Edith C. Alfama 1925 - 2014 Edie Alfama was born Edith Charlotte Mennella on November 7, 1925 to Charles Medrick Mennella and Edith Blanche Wilson Mennella. She was born at home, and was the third of seven children in the ethnically diverse city of East Boston, Massachusetts. Her father Charles, a local jewelry merchant, was able to provide for the family and managed them through the great depression. Her mother took care of the house and children; cooking and baking extraordinarily delicious meals and treats. Along with her three brothers Jimmy, Charles Jr. and Robert; and three sisters Phyllis, Florence and Lenore; Edith grew up in a strict but loving Catholic household filled with food, family and fun. Growing up in an Italian section of East Boston in the 1930’s provided an adventure at every corner. The cultural variety of each neighborhood provided ample amounts of world foods, clothing styles, festivals and customs. Edie loved going to the movies and listening to music on her father’s crystal radio and Victrola that actually played phonograph records! Edie quickly became a big music fan, and loved to sing and dance, much to the amusement and entertainment of patrons to her father’s store where she would perform before an audience anytime she could. She actually sang so well and loved it so much, that she actually dreamed of singing professionally, but due to the times she grew up in, the view of women in the entertainment industry did not appeal to her...
Edith C. Alfama
1925 - 2014
Edie Alfama was born Edith Charlotte Mennella on November 7, 1925 to Charles Medrick Mennella and Edith Blanche Wilson Mennella. She was born at home, and was the third of seven children in the ethnically diverse city of East Boston, Massachusetts. Her father Charles, a local jewelry merchant, was able to provide for the family and managed them through the great depression. Her mother took care of the house and children; cooking and baking extraordinarily delicious meals and treats. Along with her three brothers Jimmy, Charles Jr. and Robert; and three sisters Phyllis, Florence and Lenore; Edith grew up in a strict but loving Catholic household filled with food, family and fun. Growing up in an Italian section of East Boston in the 1930’s provided an adventure at every corner. The cultural variety of each neighborhood provided ample amounts of world foods, clothing styles, festivals and customs.
Edie loved going to the movies and listening to music on her father’s crystal radio and Victrola that actually played phonograph records! Edie quickly became a big music fan, and loved to sing and dance, much to the amusement and entertainment of patrons to her father’s store where she would perform before an audience anytime she could. She actually sang so well and loved it so much, that she actually dreamed of singing professionally, but due to the times she grew up in, the view of women in the entertainment industry did not appeal to her parents, who discouraged Edie from pursuing that path. It could not discourage Edie from continuing to sing, dance and have so much fun doing it.
Edie went to James Otis School for kindergarten, Joseph H. Barnes for middle school, and attended high school at East Boston High. She had a happy childhood with fond memories of spending time with her best friend Barbara Leone and her older sister Phyllis. She also enjoyed being a big sister to Florence and Lenore while protecting young Charlie and Bobby from neighborhood bullies. A tomboy of sorts, Edith had no problem playing rough and having fun playing with the boys in the neighborhood. After attending her elementary school she caught the eye of a boy during her middle school years that would play a pivotal role in her life, though she was unaware of it at the time. His name was Frank Alfama, an older classmate from the Portuguese side of town.
Frank Alfama first took notice of Edie in middle school, finding that she was very pretty, friendly, smart and self-assured. When he began struggling in math during high school, he conveniently turned to Edie, who he knew would be able to help him, but also give him a reason to interact and be near to her. Ultimately his persistence paid off, and they began seeing each other more and more, and eventually they started going on simple dates. They enjoyed their time together with simple and innocent activities like going to the picture show, heading to the shoreline for a walk, and eating freshly roasted chestnuts. Edie remembered how fun it was when Frank took her places riding on the handlebars of his bicycle! After it was fairly obvious that they were more than just attracted to each other, they officially became boyfriend and girlfriend, and started seeing each other more often as they began to bond and get to know each other and each other’s families better and better.
When World War II broke out, things were suddenly put into perspective. In 1942 Frank was drafted, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy so he could serve his country and see the world. Before he left, he gave her a “promise ring” to demonstrate his devotion to her. During his travels around the globe, they continued their romance through a series of letters and postcards sent to and from all sorts of locations. Their communications stretched over the next few years from the tip of Africa, to India, the Philippines, Europe and Australia. In 1945, the war had ended, Frank returned home, and landed a good job at American Airlines. Edie and Frank’s relationship picked up where they left off and quickly grew stronger than ever. It wasn’t long before he proposed and they decided to get married. On June 30, 1946 Edie Mennella became Mrs. Frank Alfama.
Edie and Frank Alfama began their life together by starting a family of their own. In May of 1948, Edie gave birth to their firstborn, Charles whom quickly earned the nickname, “Chuck” or “Chuckie.” Not wasting any time, Frank Jr. (“Frankie”) was born in April of 1949. Instead of moving from house to house and renting or leasing, Edie talked Frank into scraping their money together and utilizing his G.I. loan to purchase a home of their own in Somerville, Massachusetts. The house was rather a “fixer-upper” that Frank and Edie spent the next 10 years performing repairs, upgrades, maintenance, and decorating, which became the family’s first home, and house that Edie truly loved. Edie and Frank’s next bundle of joy was born in January of 1959. They chose a name for their daughter that reflected the most joyful month of their lives. Since their engagement and marriage both took place in the month of June, and Frank’s birthday was in June, they named their baby girl June (“Junie”) to capture the joy and happiness they felt at her arrival.
