Joanne DeFiore, artist, author, jewelry designer
Joanne DeFiore, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend to so very many, died Sunday, May 19, 2019. Joanne died the way many would like to: gently at home in her sleep, with family around and following a perfect day spent with those she loved. Hers was a beautiful life with a beautiful ending.
Born Nov. 13, 1935, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Nicholas Mario and Anne Marie DeGrandis Pilla, Joanne was a proud Clevelander through and through. Mention her hometown and she would light up, then somehow find a Cleveland connection, no matter how thin the thread. Joanne bubbled with warmth and personality, and became friends with everyone she met.
Joanne attended Miami University of Ohio where she was active in the drama department. In her first year there she met the love of her life, Michael Joseph DeFiore, whom she married in 1955. They were married for 55 years, until Mike's death in 2010. Together they raised their family in South Euclid, Ohio, near Cleveland. In 1984 when Mike retired, they moved to Rehoboth Beach, where they spent their summers since 1968. She worked as a hostess at The Avenue restaurant in Rehoboth and later at the Saxon Swan gallery in Lewes.
A born artist, Joanne became established as a pillar of the community, volunteering her time and talents for many organizations. She was active in the Rehoboth Art League where she served on the board of directors, exhibited her art at RAL shows, was a donor and worked tirelessly on major fundraising events over three-plus decades. It was a joy for art patrons to see Joanne's warm smile and shining eyes welcoming them into her world of art.
Joanne's creative talents included painting, calligraphy and jewelry designing yet went well beyond art, for she had good business sense combined with a keen sense of the vibe of the Rehoboth community. She was a dynamic member of the Rehoboth Beach Village Improvement Association, serving several terms on its board of directors. In 2005 she created the St. Nicholas Tea. Now an annual event, it is held for three days in November and hosts over 240 guests. Joanne also instituted the annual Art of Accessorizing, another successful VIA event showcasing unique items from area boutiques. A consummate designer and calligrapher, Joanne created notecards, pictures, logos, signs and wedding invitations.
In 2012, Joanne created the popular pop-up book titled "A Day in Rehoboth Beach." She delighted in coauthoring it with two of her grown grandchildren, Brian Allen and Keith Allen. The book captures the jubilant spirit in Rehoboth Beach, highlighting key elements for a fun day at the beach. Breathtaking pop-ups colorfully show the Boardwalk, Bandstand and fireworks. Calling on skills from her early theater days, she was on local television, radio and in newspapers. The Rehoboth pop-up book was presented at Browseabout Books, Funland, the Sea Shell Shop, and at an RAL Salon at the VIA.
The epitome of the energizer bunny, Joanne was always active. She helped in the launch of the Rehoboth Beach Museum; she loved playing tennis and bridge, riding bikes, teaching calligraphy, going to the beach, decorating her artful home and entertaining houseguests galore. Friends joked that she brought all of Cleveland to enjoy her "Casa DeFiore." She loved the excitement of travel, whether exploring Italy, the Panama Canal, the Caribbean, Spain, France, Hawaii or an obscure corner of Delaware. She was a member of UNICO National, the Italian-American Society, the Red Hat Rehoboth Beach Broads, and could be counted on to show up whenever a friend was in need. A bright and generous spirit, big-hearted Joanne was loved by many and is missed already. A look around town reveals her signature style: on signs in her neighborhood, on a wall mural painted in Rehoboth's library, in her church, on Nicola Pizza boxes and the VIA cookbook.
In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her brother Robert Pilla. She is survived by her two children, Karen Allen and husband Charles of State College, Pa., and Michael DeFiore and wife Patty of Salisbury, Md.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Edmond Catholic Church, 409 King Charles Ave., Rehoboth Beach Friday, May 31, at 11:30 a.m. Visitation will be held in the church at 10:30 a.m. Interment will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Village Improvement Association, PO Box 144, the Rehoboth Art League, 12 Dodds Lane, or St. Edmond Church, PO Box 646, all of Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971.