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.
Paul, Tom, Alice & Miriam,
I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your dear Mother. It sounds like she led a very amazing, full & blessed life and was surrounded by her loving family in her final moments. May you all find the strength and peace to get through this sad time.
My thoughts & prayers are with you and your entire family.
My deepest condolences to All the Di Giovanni family.
I , Sooo enjoyed reading Annette’s obituary notice and seeing her glorious smile in the beautiful pictures ….so many memories flood my mind and heart.
I am particularly grateful to The Di Giovanni clan for their hard work and gift of AUTOM /CHRISTIAN BRANDS Company which as we read and know has served the Church throughout these many years!
May Jesus Christ be Praised!
Thank you all for continuing the great work your Father and Mother brought forth for the Good of spreading our Catholic Faith.
My love and prayers are with you all during this time of your dear mom’s passing and indeed daily .
Love ….your ‘ol neighbor and friend Kathy Tesoriero
I offer mine and Peggy’s condolences to your family. CBC, as it has grown throughout the last 10 years has been a blessing to me and my family. It was wonderful to read about your mother and to be able to see her passion for the Lord and this company. Thank you for sharing.
I pray that God comforts the entire family with His Love, His Strength and His Peace.
Jesus spoke in John 14
1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Praise You Jesus!
Adam and Peggy Hayes
Posey Moore Nash
Paul and family,
My condolences on the death of your dear Mother.
My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family! My deepest condolences.
Dear Paul,Tom,Alice & Family,
My condolences on the passing of your Mother Antoinette. I always appreciated how warm and kind she was to me over the years.
My thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time.
Charlie and Jackie McConnell
Dear Paul, Tom, and Family,
I never had the privilege of meeting your Mom, but I enjoyed learning about her life through this writing.
My heart goes out to all of you.
Dear Paul, Tom, Alice and Sean,
My sincere condolences. I so enjoyed the conversations I had with Annette. She always put me at ease and brought a smile to my face. She was truly a great lady and so proud of her beautiful family.
Be assured of my prayers,
Love, Chris Wilgus
Paul, Tom, Alice and Family,
I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. She sounds like an amazing woman. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are being sent to you all. I hope you can find comfort in knowing that she is at peace now.
Ophelia Padilla (Ofie)
My sincerest condolences to the DiGiovanni family. God Bless you during this time and always.
John and Susan Masingill AND Victoria Castro
It is with great regret to learn of Annette’s passing. She was unsurpassed in her gentile manner and care for all.
Her departure will sadden this company for some time. Hopefully memories we hold of her will help in our healing.
Dear Channe, Paul, Barbara, Alice, Tom, Miriam, and families,
Please accept my condolences and those of our Tesoriero and (Maria and John) Guerrero families at the death of your dear mother.
As you know, my dad, Barney Tesoriero, like your parents, was born in Brooklyn, though to my knowledge they first met here in Phoenix, I believe at St. Mary’s church. I know my dad helped your dad, “Nat,” and your Mom in the early days of their store at the bus terminal and possibly a bit beyond that. Your father introduced my dad to a rather reclusive young woman—Viola Voita— who liked to browse the books at the Autom store. I believe your dad said something like, “Barney, I know this young Catholic lady who likes to read spiritual books.” Within three months they were married!
My sister Maria was born a week before you, Paul, and I was born less than a year later. In the summer of 1954 we moved to our home at 24th Place and Meadowbrook, just one block east of St. Thomas the Apostle church, which in those days was outside the county line. How things have changed!
You and your family moved in very soon thereafter, a few houses down the block. In those early days of St. Thomas, there were a lot of Catholic families in the area: the Hintze’s, the Shelton’s, the Haesloop’s, the VanKilsdonk’s, the Crowley’s…etc. As you might recall, our neighborhood was affectionately known as “Vatican East”!
I have fond memories of your dear Dad, his warm, hearty voice and ready smile. He was always very friendly and good-natured to us kids. But I have a very special memory of your Mom, Annette.
It was my first day of Kindergarten, early September of 1958. My parents couldn’t afford St. Thomas Kindergarten so they had enrolled me at Madison Park School, off 16th Street and Glenrosa. As you may recall, the big yellow school bus would stop right in front of our home to pick up kids for school.
So there I was, ready to go for my first big day! My sister Maria—she was starting St. Thomas first grade— had explained to me what color bus I needed to take, and I had said a brave goodbye to my Mom, as Dad was already at work. I was all set for my big day —or so I thought!
