PHOENIX – Antoinette DiGiovanni Smith, 95, surrounded by her family entered heaven on March 1, 2020 at the Hospice of Valley home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Antoinette, known by many as Annette, was born in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York on June 5, 1924. She was preceded in death by her parents, Silvio and Julia Ramoino, twin brother Adolph, her first husband Ignatius DiGiovanni and her second husband Robert Smith. She will be forever missed by her loving brother Thomas Ramoino, her children Channe Mascolo (Craig), Paul DiGiovanni (Patricia), Barbara Waitt (George), Alice DiGiovanni, Tom DiGiovanni (Dina) and Miriam Hahn (Chris), grandchildren Kristen, Mackenzie, Madison, Nicholas, Isabella, Tommy, Francesca and Dominic and numerous nephews and nieces that she leaves behind.
Annette graduated from Hunter College in Manhattan and met Ignatius DiGiovanni at a Third Order of St. Francis meeting in 1946. They married in 1948 and when Ignatius left his job at Irving Trust they moved to Phoenix to start a new life in the dry warm Arizona climate.
With the help of Father Victor Bucher O.F.M. the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in downtown Phoenix, Ignatius and Antoinette started the Autom Company in the Phoenix bus terminal. Several years later with help from the St. Vincent De Paul Society, the store moved to the ground floor of St. Mary’s Church and later to a storefront on Monroe street.
In 1951 the young couple started their family and settled in as new parishioners of St. Agnes Church and later St. Thomas The Apostle Parish. Antoinette and Ignatius became friendly with many of the associate pastors in both the Tucson and Phoenix dioceses at their location in the Phoenix bus terminal and in time these associates became pastors. These relationships with the clergy of a growing metro area turned into strong friendships and together they helped grow the Autom Company business.
Unfortunately, Ignatius passed away suddenly in 1973 from a brain tumor and Antoinette shouldered the burden of caring for the business and her six children. Amidst this turmoil and change she was able to grow the business, nurture her children and pay the mortgage, college educations and weddings for the next fifteen years. She met her second husband Robert Smith in the late 70’s and they began a life together that included travel and entertaining in many parts of the world. In addition, they started a furniture business together that still is vibrant today. After Robert Smith died in 2007, Antoinette moved to independent living at the Terraces in north Phoenix. From her college days to her later years she remained close and committed to her wonderful younger brother Thomas. The two-siblings cared for each other till the very end. “Sis” as Thomas called her, leaned on her brother for financial and emotional support and he has been a great help to her children over the years as well.
Antoinette leaves many legacies behind that both her and her husband felt were worth contributing toward for the common good including the St. Vincent De Paul Society, The Convent of the Good Shepherd, Little Sisters of the Poor, the Cuernavaca Cathedral, in Mexico City, Brophy Prep and Xavier High School. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s Antoinette donated church supplies and sanctuary appointments to Gerard High School, Bourgade High School, St. Simon & Jude Cathedral and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glendale. Antoinette and Ignatius played a role in the formation of many Catholic and Christian Churches throughout the state and made books and religious articles available free of charge to underprivileged Christians in all walks of life.
Her family finds comfort knowing that her strong faith has carried her through the Gates of Heaven, reunited with both Ignatius and Robert. We also find solace knowing that Antoinette is now free of the physical limitations that could not discourage or defeat her in her final years.
A private funeral Mass is planned for the immediate family. Donations can be made on her behalf to the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Phoenix (www.stvincentdepaul.net). Condolences may be expressed at www.whitneymurphyfuneralhome.com.