Gladys Bessette Panzarella passed away at the age of 93 on Friday, December 11, 2020 at RI Hospital.
Gladys was born in 1927 in Riverside, RI to M. Abraham Bessette and Eva (Jette) Bessette. She was the youngest of 13 siblings: Leo Bessette, Florence G. Bessette, Alphonse Bessette, Eugene Bessette, Jeannette Bessette, Lauretta Bessette, Rita Bessette Smith, Edmond Bessette, Florence E. Bessette, Ernest Bessette, Joseph Bessette, and Estelle Bestette Coutu.
Gladys met the late Stephen F. Panzarella (1927-1999) at the Crescent Park Roller Rink in Riverside in the 1940s. She often said, “They had been going around ever since.” They married on October 5, 1946 and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1996 with a large party with family and friends.
Gladys and Stephen raised three children, Karen L. Panzarella, Stephanie F. Westell (her husband Stephen Westell), and Stephen F. Panzarella, II (his wife Donna M. Panzarella). She enjoyed being outdoors with her family, comfortable both at the beaches in South County and the campgrounds of New Hampshire.
Known as “Grammy,” Gladys loved spending time with her grandchildren, especially at the beach and Fishermen’s Memorial State Park and Campground in Narragansett, RI. She had six grandchildren, Michael R. Westell, Brian P. Westell (his wife Amy J. Westell), the late Timothy J. Westell (1982-2002), Jamie L. Panzarella, the late Lindsay H. Panzarella (1986), and Katelyn J. Panzarella Mushipi (her husband Joseph Mushipi). She is also survived by two great grandchildren, Alexis C. Westell and Kyabu S. Mushipi.
Family ties and genealogy were very important to Gladys. Gladys was beloved by her many nieces and nephews and their children. She had a special place in her heart for her several Godchildren. For many years she organized family picnics for both her Bessette and Panzarella families at Colt State Park in Bristol, RI.
A life-long resident of East Providence, Gladys was active in her community. She worked as a teacher’s assistant in the East Providence School Department for 18 years and was a proud member of the East Providence retired teacher’s Breakfast Club for many years. She was an avid volunteer and life member of the East Providence Historical Society. Gladys served the children of East Providence as life member and good neighbor to the Orlo Avenue Elementary School PTA and volunteered for five years at the East Providence Community Center teaching reading. Gladys was also a member of the Local Council Retiree Chapter 94.
A proud parishioner at Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church in East Providence, Gladys was active in numerous prayerful, social, and educational activities of the church. She received the St. Anne Award for scouting, taught Catholic catechism for 17 years, was a member of the Social Justice Committee, and was an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and a Minister of Holy Communion for the Sick and Homebound. She used her sewing talents to create beautiful altar and Mass linens for her parish. She was also a member of the Forever Young Club at St. Brendan Parish in Riverside.
Gladys dedicated many years of her life to service. She was a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Riverside Unit 10, volunteered at the East Providence Senior Center, the READS Program at RSVP, and was a member of Sons of Italy Logga Maria. A member of the Red Hat Society, Gladys would host popular teas in her backyard for the festooned ladies.
Gladys influenced the lives of many women as a life member of Girl Scouts USA. She served Girl Scouts of Rhode Island as both a leader and a trainer for many years and served on the Catholic Committee on Catholic Awards.
For many years, Gladys and Stephen would spend winters in Lakeland, FL. She would often travel to Walt Disney World, making trips with her children, grandchildren, and great granddaughter.
Throughout her life, Gladys could most often be found drinking tea from one of her many porcelain teacups or crafting a handmade gift with love. While she rests in peace with her family in heaven, she will be dearly missed by the family she leaves behind.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, East Providence, RI.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, December 31, 2020 at 10:00 AM in Our Lady of Loreto Church, 346 Waterman Avenue, East Providence. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Our Lady of Loreto Church Memorial Fund, 346 Waterman Avenue, East Providence, RI 02914.