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Crossing guard was talented cook, extensive traveler

| Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stanton Avenue and Oranmore Street, the Stanton Heights intersection where Antonette Villani worked as a crossing guard for 20 years, is no place for young children to wander.

"She loved the kids. She would give them hugs every day. She knew them all, hundreds and hundreds of kids. She also knew that job came with lots of responsibility," said Mrs. Villani's son, David Villani of West Deer.

Antonette Covone Villani, who grew up in East Liberty and lived in Stanton Heights for more than 50 years, died Wednesday, June 29, 2011. She was 96.

From 1957 to 1977, Mrs. Villani was a crossing guard near Sunnyside Elementary School in Stanton Heights. She assisted students from that school and from nearby St. Kieran School, which is now closed.

"She took the job seriously. She had a key to the police callbox — no cell phones or walkie-talkies back when she started. My Dad was always buying her hand warmers and other types of winter clothes," her son said.

One of eight children, Mrs. Villani was born May 20, 1915, to Antonio and Pasquarella Corvone, who were immigrants from Italy. The family lived in East Liberty, where she met her husband, Domenic Villani.

The two were married on July 24, 1939, and were parents of two children. The couple's daughter, Angeline Zalewski, died in 1994.

Mrs. Villani's husband, who managed a warehouse for a drug company and was part owner of a soda fountain, died in 1977, the same year she retired as a crossing guard.

Mrs. Villani's extensive travels took her to Hawaii, the Bahamas, Italy and on cruises. Her extended family often took summer vacations in Ocean City, Md., Atlantic City, N.J,. and Geneva on the Lake, Ohio. She traveled to New York once a year for 18 years.

Msr. Villani was a skilled cook of mostly Italian food who hosted traditional Sunday afternoon dinners for family and friends.

"Her dinners were with the white linen tablecloths, the type of thing that almost no one does anymore. She was an amazing cook," said Marian Villani, her daughter-in-law.

Mrs. Villani lived in her Stanton Heights home and drove her car until she was 90. Her 95th birthday last year attracted relatives and friends from as far as Texas and California.

"Her daughter was my best friend, and she was my second Mom after her daughter died. She was a real people person. We'd be in Kmart — or wherever — and people in their 50s who remembered her as a crossing guard would run up to her and shout 'Mrs. V,!'" said Kathleen "Cookie" Peltz of Lawrenceville, a friend of Mrs. Villani for more than 40 years.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Villani is survived by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received today from 1 to 8 p.m. in Walter J. Zalewski Funeral Home, 216 44th St., Lawrenceville. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Raphael Church. The family requests memorial donations to the Forbes Hospice, 4800 Friendship Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

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