Nelly Jannaccio, a Flushing resident for 57 years, died suddenly in her home in City Island, Bronx, Sept. 26 of complications of Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the medical examiner. She was 92.
Jannaccio, who was born and raised in Germany, made Flushing her home in 1948 after marrying U.S. Army Sgt. Dominick Jannaccio, a World War II veteran who moved to Flushing as a toddler and lived there with his wife Nelly until he died in 1976.
During their courtship and engagement, Dominick remained in Germany after World War II as part of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, specifically to help repatriate and assist Jewish Holocaust survivors. Dominick’s dedication was so appreciated that a group of Holocaust survivors got together, baked a multi-layered cake and made figures of a bride and groom from pieces of wire, cloth and paper. The result was Nelly and Dominick Jannaccio’s wedding cake.
“Without these new friends, we would have had no wedding cake,” Nelly often recalled. The “new friends” also comprised most of the attendees at the wedding reception.
Soon after settling in Flushing, Jannaccio attended classes in Corona to learn English and American history and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Because her husband suffered debilitating health problems following his military service, Jannaccio became the breadwinner for the family, working first at a doll factory and then the Serval Zipper Company, both located on Lawrence Street in present-day College Point Boulevard.
In 1964-1965, Jannaccio worked at the French Pavilion of the World’s Fair held at what is presently Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
For more than a decade after that, Jannaccio worked at the A&P-affiliated Jane Parker Bakery and Tastee Bakery on Avery Avenue, at the site currently occupied by Home Depot.
Jannaccio retired after her husband’s death in 1976, but remained a Flushing resident for another 28 years, inspiring many who met her with her honesty, compassion, selflessness, generosity and consideration for others.
“Be nice to each other,” a line she often recited and lived by, will be etched into the gravestone that she will now share with her late husband. She valued sharing positive energy and shunned receiving material gifts.
Jannaccio confronted the challenges of Alzheimer’s dementia by pushing herself to the limit, even within the last year walking up to 5 miles a day with a walker, always accompanied by her son. She enjoyed the outdoors, gardening, and just going out to shop or eat.
After being evacuated during Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012, she was seen racing down the halls of Harry S. Truman High School in Co-op City, Bronx, one of many sites that served as a temporary New York City shelter. An inspiration to many who witnessed her unwavering determination and courage, she lived her life to the fullest, fearless, determined, and often with a smile on her face, despite great challenges.
Jannaccio is survived by her son, Richard Jannaccio, a former TimesLedger columnist.