Mary Coniglio Denisco Sowa
and Frank Sowa Sr.

~ Page 2


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           'Parlami d'amore, Mariú' ~ 'Speak to me of love, Mariú'
sung by by Vittorio Di Sica



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Tim                    Bailey
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Gabrielle     Francesca

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DJ      Tim


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Marion Coniglio and Irene Kucharski
~ 1984 ~


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December 2002

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June 2003


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Reminder: 2000!


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Frank Jr., Maria, Frank, Mary, Dennis, Denise ~ 2005

The Valints ~ 2004
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DJ Tim Bailey



       At Christmastime, my mother kept the old Sicilian tradition of baking special cookies, and although my beloved sister Mary has passed on, her children continue it, as does Mary's twin Connie and her children. My favorite 'cookie' was, and still is, the Sicilian fig cookie.

       Not to be confused with the ‘Mericanu’ ‘fig newton‘, which is no more than a swipe of fig paste in a tasteless crust, my mother’s fig cookie was a delicate, tasty shell wrapped around a sweet mixture of ground figs, walnuts, dates, raisins, citron, and other delicacies. And it was all topped with a sugary frosting and colored sprinkles.

       Now, you know what I’m talking about, but what did you call them? There are as many names for this confection as there are dialects of the Sicilian language.  Many call them cuccidati (coo-chee-DAH-tee), which could be interpreted as ‘cooked dates’ or ‘date cookies’; some say nucedati (noo-che-DAH-tee), which might mean ‘nuts and dates’. I have heard them called uccidati (ooh-chee-DAH-tee), zuccidati (zoo-chee-DAH-tee), puccidati (pooh-chee-DAH-tee) and even purciddati (poor-chee-DDAH-tee), which sounds like ‘pig dates’!

       An on-line reference says they’re bruccedati (brew-che-DAH-tee), because some (my favorite kind) were made in a large ring shape, and ’bruccedati’ means ‘little bracelets’.

       But to me, they’re what my mother used to call them: purciddati. She always made a few of the big, ring-shaped ones and kept them aside for me, her ‘baby’. Then my late sister Mary, still spoiling the (70-year-old) baby brother, would make a few just for me. Now Connie, even though she's living in Illinois, is not too far away to spoil me!  I don’t know what purciddati really means, if anything. But to me, it means one thing: delicious! ~ Ange Coniglio


Rosa Coniglio’s Recipe: Sicilian Fig Cookies

[as interpreted by the “Twins”, Mary Coniglio Denisco Sowa and Connie Coniglio Miller]
Makes 12 dozen cookies.

Filling: 3 lb. dried figs 1 lb. dates (pitted)
  1 lb. raisins 1 lb. shelled walnuts
  1 cup sugar 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  3 tbsp. orange extract, or orange zest, or rind of one orange, toasted and ground.
  Water, as below.  
           Grind all ingredients together in food grinder. Then warm filling over low heat, adding water until mixture is pliable.
Dough: 21/2 lb. (10 cups) flour 2 cups sugar
  2 cups shortening 1 stick (1/4 lb.) margarine
  4 tsp. baking powder 2 tsp. baking soda
  11/2 tsp. salt 5 large eggs
  1 tbsp. vanilla extract 2/3 cup buttermilk
  (To make buttermilk, stir 1 tbsp. white vinegar into 2/3 cup whole milk.)

         Cut shortening and margarine into flour. Add sugar and other dry ingredients. Beat eggs with vanilla extract and buttermilk and to flour mixture.

          Mix by hand and shape: roll dough by hand into “snakes” about 16” long, 1 inch in diameter. With rolling pin, flatten snake to form strips about 3” wide and 1/8” thick. Place filling along center of strip. Fold one long edge of dough over filling, and roll once more to form a long, filled tube. Cut tube on a slant to make cookies about 11/2” long. Some can be cut about 8” long and the tube is curled in a circle to make a “bracelet".

Bake:  on a greased cookie tin, at 350o till lightly browned.
(10-15 minutes)
Icing: 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
  orange extract
         Add water to get glaze consistency, and add orange extract to taste.

