Helene Ann Malgiero Catanese
July 8, 1954 - August 4, 2022
On Thursday, August 4, Helene Ann Malgiero Catanese brewed a cup of tea, curled up beneath her cozy blanket on the couch, and in a slight alteration to her nightly routine, drifted off and into the arms of her Lord, unexpectedly and without pain. She is at peace, finally and deservedly free of care or charge. Eternally loved.
A celebration of Helene’s life will be held Saturday, August 13, 2022, at Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home, 275 E. Main Street, Middletown, DE. Visitation for family and friends will be held from 11:00 am until 12:00 pm, followed by a memorial service at 12:00 pm. Interment will be held privately.
Her legacy lives on in her loving and devoted husband, Dave; her children, Rocco, Karl, Generoso, Maria, Christina, Rosemary, Steven, and AnnaLouise; beloved stepdaughters Jeannie and Joanne; her father, Karl; and her siblings, Karen, Sandra, Linda, Steven, and Annie.
Her bountiful family includes twenty-three grandchildren: Julianne, Nicholas, Jacqueline, Daniel, Natalie, Elijah, David, Eleanor, Makenzie, Ava, Scarlett, Annabel, Geno, Amelia, TJ, Ronan, Braelynn, Isaac, Santino, Liam, Harlo, Aurelio, and Rhys; eight great-grandchildren; over thirty nieces and nephews; godchildren; and countless others she welcomed into her home and around her table: friends of her children, day care attendees, or passersby in need of unconditional love and care. Helene was Mom to everyone.
She is preceded in passing by her mother, Jacqueline and sister, Deborah.
Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends for that Duck May be Somebody’s Mother
Born of Jacqueline (née Mexson) and Karl Johann Catob, Jr. into a world of wonder July 8, 1954, Swindon, Wiltshire, England, and with more love and kindness for her slight frame to contain, she selflessly devoted her life to her family, friends, and especially to children.
The second eldest of seven military brats, her journey crossed the pond to the States. There, in the Delaware Valley, the path of life, sometimes soft and green, sometimes hard and darkest gray, tempered her for the future. Having gifted Helene with empathy, resilience, honor, and devotion, God honed her naive being into a loving protector to care for her younger siblings and her wise-yet-fragile mother and reliable surrogate for her eternally proud, often deployed father. Helene loved her parents and her siblings with a bottomless heart, forgiving all slings and arrows, storing only golden moments in time.
No saint, Helene surely slung her share of stones, balancing family responsibilities with precocious, naive curiosity; the eternal youth sometimes finding herself in predicaments of one sort or another, independently or on the heels of those she revered. The tales of such exploits amused her children, who may or may not have learned the lesson, too often choosing to experience the drama for themselves, either as followers or leading the charge, sabers drawn. Blessed with such progeny, the trials and tribulations of young Helene Catob will certainly echo through the ages.
A gifted artist, Helene studied commercial art at Delcastle Technical High School. In time, she met her first husband, Gene and was thrilled to discover he had two daughters whom she instantly loved as her own. In 1975 they welcomed their first child into the world; his birth sparking the realization of her one and only dream: to be a mommy. She asked nothing in return for the blessing but loving kindness.
Over the next decade, seven more children expanded her embrace. Her bottomless love nourished them when times were lean and to provide more for her children, she opened an in-home daycare. That same love extended to those children, her bonus sons and daughters whom she cared for as her own, through to the very day she passed.
God Bless the Child That’s Got His Own
An artist by nature, Helene was a mother by calling. She shed all pursuits to satisfy her devotion to the care and raising of children, in service to them and her Savior. She was content to love and be loved. Her ten children and their children celebrate a calling well fulfilled.
She did her best to make a clean and cozy home for her children and the scores of little ones who traipsed through her door. Everyone and anyone was unquestioningly welcome and graciously fed, in the best of times and worst of times.
A jack of mom trades, Helene sewed, cooked, cleaned, healed, laughed and played with genuine enthusiasm. Expert at making silk purses of sows’ ears, she baked the best bread, mended clothes, salved cuts, cooled poison ivy, wiped tears, hand-crafted gifts, and gave her boys the most god-awful haircuts this side of bowl city.
Over the years she devoted precious time to interests outside the home, serving as President of the PTA, teaching Sunday school and vacation bible school, and singing in the annual church Christmas Cantata.
Many lifelong friends were made through church. Helene loved Jesus and he walked with her, hand in hand, picking her up when she slipped free, helping her to do the best she could with what she had, through her friends and family, the kindness of strangers, and often through her brothers and sisters in Christ.
Helene’s nature abhorred meanness: it was contrary to her design. She did not speak its language—could not understand spite or cruelty. Her love and empathy for those in her life was innate and reflexive. Feeling other’s afflictions as her own and on top of her own. Ever the mother, she tried her best to gather the defenseless under her wings and bore the brunt for them. These poisons wearied her soul and withered her mortal shell.
Here Comes the Sun
She enjoyed watching the birds from her patio over a steaming cup of morning coffee, sunning in the yard, or a rare quiet soak in a bubble bath. She could be found at the kitchen table, coffee at hand, completing crossword puzzles while filling the margins of the paper with blue ballpoint flowers and cherubs with chubby cheeks. Or sometimes nestled under an afghan with her boys and girls watching As the World Turns, The Price Is Right, or reading Dr. Dog.
When not running kids to practice, dental appointments, grocery shopping, watching kids, studying for certifications, cleaning, packing lunches, cooking dinner, folding laundry, paying bills, or sleeping, rare down time was spent enjoying several interests.
Favorites included Longwood Gardens and the beach. Helene loved escaping to the sunny sand, reading a paperback, and listening to her children’s lyrical laughs, cries, or screams rising over the crashing waves. The occasional child-free escape was often aided by her loving stepdaughters, and close friends who sprinkled fun and carefree moments throughout her life.
Music also brought her respite and joy and Helene’s favorites criss-crossed genres: from The Beatles to Jimmy Buffet, Billie Holiday to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Once allowing her daughter to host a hardcore show in the side yard, she sometimes had no idea what she was getting into but gave everything a chance. She especially enjoyed and looked forward to attending the annual Jazz festival with her husband, Dave, seated in the open air, taking in the music and camaraderie.
As her own children grew and moved into adulthood, Helene maintained her in-home day care; toddlers tugging at her apron, babies bouncing on her knee, pre-teens gaming on the couch. For the last decade, she and Dave shared their home for holidays, birthdays, and impromptu social gatherings just because. The coffee was always on, the fridge always stocked, and the Scrabble board on standby. Grandchildren swelled the walls, dumping out the toy box, filling diapers, drawing with crayons, and gaming on the couch.
Her smile beaming, her eyes twinkling, and her laughter ringing. Her hugs and kisses, comforting and sincere.
And in the End…
Helene made the best of life for herself and especially for those she adored. She asked nothing in return but kindness. She used God’s gifts to flood her world with love and happiness, to wash away the pain and sadness. She thanked the Lord daily for her blessings and did her best to pass those gifts on to her parents, her siblings, her children, her husband, and her friends, humbly, and contentedly.
Eternally, Helene dwells in the house of the Lord.