Gladys (Bessette) Panzarella

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.

**Update 12/26/2020

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.  


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37 entries.
Pamela Watson from Riverside wrote on January 4, 2021 at 6:49 am
Dear Karen, I’m so sorry about the passing of your wonderful mom. I am also a member of the Son’s and Daughters of Italy Loggia Maria. I had no idea your mom was also a member. Her accomplishments in life are a testament to how wonderful she was. My condolences to you and your family.
Carolyn Gorham Guest from St. Johnsbury VT wrote on December 25, 2020 at 9:10 pm
I will always remember your mom and dad, meeting them at Aunt Blanche and Uncle Billies. Attempting to pen pal with Karen and not being very good at it. Loving that Karen, Meg and I are about the same age and looking up to your parents.
Daniel and Kim Smith from Mooresville, NC wrote on December 22, 2020 at 7:51 pm
She was a very special lady. Her dedication to family created many prescious memories that we will carry forever.
Karen Ashley wrote on December 22, 2020 at 4:35 pm
My deepest sympathy on the loss of your mom. Prayers for you and your family.
Ellen-Ann from Barrington ri wrote on December 20, 2020 at 11:27 am
My dear Karen I remember your Mom and our Disney love!! She was a wonderful classy and beautiful woman.Please know we are thinking and praying for you and your family.
Kathleen McKenna wrote on December 20, 2020 at 11:18 am
So sorry for your family's loss. Mrs.P was so loved by so many. I still think of all the ways she made me feel like I could do anything. The girls of troop 409 were so lucky to have her in our lives. So many fond memories. Camping, crafts at her house, hikes around town and the annual dinner with our family's to receive our hard earned badges. The memories go on and on God Bless Mrs.P ❤
Friends at Lynker from Leesburg wrote on December 17, 2020 at 10:02 am
Brain, We are so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.
LindaSullivan from Riverside wrote on December 16, 2020 at 11:53 am
Sooo very sad to hear of MrsPanzarella. I am from Troop409 & have held my oath till this day!! Mrs.P was an amazing woman, leader & mentor. She taught us well & will deeply be missed! ♡
Angie Tremmel from Moreno Valley, CA wrote on December 16, 2020 at 11:26 am
Auntie Gladys was truly a beautiful and amazing woman. I was privileged to have her and Uncle Steve as my Godparents. Her life was devoted to showering all those in her path with love. No doubt, she was the best mother ever to my cousins, Karen, Stephanie and Stephen. As noted in her obituary, she continuously gave her talents, skills, and much, much time and love to organizations, groups and individuals to enhance their lives. What a beautiful life! What an amazing woman!
Robert DeCataldo from Riverside wrote on December 16, 2020 at 11:13 am
Stephen, Karen and Stephanie...We are so sorry to hear about your mothers passing. Gladys was a great lady and just thinking about her now makes me want to smile. She will be missed.
Dorothy A Poirier (Shanley) from WARWICK wrote on December 16, 2020 at 8:57 am
Karen, Stephanie and Steven, my thoughts and prayers are with you all. I have such fond memories of your mother through girl scouts and coming over to play at your home. I'll always remember when Steven was born and we gave him a gift, she always called it "Shanley pants." Your mother was the sweetest, most genuine person to know and I've thought of you all over the years. I wish you all peace in knowing she is in a good place with your father. God bless you all.
Chris macedo from East providence wrote on December 15, 2020 at 5:12 pm
To the whole Panzarella family, my deepest condolences , I’m sorry I never had the honor to meet her, she sounded like a wonderful woman.
FATIMA DASILVA CAHIR from Turin, GA wrote on December 15, 2020 at 11:33 am
Mrs. most favorite person as a child. She saw me through my Brownie and Girl Scout years through to my Marion Award. I LOVED going to her house every week. RIP Mrs. Panzarella. My condolences Karen, Stephen and Stephanie.
Maria Mindy daGraca from Seekonk wrote on December 15, 2020 at 10:25 am
Dear karen, So sorry for the loss of your wonderful mom. Your mom and I taught CCD at Lady Loreto and she was a delight. I know she walks with the angels in heaven now, for she was an angel on earth.I will keep you and your family in my prayers with the hope that God will give you comfort and strength.Take great care, Mindy
Michelle St Clair from Foxboro wrote on December 15, 2020 at 9:42 am
Karen, Stephanie, Stephen and family. I'm so sorry for your loss. She did so much good for all people. What an impressive and long life. May the Lord bless and comfort you in this time of loss. I'm so glad I visited and saw her before she was gone. Sending love, hugs and prayers.
Patricia Lyons from Brookfield wrote on December 15, 2020 at 12:52 am
Dear Stephanie, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. May your Mom rest in peace knowing how beloved she was. Take comfort in your memories. She will always be watching over you.
Brian Muoio from North Kingstown wrote on December 14, 2020 at 9:02 pm
Mrs Westell and Family, I am so sad to hear the loss of your mom. May she rest in peace and may God bless her and may God bring comfort to your hearts. We are only a phone call away. Anything you need, please let me know. God bless and prayers to all. Brian and Tiffany
Judy Dipietro Gaboury from Warwick wrote on December 14, 2020 at 8:57 pm
Stephanie, Karen, Stephen and families: my heartfelt condolences to you all on the passing of your beautiful mom. I'm so glad I got to know her through you all. She was truly a wonderful lady which the beautiful tribute written about her proves. Family truly was everything to her. May all the beautiful memories you all have help sustain you now during this very difficult time.
Joanne C Miele from Johnston wrote on December 14, 2020 at 8:37 pm
Karen, So sorry about your mom. She had a very long and busy life. She was certainly someone who loved her community. Joanne
Pat Armstrong from Rumford wrote on December 14, 2020 at 7:45 pm
Dear Karen and Stefanie, I have such fond memories of your mother as my scout leader . I was so young and i loved camp ....and her. She was always smiling and ready to do any activity. What a wonderful woman. I know you will miss her. Pat Colella Armstrong