Connie Basha Vitale, 99, an angel to so many who loved her, passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her family on March 6, 2016. Connie was born July 1, 1916, in Sonora, Arizona. She was the eighth of nine children born to Najeeb and Najeeby Srour Basha, Lebanese immigrants who founded the Bashas’ grocery stores. Connie’s life was one that was defined by elegance, generosity and service to her Church and family.
Early in her life, Connie was a dedicated daughter who knew hard work and contributed to the family grocery business by cashiering, stocking shelves, doing inventory and whatever else was required to help the family business.
Connie also relished the role of caretaker to so many in the family. She was an aunt-extraordinaire and “second-mother” to so many nieces and nephews whom she helped raise. Connie adored and was a dedicated caretaker to her “momma” Jeeby. She was Jeeby’s right-hand daughter, helping her cook the frequent family feasts, driving Jeeby on errands and taking care of the constant stream of grandchildren who came through the house. Aunt Connie is fondly remembered standing at the door of the Chandler house welcoming children at the door with a loving (but firm!) pinch to the cheek instructing them to, “go inside sweetheart, say hello, and give your Grannie Jeeby a big kiss!”
At her midlife, Connie met and married the love of her life, Frank Vitale. After their wedding on April 3, 1965, Connie moved to San Marino, California, where she and Frank started their life together. Life in California suited Connie, who spent her time there with her sisters Camille and Zelma and Zelma’s husband Ang and son Greg. She also entertained by cooking elaborate Italian and Lebanese meals and setting an elegant table (though truth be told, she was world-famous for her fried chicken). The success of her parties were not only due the food, but to the warmth, vitality and zest for life that Connie brought to everything she did! She was the life of the party and made everyone at her house feel welcome.
Connie’s indomitable spirit did not wane with age. Upon moving back to Arizona, she continued to be a fierce card player and looked forward to nightly games of Canadian Gin, during which she would frequently outmaneuver her nieces and nephews and claim her hard-fought $5 winnings. Connie was generous beyond measure in most things, except when it came to cards where she frequently took no prisoners.
Though adored for her fun-loving spirit, one of Connie’s more serious enduring legacies is her lifelong dedication to her Catholic faith. This is reflected in funding the building of Our Lady of Solitude Chapel, a monastery for the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Tonopah, Arizona, which she and her sister, Camille, spearheaded.
Connie’s life is a light and inspiration to all who knew and loved her. She was generous beyond measure and unconditional in her love. Connie is preceded in death by her husband, Frank Vitale, and her brothers and sisters: Isabell, Edna, Mary, Ike, Laurice, Eddie Sr., Camille and Zelma. She is survived by her many nieces and nephews who mourn the loss of a fairy godmother and cherished family matriarch. The family would like to thank Connie’s dedicated caretakers and medical staff who treated Connie with the love and care that she so richly deserved.
A Rosary will be held at 9:30 am prior to the Funeral Mass at 10:00 am on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at St. Mary’s Basilica, 400 East Monroe Street, Phoenix. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Connie Basha Vitale Memorials that are established to support causes dear to Connie’s heart:
Our Lady of Solitude Monastery, c/o Poor Clare Nuns, PO Box 639, Tonopah, AZ 85354 or St. Vincent de Paul, PO Box 13600, Phoenix, AZ 85002-3600.