A photo of Helene Ann Malgiero Catanese

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.

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31 Condolences for Helene Ann Malgiero Catanese

  • So very sorry for your tremendous loss…I knew Helene & Geno many, many years ago from Hermine’s in Wilmington, DE & was around for the birth of the first few kids. Thought to get in touch back in 2011 when I saw Rocco’s article in the Lancaster paper…wish I had…xxxooo

  • We are saddened by Helene’s passing, she was a wonderful person, easy to love. We know she is with the Lord and at peace. She shines bright among the Saints. We always enjoyed the many times in the mountains at jazz fest with her and Dave. Laughing and smiling on the blanket, enjoying the people and the music. In leiu of flowers we have donated to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in honor of Helene.

  • My condolences for this grave loss. I’ll always remember our trip to San Diego where we shared a lot good conversations and early morning coffees, sunrises. Trying to figure out what the baby’s name would be 🥲…
    God bless you all 🙏💐❤️

  • Words can never begin to express the heartache of losing a lifelong special friend. My heart hurts for the family. You are all in my thoughts and Prayers. May God you all❤️

  • What a beautiful obituary and photo!
    Helene was my cousin, slightly older. As a kid I always thought she was so beautiful and kind, with her gorgeous long hair, big smile and gentle loving ways. When she was chosen to play Mary Magdalene in our annual Thanksgiving play and I was cast as a leper child, there was no resentment because it was a perfect choice.
    When I was older I enjoyed bringing Grandma over to visit Helene and her adorable children. We would sit and chat at the kitchen table drinking coffee or wine and eating Helene’s freshly baked bread.
    When we were in Connecticut my husband Harry and I hosted a family reunion in our backyard. Helene and her precious kids piled in their station wagon to join us and we all had so much fun at the beach at the end of our street and camping in our backyard.
    There are many more happy memories and I am grateful she went peacefully which was so fitting for her.
    But although we know she is in a better place, it’s still such a shock and loss for all her loved ones.
    I wish you all comfort and peace.
    Laurie

  • With heartfelt condolences to Dave and Helene’s family members, and friends..I will miss her welcoming hugs her smile and her laughter and sitting a bit stealing time to time, as we zoomed through our lives. Rest in peace sweet friend. Susan Collins, Wilmington, DE

  • Heartfelt condolences to all of those touched by Helene’s sudden passing. Helene had a golden heart and loved the Lord with all of her might. She will be deeply missed by all who loved her.

  • Helene, had a beautiful internal and external love of life and passionate spirit for what she believed in. She loved her God and it showed with her compassion for watching children. She was an amazing woman and very loyal to her friends. I enjoyed her quick wit and intellectual abilities she possessed. Her love for God will give her the home and blessings she gave to everybody else in heaven.
    Stan Green

  • Your mom was such a super person. I always had so much fun visiting and loved the big family gatherings we shared. She has such a huge heart and like you said embraced everyone with kindness. My heart hurts for those left behind because she was such a rock for so many. I love you all and wish I could be there to give y’all hugs. Love you all, – Cousin Lisa

  • I will miss your kind smile, hopeful hugs, and genuine love and strength you always made sure to give me. You always had a positive light and presence about you, among many other beautiful qualities that I admired so much. I am thankful for the many memories that you made possible and to be apart of your family. I love you mom mom Helene.

  • My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to the entire family! I work with Joanne who has always talked about the love she has for her!

  • Helen was a bright and loving light who will be fondly remembered for her many kindnesses to our family through her excellent care of my grandson John Luke

  • May Helene rest in peace , prayers to her family and friends which there are plenty , may God help you through this rough time and being all of you peace in the process 😇🙏

  • To Miss Helene’s family,sending our love, prayers, and condolences. I didn’t know her that long but when I started picking up my grandchildren Tucker and Blair she was the sweetest woman in the world to them. She surely will be missed.