        Brush icing on cookies, add sprinkles. Try not to eat them all before company comes.



A Reading by Dennis Denisco

In gratitude, I bow to all generations of ancestors in my blood family. I see my father and mother, whose blood, flesh, and vitality are circulating in my own veins and nourishing every cell in me.
Through them, I see all four of my grandparents. Their expectations, experiences, and wisdom have been transmitted from so many generations of ancestors. I carry in me the life: blood, experience, wisdom, happiness, and sorrow of all generations.  
The suffering and all the elements that need to be transformed, I am practicing to transform. I open my heart, flesh, and bones to receive the energy of insight, love, and experience transmitted to me by all my ancestors. I see my roots in my father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, and all ancestors. I know that I am only the continuation of this ancestral lineage. Please support, protect, and transmit to me your energy.
I know wherever children and grandchildren are, ancestors are there also. I know that parents always love and support their children and grandchildren, although they are not always able to express it skillfully because of difficulties they encountered. I see that my ancestors tried to build a way of life based on gratitude, joy, confidence, respect, and loving kindness.
As a continuation of my ancestors, I bow deeply and allow their energy to flow through me. I ask my ancestors for their support, protection, and strength.


          At Frank's funeral Mass, Francesca and Gabrielle gave readings from the Bible.  Gabrielle and Bailey presented the gifts, and DJ and Tim played a violin duet, 'Ave Maria'.

Eulogy for Frank J. Sowa, Sr.
~ Maria Sowa Valint ~

        My Dad was a great man. He was a loving husband, an incredible father and father-in-law, and the world’s best Papa.
        He and his brothers and sister grew up in an orphanage during the 1920s, after his mother passed away when he was one year old, and his father was not able to work and take care of the kids. His dad died when he was 14. He knew what it meant to survive through hard times, and appreciated what the word ‘family’ meant without having the benefit of knowing a life with is own parents.

        He was drafted into WWII in the Army and proudly served his country in the South Pacific. He witnessed the brutality of war, but it did not change the type of man he was. He was kind and generous with a loving heart and a great sense of humor that he always showed to family and friends, and even strangers.
        When he married my Mom in 1962, he was a 43 year old bachelor and he instantly began his journey to becoming a Super Dad. He knew he could never replace their father and never tried, but my brother Dennis and sister Denise became part of him. He loved them without hesitation. They were his kids, and he would do anything for them. He treated all his kids the same.
When my brother Frankie and I came along his family was complete, and his mission in life was to take care of us and he did until the day he died. He worked hard at his job as a welder at Roberts Gordon Appliances for 38 years. We lived modestly. My Dad took joy in making sure, as kids, we had everything we could want and need. And is usually the case, I never realized how hard that is to do until I became a parent. My Dad was a selfless man and always put his family first. That is the epitome of a great Dad. Of a great man.
        My Dad had eight grandchildren whom he loved more than words can say. Each of them have brought him so much joy. And boy, did they love their Papa. He made each of them feel so special. His face just lit up when he was with any one of them. We’d see his beautiful smile and that twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed hearing what they were up to. He loved going to see their recitals or plays and school functions, and always seemed to find that dollar or two that they dropped afterwards. “He had them right where they wanted him.”
        My Dad understood how hard it is to raise a family and always reassured his kids that we were raising good kids too. He was so proud of them all. “They’re all good kids,” he would say, “and that’s hard to do.
        The hardest part of losing my Dad for me is that I knew that no matter what happened, everything was going to be okay because my Dad was there. He made me feel safe and secure and had a calming way of letting us know that things always have a way of working out. “This too shall pass.”
        Well, as he left us, we knew that he was ready to go. He was tired. He lived a wonderful full life and he wanted to be at peace in a place where he wasn’t held back by physical limitations and the aches and pains of his life here. We now go forward knowing that the way he made us feel while he was living will help us to handle anything that happens after his death. The lessons he taught us are the ultimate gift from a great father.


