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Social services worker advocated for underserved

| Monday, April 29, 2013, 12:22 a.m.
Juliet Vecchiotti Gonano, 62, of Washington, died Friday, April 26, 2013, in her home, surrounded by her loving family.

Juliet Gonano lived to help people who needed it most.

A senior services coordinator for Presbyterian SeniorCare, Gonano worked tirelessly to help elderly and disabled people live as independently as possible while ensuring they weren't shortchanged when it came to necessary assistance, including help around their apartments and with insurance benefits.

“She was passionate about serving the underserved and being an advocate for those who have no voice,” said her husband, Max Gonano of Washington.

Juliet Vecchiotti Gonano of Washington died at home on Friday, April 26, 2013, during a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 62.

Gonano said he met his future wife at a friend's wedding in upstate New York while on three-day leave from the Army.

“I certainly liked her from the moment I met her,” Gonano said, noting the two began exchanging letters after the wedding.

They married on June 15, 1974, and spent their early years in Virginia Beach, Va. Max Gonano taught music; Mrs. Gonano started a social services program in Portsmouth General Hospital.

After Mrs. Gonano had her first child in 1979, the couple moved back to Max Gonano's native Western Pennsylvania. Mrs. Gonano became a stay-at-home mom, while Max Gonano began working in the music department of California University of Pennsylvania. She returned to work in the mid-1990s.

“She always put people first in everything she did … Juliet was an extraordinary role model for us, and that is part of her legacy,” said Paul M. Winkler, president and CEO of Presbyterian SeniorCare, where Mrs. Gonano began working in 2000.

Gonano said his wife was always on the go, even after she was diagnosed with cancer in March 2010. He jokingly called her a “gym rat,” noting she typically went to exercise at the gym at about 4 a.m.

Her boss, Cassandra Law, senior director of supportive housing for the SeniorCare Network, said Mrs. Gonano continued going to work through early this year, then began monitoring work emails from home.

“She was always putting in her two cents,” Law said, recalling that she participated in conference calls while undergoing chemotherapy treatments. “I'm going to miss that.”

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Gonano is survived by a son, Max A. Gonano Jr. of Virginia Beach, Va.; a daughter, Christina A. Gonano of Savannah, Ga.; a brother, Anthony Vecchiotti of Honeoye, N.Y., and three sisters, Barbara McNeil and Marilyn Varrenti, both of Webster, N.Y., and Virginia David of Pittsford, N.Y.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in William G. Neal Funeral Home, 925 Allison Ave., Washington.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Immaculate Conception Church in Washington. Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery in Hazelwood.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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