CLEARWATER — One day at the nursing home, Angelina Arcuri's friend reflected on death. If God was ready to take her, she was ready to go.
Mrs. Arcuri pondered that idea.
"Well," she said, "God has got a case on his hands, because I'm not ready to go."
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She was born in Sicily. When she was 11, her family came to America to escape World War I. Their ship zig-zagged in the water to avoid U-boats. The family arrived in New York on Christmas Eve, when the longshoremen were off duty. They were stranded on the ship all night.
Mrs. Arcuri went to public school but didn't know much English and lagged behind the other kids. In third grade, she left school to help provide for her family. At just 16, she married.
Her husband, Lee Arcuri, was a Sicilian immigrant three years older than his bride. He worked in a can company with Mrs. Arcuri's brother. He fell in love with her instantly and showered her with attention.
"My dad was quite independent and self-educated," said their daughter, Ann Caruana. "He exposed my mother to so much."
Together, the couple went from struggling newlyweds to successful parents. Mr. Arcuri owned and managed an oil delivery business and eventually got into politics and real estate. An anti-crime and gambling activist, he served as mayor of their village near Rochester.
She loved supporting him, having the title of "first lady," hosting his important colleagues in their homes, making sure the linens and candles were perfect. She could whip up extravagant meals with almost zero notice. She readily mingled with political clubs and women's groups and helped him campaign.
"She was so proud of him," said Caruana, 78. "She would tell you in a minute that she was first lady, and that her husband was a mayor. She was very supportive, and yet, she would tell me about equality and to get out there and do anything I wanted."
When their children were grown, the couple settled in Florida. Mr. Arcuri, who battled prostate cancer, died in 1980.
His wife made a conscious decision — even without her husband, she would keep living as normal as possible. She played cards, took oil painting lessons, crocheted, arranged flowers. At the Oaks in Clearwater, she routinely beat other residents at bingo, even though her hearing and vision were bad.
People always listened to her dreamy stories of childhood. They asked her advice — she said it was important to stay busy and keep your spirit happy. And, she said, daily almonds help. She would have known.
Mrs. Arcuri died Nov. 11. She was 103.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.