Gabrielle and Francesca ~ Christmas 2007
The Valints and the Sowas ~ Allegany State Park, March 2008
Sam and Stacey Tiranno
February 14, 2009
The Sowas, Tirannos and Valints
at Sammy and Stacey's reception.
Mary and Tommy Mary and Ray
at Ray's house, February 2010


         On Tuesday, November 16th, 2010, Mary went with her next-door neighbor Irene Kucharski and friends to play cards at another friend's home.  After playing for a time, as she was collecting some winnings, she put her hands to her chest, exclaimed "Oh!" and succumbed to a fatal heart attack.  While her family and  friends were shocked by her death, we are comforted to know that she was with her best friend, and that she left us without suffering. ~ Ange Coniglio


         If someone should ask me to characterize my sister Mary, I’d tell them “She’s bossy, belligerent, stubborn, and sometimes pushy”. Then I’d ask myself “Why do I love her?”

        I love her because she was all those things, but she was also friendly, intelligent, happy, and generous.  And even though she was a twin, she was one of a kind.

        I remember Mary as a bobby-soxed teenager, swooning over heart-throb singer Andy Russell, in the 1940s.  I remember her as a great-grandmother, cooing over Samantha Rosa.  Somewhere along the way, she also developed quite a fondness for Gregory Peck, and even had a bit part in a documentary about him.

       She made a family with her husband “Fiudi” Denisco. After he passed away at a young age, she was lucky to find Frank Sowa, and with him, she added to her family. To our parents, she was “Mariú”, to Fiudi’s family, she was “Marie”, and to her grandchildren, she was “Mare-Mare”.

       Mary was the queen of Italian cookies. Although in recent years, her twin, Connie, contested that title. When she made “ossi di morte”, those sweet confections called “dead man’s bones”, Mary apparently forgot one ingredient.  For a while, her cookies weren’t as crisp and light as Connie’s.  But that didn’t faze her.  The first time she went to Sicily, she entered a pastry shop where they sold dead man’s bones.  She tried one, and it was as hard as a rock.  She told the proprietor “Mine are better than this!”  That was Mary’s version of American diplomacy!

    There was nothing diplomatic or subtle about Mary.  She spoke what she felt.  Mostly, what she felt was love.  Love for her husband; her fierce, protective love for her children; her strong love for her grandchildren and great-grandchild.  Love for her brothers and sisters, and for her many, many friends.  And in recent years, love for our long-lost cousins in Sicily and Belgium.  Mary’s enthusiasm towards them (and her ability to speak their language) brought us all closer. She would phone them frequently. Her use of Sicilian brought sweet memories of our mother, and encouraged me to dust off my own knowledge of the language.  When I called our cousins to tell them of her passing, each of them said they had spoken to her within the past week, and all of them sent their condolences to us.

       Mary put that same love into the cookies I spoke of, and into the quilts she made for us ~ and the dresses, curtains, shirts, you name it, that she sewed for family and friends: “Mare, can you shorten this; Mare, can you patch this; Mare, can you take in the waist?” She never answered no.

      It goes without saying that she was close to all her siblings. When she made fig cookies at Christmastime, she would always include a few 'special' ones, just for her brothers.  She admired and looked up to our eldest sister Millie.  She was like a sister to all her in-laws, and to Irene, her long-time neighbor.  But she had a special bond with her twin, Connie.  It was a bond that grew as both their families grew.  And now, the twins’ children are not just cousins, but are more like brothers and sisters, extending that special bond down through the generations. It has always been hard to think of Mary without thinking of Connie, and vice versa.  We’re thankful now, that in Connie, we still have a part of Mary.

       God bless her and keep her.  Amen.

Samantha Rosa Tiranno ~  2010 Tessa Noelle and Samantha Rosa Tiranno ~  June 2012 Denise and Tessa Noelle ~ July 2012
Mary's, Fiore's and Frank Sr.'s progeny at the 2012 Coniglio Family Picnic
. . . . and at the 2014 Picnic

To Mary's Page 1.




1 (Siblings)

2 3 4 5

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Gaetano & Rosina










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