Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Cynthia DeLessio, aka 'Momma D,' was a hard-core Trekkie and cancer warrior

Her family has seen the movies dozens of times. They start out in 1950s black and white, with Cindy DeLessio and her siblings playing on a beach in Breezy Point, Queens, tip-toeing to the edge of a chilly tide and running away.

They move to her first Catholic Holy Communion, people squinting into the hand-held lights that flood everything with white.

The videos have turned to color by the time she stands next to her first car, a gold Firebird convertible. Mrs. DeLessio grew all the way up, cut her blond hair pixie short and married the dark, rugged man who starts showing up in the final reels. Here are the bride and groom leaving a church, ducking handfuls of hurled rice.

Eight hours' worth of 8mm film eventually turned into videotapes, then into DVDs. Her children, who once considered watching the videos a cruel and unusual punishment, came to value them, especially as Mrs. DeLessio fought stage 4 cancer for 10 years.

Mrs. DeLessio, who savored all of a life cut short, died Sept. 16. She was 64. Mrs. DeLessio had lived in Trinity since 2003.

She adored the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five; the Gators and the Dolphins; sushi and Starbucks, where she sipped nonfat cappuccino with a dash of cinnamon.

She also loved everything associated with the television show Star Trek.

She was known for straight talk, the ability to dispense advice but not Band-Aids.

"She could be brutally honest, but in a way that would just make sense and wouldn't be hurtful the way she said it," said Christine DeLessio, her daughter.

As her children grew up, their friends found in Mrs. DeLessio a trusted confessor. They shared their struggles with drugs and sex, things they did not disclose to their own parents. They called her Momma D.

Cynthia Marten was born in Brooklyn, into a large family. She married Tom DeLessio, an aircraft mechanic, in 1970. His jobs took the family to Pembroke Pines, then Louisville, Ky., for 14 years and back to Pembroke Pines.

In 1989, doctors diagnosed breast cancer and performed a mastectomy. The cancer returned in 2002. By then it had metastasized to her ribs and spine.

"We thought, 'This is it,' " said Christine DeLessio, 36.

Mrs. DeLessio kept going. Between periods of chemotherapy, she went on cruises. Asked how she felt, she answered in a word: "Peachy."

"She always said, 'Hey, what's the alternative? I'd be dead. I'd prefer this to that,' " her daughter recalled.

She took to Twitter and followed actor George Takei, who played Sulu in Star Trek.

In early August, Mrs. DeLessio and her husband attended an annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. She talked to a Klingon and had photos shot with Takei, and actors William Shatner and Scott Bakula.

After the convention and a decade of fending off terminal cancer, Mrs. DeLessio decided she had had enough. She ordered a stop to her chemotherapy. She died at HPH Hospice.

Four days later, her family members watched on television as the Tampa Bay Rays hosted the team's first Star Trek Night at Tropicana Field. Costumed fans cheered as a Klingon threw out the first pitch.

"I mean, what are the odds?" said Christine DeLessio.

She's glad she has the old home movies now. A few months ago on a Saturday afternoon, she and her mother curled up on the leather couch in the family room and watched them all again.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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