Josephine Manfre Rumsey
July 07, 1915 - May 09, 2008
A small woman with a large determination
Our dear Mom, also known as Grandma, Great Grandma, Auntie and Friend passed away on Friday morning, the 9th of May, 2008. Sitting down now to write this testament to her life is a struggle for me. How do you describe in a few sentences her journey of 92 years? Her life was filled with all that a life is filled with: happiness; love; sadness; laughter; pain; joy; setback; accomplishment.
Josephine was the 7th of 10 children born to Domenico Manfre and Francesca Lonardo in New York City. Her parents and 5 of her siblings were born in Sicily and immigrated to America in approximately 1911. Mom graduated from high school in 1932; which is where she became interested in dressmaking. She worked for several design houses in New York before moving to Seattle in 1942 to be with her niece Anne who was expecting her first child.
Josephine met and married Harry Reynolds in 1943 and 1946 respectively. My brother Russell was born in January 1950, and I was born in December 1951.
For several years she designed and made clothes for women who had heard about her glorious talents. When she and dad divorced we moved to California where she supported my brother and me on a “woman’s” salary. By day she worked full time at J.C. Penney as an alteration seamstress and by night she took in dressmaking work from various department stores. She kept her family together as best she could with what little support she had. In 1978 Russell passed on. In 1980 Mom married Henry Rumsey and together they moved back to Washington to build a house on Camano Island. She volunteered for the senior center and started a sewing group that brought in quite a bit of revenue for the support of local seniors. She and Henry had 17 years together before he died. Mom then moved back to Seattle to be closer to Page and me. She spent the last 3 years with us in our home.
Josephine was a small woman with a large determination. She was a wonderful role model for me, showing me what a person can do when either the need is great or the desire is strong. Mom had a quick wit and a great sense of humor. She was a true friend, a great gardener and an outstanding cook. She and Page had a loving friendship; he liked to tease her as much as she liked to trick him. Page and I with the help of her caregiver Gayatri, took care of Mom the last 2 years of her life. It was a tremendous challenge but it was our privilege to have had that opportunity. We miss her greatly. She taught us so much about ourselves.