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Kids' dispute makes obit of mom, Josie Anello of Land O'Lakes, famous on Internet

Published Jan. 20, 2016

LAND O'LAKES — Her sweetly smiling face appeared Feb. 14 in the obituaries of a local newspaper.

In most ways, the accompanying obituary for Josie Anello, who died Feb. 11 at 93, was worded like many other death notices. She had been supportive and compassionate, she had lived for friends and family and would be missed.

Then there is the stunner in the third line:

"She is survived by her Son, 'A.J.', who loved and cared for her; Daughter 'Ninfa', who betrayed her trust, and Son 'Peter', who broke her heart."

The condemning language reveals a long-standing rift between Angelo "A.J." Anello, who wrote and placed the obituary, and his two siblings — particularly his sister.

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A different obituary of Mrs. Anello, this one placed by Mrs. Anello's daughter, appeared the next day. It contained most of the same information, minus any reference to broken hearts or betrayals.

But the damage had been done.

Over the next week, the inflammatory obituary spread across the Web and social media. Internet bloggers posted copies of it, some with headlines like "Insanely Passive-Aggressive Obituary."

So what happened here?

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As with many a family quarrel, it comes down to money.

Basically, Angelo Anello, 63, and his sister, Ninfa Simpson, 65, accuse each other of stealing from their mother.

Simpson says Anello drained the mother's savings and maxed out her credit cards. Anello says Simpson and her husband used their mother's Social Security checks to go on vacations to Branson, Mo., and Alaska.

Both siblings deny the other's allegations.

Said Simpson: "My brother is not telling the truth. He's having his moment of revenge."

Said Anello: "They are so riddled with guilt, what they are doing is pointing fingers at me."

The siblings agree on one thing: Peter Anello, the eldest brother, cut himself off from the family more than 25 years ago and speaks to no one. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

That her children would hit their 60s estranged from each other might have disturbed Mrs. Anello, a Tampa native who worked in a cigar factory and was known for her terrific pasta and Cuban sandwiches.

Simpson said her relationship with Angelo Anello was fine until 2007, when Vito Anello, Mrs. Anello's husband of 67 years, died.

That was when Angelo Anello became more controlling, she said, cutting off Mrs. Anello's access to family members unless they went through him first — an allegation Angelo Anello denies.

Mrs. Anello spent part of 2010 and 2011 living with her daughter in North Carolina, then moved to Land O'Lakes to live with Angelo Anello, a former local radio deejay and engineer.

Angelo Anello — at times using the handle "Dangerous Dan" — worked for several radio stations in the 1960s and 1970s, including WDAE 1250 in Tampa and WLCY Y95 in St. Petersburg.

For several years in the 1990s and early 2000s, he frequently wrote letters to newspapers to champion Ybor City or to protest reckless overdevelopment.

Simpson said her family has been devastated by the public airing of dirty laundry.

"I have never done anything to my brother, and I have never betrayed my mother in any way," Simpson said. "Everybody that knows me and knows the family is furious."

Anello said his mother died at home, in his arms, of kidney failure. He said he composed the obituary in the Tampa Tribune "not to get even with anyone, or to be vindictive or spiteful. The obituary reflected what she had said right up to the end."

Did she really say her son broke her heart and her daughter betrayed her trust?

"She didn't put it like that," he said, "but I being a journalist myself have a passion for the truth."

However, the obituary placed by Angelo Anello lists his mother's age as 94.

All other records — and the obituary Simpson placed — list her age as 93.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248.

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