As the yellow bus rolled up to our corner, I was suddenly seized with anxiety. I didn’t want to go to school! I didn’t want to leave the security of my home and neighborhood for a big bus taking me to some faraway school to meet some strange kids! As the doors swung open and the neighbor kids began dutifully climbing into the bus, I realized it was now or never. And so—I ran away!
Now you have to understand. My world ended up near your home, about four houses to the east. I wasn’t allowed to cross the street, and our next door neighbors, the Perez family, was about as far as I had ever ventured south. In other words, I had limited options. Even so, I ran back to our carport and hid behind an old stuffed chair near our laundry room. I remember the bus doors closing and the bus driving away.
I breathed sigh of relief. I was safe! Or so I thought. As I crouched behind the chair, I realized I had no plan. I couldn’t go back into my house, and all my friends had just left for school! While I was pondering this dilemma, all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I saw a little old Italian lady walking down the sidewalk towards St. Thomas. It was your Mom’s mother: Grandma Ramoino!
“Oh no! Not her!” You see, I had always found your Grandma to be kind of strict toward us kids. This was not the time for an encounter. So I prayed to be invisible. She looked right at me. “Go away!” I said furtively. “Don’t bother me!”
She stopped in her tracks, crinkled her eyebrows together in a worried frown, and called out, “Eh! Whatsa matter with you? What are you doing behind that chair?”
I moved my hands, motioning for her to go on her way, but she only got more demanding. “Eh! I’m going to tell your Mama on you!”
My world caved in. Grandma Ramoino was not to be argued with, especially by a five year old. I realized I was trapped.
She marched me in to my mother, who promptly called your mother, Annette. In those days, we only had one car. So your Mom drove her nice big car down to our home. She and my Mom put me in the back, and we all drove together to Madison Park. Even though the accommodations were actually quite luxurious, I felt like a prisoner on the way to his execution.
We arrived at the school, and after my Mom explained about her wayward son, the principal smiled and took me to his office, while your Mom and my Mom drove away.
I awaited my sentence, but to my surprise, the principal only gave me a wooden puzzle to play with while he contacted my teacher. Then he took me with him to the Kindergarten classroom, and opened the door.
There, in the middle of the classroom, on a carpet surrounded by two dozen kindergartners, sat the most beautiful lady I had ever seen. The principal walked me over to her. She smelled heavenly! She smiled lovingly at me and said, “You must be Barth! My name is Mrs. Londoll. The children and I have been looking forward to meeting you!” Then she set me on her lap. I will never forget that moment.
From that day on I have loved school. To think I could have been a Kindergarten dropout, but through your Mom and her Mother I was given a new lease on life. From there I went on to St. Thomas with your delightful sister Barbara and the rest, as they say, is history!
You know, sometimes we run from things we’re afraid of, including God Himself, because we don’t understand. We think we won’t be able to handle it. We think we’ll be all alone, without any support. But in His mercy, God often sends someone at just the right moment to rescue us, set us straight, and lead us to His loving embrace.
I am so grateful for your Mom and Dad and even your Grandma Ramoino! I guess it proves how much we all need each other on our journey home.
God love you all~ and may your dear mother Annette, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Team Morgan sends love to Team DiGiovanni. She taught us all many things – she taught me to serve soup as a first course.
What a great lady.
So very sorry for your loss of a very loving and caring person. When my husband Joe and his brother Rocky were told by the Dr in Brooklyn that with Rocky’s asthma that the best place for him to go in the winter months starting in 1952-53 was Arizona. So Joe and Rocky left and by train came to Arizona They were also told by a relative of theirs to contact Annette and Nat which they did and they were very loving and helpful to them. Then when Joe and I as a newly married couple moved here from Brooklyn we became friends and eventually enjoyed many years doing things together One of the things I remember was Annette and I getting in our two cars because we couldn’t all fit in one car with our families and driving to Lake Pleasant in the hot summer and cooling off in the water I am thankful for all the beautiful memories
Love to all Annette’s family from Janet Gambino and family
Linwood & Lea Metts
We continue to keep your family in our thoughts and prayers. May God give you comfort and peace in this time of sorrow and fill your hearts with fond memories of this special lady.
Barbara, Prayers to you and your family on the loss of your Mother. Maybe you remember me as Betty Cashion. My name has been Betty OMelia since 1981. I remember our great Sat . coffee meetings before you moved out of state.
Just wated to touch base with you when I saw this and wanted to share my condolences to you and your famiy.