Josephine (DeGrado) Palazzo
1919 - 2020
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Josephine (DeGrado) Palazzo Josephine was born on April 18, 1919 into a recently immigrated Sicilian family. Her mother, Josephine (Russo) DeGrado, was 19 years old. Her father, Louis DeGrado was a successful barber, a trade he apprenticed to in his home village of Bivona. The DeGrado family lived in Columbus Park in Kansas City. Josephine spent her entire life in one square block bounded by Missouri Avenue, Fifth Street and Troost. She loved the neighborhood and the neighborhood loved her back. She had three younger siblingsa sister Clara, and two brothers Stino and Joe. As the children grew, Mama depended on her oldest daughter to watch her sister and brothers. As Mama left the house, she'd warn Jo if the boys were kidnapped, it would be on her conscience. Jo's ready reply was, "Don't worry those two are so bad any kidnapper would bring them back in fifteen minutes." Her birth was perfectly timed to make her part of the Greatest Generation. So many changes and innovations were introduced in her lifetime. She embraced all enthusiastically except for the automobile. In her 101 years she never drove a car and when she was a passenger she'd loudly whisper her rosary against potential injury. Women's Suffrage, the Roaring Twenties and computers in the workplace significantly affected her life. In the early Twenties when the Charleston was raging, Jo and her sister Clara became obsessed by the neighborhood dances Mama took them to. This dancing obsession lasted throughout Josephine's life. Her favorite TV program-- Dancing with the Stars. After graduating from Manual High School, she attended Secretarial and bookkeeping school. Her proud father started promoting her for office jobs with friends and customers before she finished her first month. Jo was dedicated to Holy Rosary Church and prayed the Rosary daily. She was the parish Sunshine Girl, sending get well and sympathy cards to parishioners in the priest's name. Because she knew everyone, she felt free to add personal notes now and then. She kept a log of every card sentinto the thousands over the years. She also kept track of her investments on yellow legal pads well into her nineties. She was a bookkeeper through and through. The Church was where she met the quiet young man with slicked ebony hair and a movie star widow's peak. He approached her shyly and after a short courtship, they married on June 18, 1941. They were together for the next 55 years until his passing. Every Saturday they stood side by side at the kitchen table and stove prepping and assembling bracioli, meatballs and Sunday sauce. He did all the jobs she didn't like doinggrating cheese, rolling meatballs, cutting onions. She'd smile and claim, "I don't know how to do that." They were a great team as parents and cooks. Their only child, Carmeline, was born on June 12, 1942. Josephine and Tony promised each other and their daughter that they would work and save so their baby would be the first in their families to graduate from college. They kept their promise. Unlike most of the neighborhood women, Jo worked bookkeeping jobs as long as they would let her leave in time to walk her young daughter home from school. Her favorite jobs were at the US Cold Storage and Kansas City Election Board. When computers were introduced into offices, she was first to volunteer to learn the systems and do input on the fascinating machines. Josephine loved history and politics and the KC Star. She read every word every day. Her love of reading began in her childhood and continued into her 98th year. She passed that love on to her daughter. Tony's death at age 77 devastated Josephine. She stayed in her small apartment alone. Finally in her own time, she agreed to go to Don Bosco Senior Center one day a week. Soon that expanded to 4 days a week. She thrivedhaving lunch, playing bingo, gossiping, and most of all dancing to live music. She designated herself Official Greeter and warmly welcomed every visitor especially those with cameras. She never thought she met a stranger. Jo often asked in those days, "Why did I wait until my eighties to be famous?" Famous she was. In 2012 her color picture and interview took up a half page in the Star on Columbus Day. She praised the renewal of the tradition of a Columbus Day Social, "If I wasn't 93, I'd be the first one there." Later she grumbled about the reporter putting her age in the newspaper. Josephine's biggest newspaper and TV splash was of her dancing the merengue with Chief's rookie Andy Studebaker. When a TV crew tried to put a mike on her, she said, "I don't want that thing, it will cramp my style." She also was selected to advocate for Senior Citizen legislation in Jefferson City before House committees. After seeing her at the Center, Hallmark Cards picked her to model for a five-card line for seniors. She said it was a blast. Those cards are still in stores today. Celebrating and desserts were her "things". She loved her 50th wedding anniversary party. Her last big party was at 100. Due to Covid-19 we were not able to gather and celebrate her 101st. Through her "famous years" her daughter and son-in-law saw to it that no opportunity for celebrating her was missed. She unwillingly left her beloved Columbus Park in her 95th year to spend her last 6 years at Addington Place where the entire staff made Josephine feel special. Despite her advancing dementia, Jo never lost that great smile and ability to have fun and show affection. In her early life, she was renowned for not holding back her opinion. She "told it as she saw it." After 80, she mellowed and became known for her smile and affectionate hugs and kisses. People were drawn to Josephine's sparkle. She had friends of all ages. They called her "firecracker" and the "little lady that lit up a room." She was devoted to her husband, daughter and grandson, Anthony. Her tiny living room was decorated with many photographs of him at all ages. She took them with her for her room at Addington Place and made sure visitors were shown the photo gallery on each and every visit. She received wonderful private care from Connie Fahey, Sergio Chavez, Kathy, and Sonja. They are all part of her family now. The staff of Crossroads Hospice worked to keep Josephine comfortable until her last minute. We cannot thank them enough for their care and kindness. She left her long and full earthly life, peacefully and serenely. She experienced no real illness or pain and quietly departed on June 25, 2020 at 4:45am. When asked to explain her long life, she'd reply, "Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce before bed. Cookies and milky coffee for breakfast. That's it. Oh, and I walked a lot." The most astounding thing about Josephine was her life-long wellness. In her 101 years, she was under hospital care only oncewhen her daughter was born--an amazing claim for an amazing woman. She leaves behind to tell the story of her life: cherished daughter and grandson Carmeline Hakan, Anthony Hakan (Dana Rasmussen), nephew Sam Lombardo (Kathleen O' Connor), niece Jo Rita West (Bob). Grandchildren of her daughter Carmeline and husband Barton L. Hakan--Nathan, Maddie and Claire--and numerous nieces and nephews. She also leaves behind a large number of dear friends of all ages and ethnicities. She was preceded in death by her parents, her beloved husband Tony, her sister Clara, her brothers Stino and Joe and son-in-law Barton Hakan. She was so proud of her familyliving and dead. One can be sure she's singing their praises and showing photographs in the afterlife. A private burial ceremony took place at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Due to the COVID virus, a Mass and Celebration will take place at a later date. Josephine will not miss her party. Donations in Josephine's name can be made to The Don Bosco Senior Center, at 580 Campbell St. Kansas City, MO 64106. Condolences may be offered at

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Published in Kansas City Star on Aug. 9, 2020.
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4 entries
August 24, 2020
Josephine was a wonderful addition to Holy Rosary Catholic Church. She was a ray of sunshine at the 4PM mass on Saturday. Always smiling and greeting parishioners and visitors. As a parishioner and office manager I was privileged to know Josephine for 30 years. Rest in peace dear soul.
August 10, 2020
Carmeline, warm condolences to you and you family.
JIM Carter
August 9, 2020
Carmeline, may your mom rest in peace. She will always be with you. Sending my thoughts and prayers. Take good care.
JoAnn Axtell
August 7, 2020
Carm: your mom sounds like a kick!. A wonderful obituary that made us feel like we knew her!
Joan and Earl Adam
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