Grace Carolyn (Cancellieri) De Jose died at her home in Smithtown on November 9. She was 92.
Ms. De Jose was born September 22, 1921, in Southampton, the oldest daughter of the six children of Philip and Assunta Cancellieri, and graduated from Southampton High School. She told her family about being in school during the Hurricane of 1938, staying inside at the urging of the teachers so they would remain safe. Concerned about the safety of her youngest siblings, she left the school and ran home, where she was relieved to find the youngsters with her parents. In the storm’s aftermath, she saw a piano float down the street, an image that stayed with her for years to come. Her family describes her as a highly intelligent and sharp-witted woman who lived an adventurous, free-spirited and public-minded life.
After high school, she attended Cornell University during the war years, graduating in 1945 with a Bachelor of Science degree in food and nutrition. At college she met John S. De Jose, a Cornell law student, and they married and raised three children in Syosset.
After the war, Ms. De Jose and her older brother Carmen helped their father conduct a successful letter-writing campaign to prevent victory by Communists in upcoming Italian national elections. Millions of heartfelt letters sent by immigrants back to their families in Italy described the free life they found in America. The Communists were defeated in the elections and the letter-writing campaign was credited as the major factor in Father James Keller’s book, “You Can Change the World!”
While raising her family, she pursued other interests, including writing what her family recalls was a vibrant column on food and fashions for the South Fork Gazette in Southampton in 1962 to ’63. She served 19 years with Mid-Island Council Girl Scouts as troop leader, consultant and finally neighborhood chairman. For 10 years she spearheaded a local effort to rehabilitate a neurologically impaired child by maintaining a team of volunteers trained in daily hands-on patterning exercises.
In 1972 she received a Master of Science degree in nutrition education from New York University, going on to serve as chief dietitian at Glen Cove Community Hospital for six years. She became a nutrition consultant at the Hofstra Center for Fitness and Health, ultimately publishing “The Hempstead Plan,” a book on sensible dieting and nutrition.
At age 58, Ms. De Jose joined the Peace Corps and became chief dietitian at Holberton Hospital in St. John’s, Antigua, West Indies. Given the challenging responsibility of overhauling the dietary department of the hospital, she was instrumental in upgrading the infrastructure of the building, including raising funds for solar heat to provide hot water in the kitchen for the first time. She planned rotational menus and diets using local instead of imported foods, taught nutrition to student nurses and instituted sanitation procedures in the kitchen. She instructed more than 800 outpatients, as well as inpatients, in diet therapy on an island rife with the problems of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Several television appearances extended her ability to reach an even wider public.
A lover of all music, she was a natural dancer, and even at age 92 the family would videotape her rhythmic moves. She loved theater, especially musicals and Shakespeare productions. Her passion for international travel took her to Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Bali, Thailand, China, Canada and Mexico. A liberal Democrat, she worked at the polls for many years and was a fan of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. Until her 80s she was known for completing The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in pen in less than an hour. Ms. De Jose had great affection for children, young people, animals, birds, trees and flowers. She had a lifelong affinity for the water, spending time on the beach at Southampton, swimming in the Caribbean in Antigua, and just sitting by the Nissequogue River or on the bluffs overlooking the North Shore near her last home.
Survivors said Ms. De Jose will be missed and remembered as a singularly independent woman by all those who knew and loved her. She inspired the young people in her life to believe in themselves and to follow their passions, her family said. She is survived by her children, Carol Hulley of Kings Park, John P. De Jose and wife Michele Miller of Western Australia, and Valerie Carpenter of California; grandchildren, Jonathan Miller and wife Chantelle, and Amisha Miller; great-grandchild, Jarrah Miller; a brother, Americo Cancellieri and wife Barbara; and many nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her brother Carmen Cancellieri and sisters, Assunta Cambria, Phyllis Jones and Caroline Burk.
The family held private memorial gatherings in North Sea and in her last home in Smithtown. Memorial donations may be made to Save the Children, www.savethechildren.org.