up his practice. His expertise found a home on Rte. 202 and State Line Rd, just over the state line in Chadds Ford. Close enough. He worked long hours for 40 years and built a significant following of loyal patients, actually endearing himself to many hard lens patients by asking them, "What did you do to these contacts? Tap dance on them?"
The money he made in Optometry he invested in properties in his beloved city of Wilmington. Clever and resourceful, and cheap, he tried to fix everything himself. If he couldn't, well, it was his way or the highway, often telling carpenters and electricians how to do their jobs with, "Listen, Jack, I want it done like this." Surprisingly, he found many lifelong friends with this approach.
Francis was a native Wilmingtonian of which he was very proud. He loved "Downtown" Wilmington and owned several rental properties there in old buildings and row houses. When his baby girls were big enough, he put a carseat in his truck and they went "Ta-town" with Daddy to collect rents, stop at 7-11 for junk food, and play on every city playground they passed . He was an avid disciple of his father, Vito, and his grandfather, Rocco Abessinio who emigrated to this country from Italy in the early 1900s and built real estate holdings from proceeds from his Rocco's Hat Cleaning and Shoe Shine Shop at 4th and Market, at five cents a shine. Francis was always proud of his roots. By age 12, Francis and Rocky found themselves shining shoes for tips during long, summer days when other kids were swimming. His famous work ethic was born.
Francis is survived by his sweet Irish wife, Marna, and their three devoted daughters and spouses; Emily Abessinio Cain (Kevin), Allison Abessinio Holloway (Dave), Laura Abessinio Terpak (Rich). He was also the proud grandfather of Lucy, Natalie, and Rocky. He also leaves behind his baby brother, Dr. Philip Abessinio of Long Island, NY. Francis was predeceased by his parents, Edith and Vito Abessinio, his twin brother, Rocco, and his sister, Carmella Dorn. He is also survived by his many cousins and friends who will miss his famous Palm Sunday fettucine and walnuts family recipe and Easter pies.
Funeral arrangements will be conducted in compliance with COVID-19 directives, which require mandatory face masks and social distancing.
Relatives and friends are invited to celebrate Francis's life this Friday, November 20th, at 1:00 PM at St. Anthony's Church, Dupont Street, Wilmington, DE. Burial to follow at Cathedral Cemetery.
I lieu of flowers contributions can be made to SALESIANUM SCHOOL 1801 N. Broom Street Wilmington, DE 19802.
Published in The News Journal from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19, 2020.