  • Dear Cousin, I am heartily sorry for the loss of Helene. Our loss is the the Kingdoms gain. I still can’t believe He wanted her more than we did or needed her more than us. You are all forever in my prayers! I’ll miss the Facebook back and forth with Helene almost on a daily basis.
    Love
    Jo Ann Malgieri and family

  • Lost my best friend.. over 51 years of….
    Her never ending .. contagious smiling face..
    Thoughtfulness..
    Encouraging words of wisdom..
    Will never be forgotten ✨

  • I would like to send our condolences to the family RIP sweet lady she had my twin grandchildren and couldn’t of asked for anyone better 🙏 😢 💔

  • Lindsay and Steve – although I never met your mother personally, I know the love that Lindsay shared with her – ever thankful for her being welcomed into the large and boisterous family. Please remember she lives on in each of you – and I can already see that Braelynn is following in her footsteps.

  • One Sunday in the mid 90’s, the Malgiero’s showed up at our church. We were a very small congregation so their visit was not unnoticed, I believe they probably took up 1/8th of the available seating! From that day forward the Malgiero’s became our friends and our family, we have shared many dinners, holidays and special occasions together! Helene was and is truly loved by this family, as are Dave and her children! I will truly miss her smile and bubbly personality, she was always full of life but I know she is now experiencing her best “life” which is with her Savior, Jesus. I rejoice knowing one day we will be reunited with her, love you Helene!

  • I am so very sorry for the loss of your mother. She was a truly good person and you are blessed to have had her love. I have no doubt that Jesus welcomed her with open arms.

  • What a lovely commemoration you wrote, surely capturing your mother’s beautiful life so well. We will always treasure the sparkle she made to every event, and the earnest prayer she always made for all her concerns. May the Lord complete all her efforts! She always seemed to us to be the best mom ever. We look forward to seeing her on the other side … fondly, the Zerbe family

  • Russ and I are so very sorry for your loss

  • Mrs Helene came into my life when my mom left me and my sister with my dad. My dad did the best he could and she saw that and made an exception to her hours. My sister who was a baby and I was maybe 6 in first grade, would be dropped off super early we would still be asleep and put in the living room to sleep. then in the morning she would get us up with her kids bath us and get us ready for the day. More often then not we would be the last kids there and have dinner there as well. my dad worked overtime as much as possible to provide for us alone. She loved us like a mother when ours wasn’t there and we desperately needed it. Before the internet I would just show up at her house from time to time (up until current times). Welcomed with not only open arms but excitement to see me and so much love to give like a child that doesn’t visit quite as often as should be. When fb came around she always commented and messaged sending love for me and my sister up until her last day. We will never forget Mrs Helene or the pivotal role she played for about 3 years that seemed forever in our young lives. I don’t know where or who I would be without her love and guidance. Thank you so much Mrs Helene you will always have a permanent place in my heart as I had in yours.

  • Helene’s passing is a huge loss for all that knew her. Her kind, gentle, caring spirit was a bright light in the world. I pray that her family and close friends find some peace and comfort in happy memories of Helene .
    Rest in peace Helene…you were well loved and will be greatly missed.

  • So sad to hear of the passing of Helene. I know Dave will be lost without his partner and love. I’m sure this was a shock to him and her family and my heart goes out to them all. SHe was a loving and kind lady. She always gave the strongest hugs when we would see each other. I will never forget her wonderful smile. May she rest with the Lord. In lieu of flowers we’ve donated to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in her name.

  • “A Lovely Woman”. I was able to enjoy her company at several joyous family events recently. I complimented her necklace at one of those events and then she removed it and gave it to me. I accepted but only after she insisted. She said she wanted me to have it and thanked me for my nephew John and so happy that he loved her daughter Maria and her children Anabel and TJ. I will wear the necklace with fond memories of “A Lovely Woman”.

  • I was so saddened to hear your wonderful Mom passed away. She loved life to the fullest but nothing could top her children, grand babies, and the rest of her big beautiful family. Please know I understand the loss of your beautiful Mom. May God fill you with the joy of knowing she is now with our Lord and Savior. 💔🙏

  • Thoughts and prayers are with all.

  • Helene was a darling, beautiful in every way. She was loving, caring and kind to everyone.
    As a child she would sometimes stay with us, she was always sweet and kind.
    Our deepest sympathy to all who love her and may you find peace.
    Much love, Aunt Karen and Uncle Erik

  • I know where she is but our family’s heart is grieving. Wonderful friend and care giver to my boys! Loved our Friday night soap operas and wine!

  • I loved her smile. She will be missed forever