In memory: Matea San Giovanni Baffaro, 96 years old


Matea San Giovanni Baffaro passed away peacefully in bed on Sunday April 18, 2021 at the age of 96.

Matea was born in Rye, New York to Carlo and Maria (Ricci) San Giovanni on June 19, 1924. She grew up pumping gasoline at the gas station in her family’s neighborhood. Matea graduated from Rye High as a Fellow of the National Honors Society. She then attended secretarial school before working for a family doctor and living at home to take care of family duties and help with her younger siblings and nephew. She has found a unique joy in spoiling her younger brother, John Paul, whether it’s buying him a tricycle or taking him to the library on a Saturday morning for story time. One afternoon, a fateful conversation and light teasing got him on a date with his neighbor, Louis Baffaro. Soon Matea found herself marrying “the boy next door” the day before her 24th birthday.

Matea and Lou were married for 57 years before Lou died in 2006. They were an IBM family and moved to Raleigh in 1967 from Poughkeepsie, NY. They loved traveling and brought their daughter Josette on many trips. Their travels have taken them across the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, and across Europe, even spending some time in Paris before Josette was born. Once in Raleigh, Matea worked for the Raleigh Fire Department at Station 1 under Chief Keith. Over the years, she opened her home to many family members visiting North Carolina, traveling along the coast, or those who needed a place to live for a short time. She often hosted exchange students from NC State University and visiting IBM international employees for dinner.

Matea was a staunch member of St. Raphael Catholic Church where she attended the Altar Guild and was a member of the health care and prayer shawls ministries. Matea was a founding member of the Triangle Italian American Women’s Club (TRIAWC) and was State Treasurer of the NC 8th Air Force Historical Society. Matea loved to play bridge with her husband and friends and loved to watch college basketball. She has closely followed the ACC and NCAA tournaments each March. She was an active roommate in Josette’s classrooms and led her Girl Scout troop. Later in life, she also helped Josette with her granddaughter’s troops.

Matea was a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Family was extremely important to her and she showed it in the way she spent her time. She knitted unique Christmas stockings for Josette, Rick, their children and her great-grandchildren. Matea took great joy in teaching her grandchildren family traditions and recipes. She spent many hours baking Christmas cookies, dumplings and other dishes with them. She loved card games but also loved quiet times when she could read a book or work on a puzzle. As she got older, Matea often heard it said, “For an old lady, I’m fine,” and in truth, she has done much better than well. She will be sadly missed by her family, near and far.

Matea is survived by her daughter, Josette Baffaro Beller; her grandchildren: Kristin, David (Amanda), Lauren Binanay (Dave), Joseph, Christopher and Anna Matea; his great-grandchildren Chloe Binanay and Charlie Beller; and his brother, John Paul San Giovanni (Marie), of Bonita Springs, Florida. In addition to her husband, Louis, Matea was predeceased by her sister, Marie Castellano (Anthony); brothers, Carlo and Francis San Giovanni; and his son-in-law, Rick Beller.

The family will be visiting on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Renaissance Funeral Home. A Christian Burial Mass will be held at (and broadcast live) by St. Raphael Catholic Church in Raleigh, NC on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 1 p.m. Interment will follow at Raleigh Memorial Park. The family would like to thank Aware Senior Care and Transitions LifeCare for the compassionate care given to Matea and her family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to LifeCare Transitions (Raleigh), Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, or a charity of your choice.

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