More changes were soon to come. Edith’s father, Charles, fell ill and passed away from pancreatic cancer in April of 1959. After this, Edie’s mother moved to the West Coast to be with her sons and daughter, who were already there. In 1960, the opportunity came for Frank to also make the move to California. There was a job opening at Los Angeles International Airport that was expanding to meet the needs of the “jet age” along with the popularity and increase of air travel. Edie and Frank decided to sell the house in Somerville and move to California. Edie made sure that she lived close by her mother so she could take care of her and spend time with her.
In early 1963, Edie became pregnant one last time, the baby being due on the second week of September. Edie had a dream where her father came to her and informed her she would have a son in mid-August. She was told by her father in the dream that he was to be named after his father (James) and his own namesake (Charles). When she told Frank, he looked forward to having his “California Jim.” Edie gave birth prematurely in the middle of August, just as she dreamed. They named their boy James (“Jimmy”), their fourth and last child. Edie instilled spirituality into each of her children by having them baptized, and brought them up in the faith by teaching them and bringing them to church and Sunday school. Edie used whatever spare time she had to write her spooky “Twilight Zone” style stories on her manual typewriter. She really enjoyed the genre of 1950’s – 1960’s “scary” movies with twist endings, and wrote many stories in that style.
By the 1970’s Chuck and Frank Jr. had already grown up and began making lives of their own. This left the two younger siblings, June and Jim, home with Edie to raise, as Frank worked two and sometimes three jobs to support the family’s needs. She was truly happy being a housewife and mother, singing her tunes from the 40’s and 50’s as she joyfully took care of her family. She loved to spend time with her mother, brother and sisters who all lived within a few blocks of each other. She was a teacher’s assistant and eventually taught ESL to non-English speaking students, which she loved to do. She also dabbled in real estate, getting her realtor’s license and sold many properties. The 1960’s through the 1980’s were a happy time for Edith and her family as she enjoyed many years of a good life together with her family.
By 1985, Frank was ready for retirement, and they were both in their 60’s. Edie and Frank had so many good times vacationing in Las Vegas that they decided to find a house and move there. In 1986, Frank and Edith started a brand new phase of their life and moved into their brand new dream home in Henderson, Nevada. Of course, their initial happiness was questioned, as the summer of 1987 was extremely hot, dry and brutal. They actually seriously considered moving back to California, until a friend told them to give it a full year for their bodies to adjust to the new climate. By late 1987, they were settled, adjusted and living their retirement years in complete bliss and happiness. They loved their new house, their neighbors and the new friends they made. Their children visited them often, and they kept a guest room always ready for visits from their children, grandchildren and family. Their happiness lasted for many years, and they enjoyed it thoroughly.
Some tragic events took place starting with the late 1990’s. In 1999, Edie lost her mother who passed away at the ripe old age of 96 years old. In 2001, tragedy struck as her husband Frank fell ill with heart failure and her beloved partner of 54 years died in September. In 2003, Edie started having health issues of her own, being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The subsequent chemo-therapy treatment damaged her pancreas and she became gravely ill. However, Edith was not ready to go yet, and fully recovered by 2004. She rebounded and continued to live by healthy, strong and vibrant as ever for the next decade. Despite numerous attempts by her children to get her to come move back to Hawthorne, she decided to continue the retirement life that she and Frank had worked so hard to achieve. She loved going to the local casinos, as it was her primary social life where she would meet up and hang out with so many of her friends that she made through the years. She would do her special little “victory dance” whenever she hit a jackpot.
Edith started 2014 with some health issues that just continued to mount. Her nieces Lee, Karen and Berta as well as her sister Flossie that also lived close by made sure she was okay and took good care of her needs and visited her often. Her concerned children visited and called her often, but Edie kept insisting that she wanted to remain in Henderson and live independently. She often said that she “did not want to be a burden” to anyone, and maintained that she wished to continue living alone. However, by May of 2014, it became obvious that she was becoming sick and growing weak. Her children confronted her and requested her to move back to Hawthorne to be with family that could take care of her needs. In pure fashion, Edie kept stubbornly stalling and pushing the date further and further out.
Unfortunately, Edie became seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. She passed away on Thursday, July 17 with her son Jim, his wife Tess, their son Justin and other family members by her side. She was still smiling, and giving them hugs and kisses right until the end. The joy and happiness that she always exuded was there the whole time.
The world lost a truly wonderful person that day…and she will always be remembered as a happy, generous and joyful woman; a great and loving mother; a devoted wife; a protective sister; a beloved auntie, grandmother, great grandmother, and trustworthy friend. She will be missed terribly and no words can express the sadness at her loss. And yet, we all know that Edie is in a better place, reunited with Frank and many of her loved ones. Though we will miss her deeply, we take comfort that she’s undoubtedly singing and doing her little dance, entertaining the angels and her loved ones once again. Until we meet again…