In Italian, the word dona is the third person singular of the verb DONARE, which means to give. She gives!

And give she did!

How back in 1942, her parents, who spoke Italian at home, knew to give her that name instead of the more common Donna, is a mystery. How did they know she’d become the most giving person in the world?

And give she did!

Ask anyone who ever met her and they’ll all tell you how she immediately took them into her heart and pronounced them BFF (Best Friend Forever).

I met Dona at the hairdresser’s shop in Montecatini Terme in 2006 or 2007. Just look at her picture and those who know me will get a chuckle picturing the two of us sitting next to each other at the beauty shop! Dona, so elegant, with the mountain of dark hair and I, still shades of the tom-boy, with the short, wispy, white hair! We could not have been more different except for our ages and the fact that we are Americans.

Dona was struggling to communicate with the hairdresser, and out of frustration shouted “Does anyone here speak English?” “I speak a bit”, I replied.  Dona told the story a bit differently. She insisted that I strung her along for a few more minutes until I finally said I was from Boston.

Then she launched into the story of her day. She was so excited, so animated! I later learned that this was her normal, everyday mode; ever enthusiastic, always wearing a smile. She told me that she and her husband, Larry, had just bought a villa in Montecatini Alto! I said, “Wow! I live in Montecatini Alto!” And so I became her new BFF!  After I described my little house up in the center of the town and said that even though small, I had a few lemon trees, a plum tree and an orange tree, and every year I planted a few tomatoes, Dona said, “we have 500 olive trees and a large vegetable garden and so Mary, you can have a piece of our garden to plant your tomatoes. (Larry, I don’t know if she ever informed you of this).

From the very first moment I met her, it was clear why she was named Dona.

She gives.

I spoke to Dona ten days before she died. She was bed-ridden but her only thought was that she hadn’t had time to distribute some Christmas gifts to me and our friend, Ornella. I told her that Ornella was in Switzerland and that there’d be plenty of time for presents after she recovered, but she sent Larry up the hill with a sweater and scarf for me and a necktie patterned with race horses for Dante.

She gives.

When back in the summer we learned that our friend, Tiziana’s daughter Tessa was pregnant, Donna began buying presents for the baby. She wanted to throw a Baby Shower, but in Italy, giving gifts before the baby is born is considered bad luck. But that didn’t stop Dona! Every time we went to Camp Darby (the American Army Base in Livorno), Dona bought armsfuls of socks, booties, onesies, t-shirts etc. The baby was born just before Christmas and we had planned to go to see him, but by then Dona wasn’t feeling well.

Tiziana and I went to visit with Larry and their sons on the night before Dona’s funeral.  and on the way out, Larry handed Tiziana two big bags of presents for Tessa’s baby.

Dona wasn’t there, but still she was giving.

I know that Dona is now wrapping up wing-warmers for the angels who must brave the cold to deliver Christmas gifts to everyone she loved.

Dona is still giving.

11 replies on “Dona”

I know everyone in Dona’s orbit is missing her. I was privileged to meet her and Larry in their beautiful home. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding all of her generosity and big personality.

A beautiful moving story. Friends are the very best gifts we ever receive. A Light in our lives met two remarkable women at the same time years ago. Their love ,friendship and acceptance wrap wrapped me in a cloak that still warms me. Sadly one of them pasted but her memory remains and the other through in another state is still close in my heart . Their friendship changed my life. I’m sure you will miss your glorious friend and just as sure her love and affection will always warm your heart.

I’ve read this several times now and it’s hard to do so without breaking down. I know that she loved you, “Mary Wilson, Mary Wilson,” very much. She is still around us all the time. Her energy will never disappear. In the last days of her life, she told us a story about working in her Neapolitan grandparent’s speakeasy in Pennsylvania in the late 40s and early 50s. It had become a restaurant by then. She invented games in her spare time. One was jumping across the stones lining the long driveway up the hill to the Wee Green. If she made it it to the top without falling, she awarded herself a wild strawberry that grew between the rocks. Her friends became the strawberries, the reward.

A very moving story of friendship, Mary. I agree with Samantha—-the very best gifts in our lives are our friends whom we share our lives with and love. Thank you for sharing your friend Dona with us. With love, Jeff

Dear Mary, thank you for posting. Dona’s gifts, her generous spirit, her easy laughter and great sense of fun will always be cherished by all who knew her. Perhaps that s the greatest gift of all? Dona’sunmistakable and unforgettable presence. We mere sad mortals are left behind missing her terribly. The Gifts she gave us while we were together will remain with us.

I know how much you enjoyed your friendship with Dona. I remember being so happy to be invited with Becky to visit her beautiful home, meet Larry and spend some time and wonderful stories about her adventures with you. So good that you wrote about Dona and her kindness and energy for those she loved.

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