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Obituaries

Gifted seamstress was 'very courageous'

| Monday, Aug. 21, 2006

Angelina Sacco overcame many odds to become an accomplished seamstress with a celebrity clientele.

In her early 20s, she immigrated to Mt. Washington from the rural Italian town of Piaggini through an arranged marriage. With little education but a wealth of domestic skills, she gained a reputation as an accomplished seamstress, ultimately sewing for Saks Fifth Avenue.

Mrs. Sacco, of Mt. Washington, died of heart failure Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006, at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland. She was 72.

"She was an outstanding mom, a terrific grandmother and a very courageous, strong woman," said Annette Henzler, 48, of Ben Avon, one of Mrs. Sacco's daughters. "When I think about what she did, coming over to a country and not speaking the language and not truly in love yet, it's incredible."

Mrs. Sacco's father had arranged for her to marry John Sacco, now 75, in 1956. John Sacco was born in the U.S. and lived on Mt. Washington, and Mrs. Sacco's father believed the marriage would give his daughter a better life, Henzler said.

The couple grew to love each other and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week, Henzler said.

After coming to Mt. Washington, Mrs. Sacco began sewing for Hughes & Hatcher, an upscale men's clothing store. During her 40-year career, Mrs. Sacco sewed for H. Baskin Clothier, Joseph A. Bank Clothiers and several other high-end clothing shops, retiring from Saks Fifth Avenue about five years ago.

She hemmed jackets, fitted suits and sewed bridal gowns, but one of Mrs. Sacco's favorite creations was a turban-scarf she made for Patti Burns when the KDKA-TV anchorwoman was diagnosed with cancer, Henzler said. Burns died of lung cancer in 2001.

"She did beautiful work with sequined gowns," said Mary Ann Mihalko, 46, of Ben Avon, Mrs. Sacco's other daughter. "I remember one time she had to hem a sleeve for someone, and she took every bead off it, hemmed it and then sewed every bead back on. She was very meticulous -- if there was one stitch out of place, she would take it out and do it again."

Mrs. Sacco enjoyed visiting her small hometown outside Salerno, Italy, and was last there in 2000, Mihalko said.

"She loved going back, but she also liked being here," Mihalko said. "Where she'd lived in Italy was a rural town, but it was a hard life. She knew she had a much better life here."

Mrs. Sacco is survived by her husband; daughters Annette Henzler and Mary Ann Mihalko, both of Ben Avon; sisters Rosa Cobito, of Mt. Washington, and Maria Petraglia, of Piaggini, Italy; brother Pasquale Rizzo, of Mt. Washington; and five grandchildren.

Visitation is from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Brusco-Falvo Funeral Home, 214 Virginia Ave., Mt. Washington. A funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary of the Mount Church, Mt. Washington.

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