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Mamie Lazzara Buscemi | 1924-2011

Mamie Buscemi, bookkeeper and artisan, dies

CARROLLWOOD — When Mamie Buscemi was growing up in Ybor City during the Great Depression, sewing was a matter of practicality and frugality.

In adulthood, when money wasn't so much of an issue, sewing and crocheting became Mrs. Buscemi's passions.

"She was so artistic," said her daughter Kathleen Martino. "She sewed her own clothes, everything from suits to undergarments. She once took a flour sack and bleached the sack and made a suit out of it. She sewed curtains for her house, and not just simple little curtains, but big, flowing drapes. And she crocheted afghans for everyone in the family — 18 afghans."

Mrs. Buscemi died on Dec. 17 after several months of declining health. She had turned 87 just 10 days earlier.

Her creative talents weren't limited to fabrics. She created floral arrangements that were sold by the St. Joseph's Hospital Auxiliary to help raise money for the hospital. Her Italian meals and her cakes were works of visual and gustatory art, her daughter said.

But unlike the stereotypical artist, she had a passion for math. While her creative endeavors were mostly hobbies, her math skills translated into a career. She was a bookkeeper for the Hillsborough County School District for many years and later for First National Bank. She also had a career as a Realtor later in her life.

She also was active in the Democratic Party and served as a delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, her daughter said.

She was born and lived virtually all her life in Tampa. Her mother was an Ybor City cigar maker. Her father delivered ice in the summer and fuel in the winter.

She graduated from Hillsborough High School and not long after that met her husband, Michael, while she was visiting a cousin in New York. They married shortly after World War II and lived in Deland while her husband studied law. They returned to Tampa where he opened his law practice, first in downtown Tampa and then on Busch Boulevard. The family still owns the office complex, Buscemi Plaza, that was the site of his law office.

The couple had three children and lived for many years in Wellswood. They moved to Carrollwood in the 1960s. Michael Buscemi died from a heart attack in the 1980s.

As a mother, her children say Mrs. Buscemi never had to be a disciplinarian because she led by example.

"The greatest thing was how she lived every single day," Martino said. "She never spent any time on resentment. If there was something that was bothering her, she'd say 'I think about it for five minutes, and then I throw it over my shoulder and I never look at it again.'

"She didn't like intolerant people. Or, I should say, she didn't have patience for intolerant people, because there was nobody she didn't like."

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Buscemi is survived by her sons Frank and Michael, eight grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and a sister.

Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at

Mamie Buscemi, bookkeeper and artisan, dies 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 3:30am]
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