Sally (Santina) Ferraro-Wilker, 94, passed away peacefully on November 9, 2017 at her daughter’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sally was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 1, 1923 to Maria Santa (Mary) Ferraro (nee Salvo) and Francesco (Frank) Ferraro. Her family moved to Lorain, Ohio where she attended grade school. In the midst of the Great Depression the family returned to Chicago. She lived most of her adult life in Lorain and Vermilion, Ohio, moving to Charlotte to live with her daughter Lisa Wilker in 2012. Sally was a loving and devoted “perfect” mother, sister and nonna (grandmother).
Sally was independent, a trailblazer in an era of more traditional roles and career paths for women. Upon graduation from high school in Chicago, Sally became a long lines operator for the Bell Telephone Company. During WWII Sally was one of the first women to enlist in the WAVES, a newly formed branch of the US Naval Reserve. For the duration of the war, Sally was stationed at Hilo, Hawaii in the air traffic control division as a Specialist 2nd Class. On her return to Chicago, she was employed as a detective with the Pinkerton Agency. She later attended Ohio State University on the GI bill. In July 1949 Sally married Dale Albert Wilker of Lorain. They were married for 39 years.
Sally often said her greatest accomplishment was raising her four children and helping watch over the four children of her widowed brother, Mickey. Sally taught her children to be independent, socially conscious and compassionate for those in need. She modeled how to embrace life with love, verve and a sense of humor.
Sally came from a large Sicilian family and remained close to all of them, teaching her children and grandchildren the immense love for and value of continued family ties. It was her initial odyssey to her parent’s villages in Gangi and Sperlinga, Sicily in the mid-70’s that opened the door for the rest of the US family to travel and meet long-lost cousins. Sally was fluent in Italian and, to the awe of villagers, fluent in the dialect of Gangi. She was the de facto family historian and embraced that role with pride. Sally’s sense of humor and stories of long ago entertained and enlightened everyone within the sound of her voice. Sally remained in contact with all of her relatives, writing letters and taking many trips to Sicily and Italy to visit her beloved Ferraro cousins.
One cannot envision Sally without thinking about her stylishness. From her 1967 avocado Mustang convertible to her radiant scarves and many, many bracelets, throughout her life she made a fashion statement. A spritz of Chanel No. 5 completed each ensemble. Her granddaughters knew great joy in their early years when they were able to raid her closet and jewelry boxes to dress up like their chic Nonna.
Sally is survived by children, Dale A.Wilker (Debbie Mills) of White Plains, NY; Lisa Wilker of Charlotte, NC; Carla Kowalski (Ken) of Lakewood, OH; nipotini (granddaughters) Rachel Kowalski of Brooklyn, NY and Lisa Kowalski of Lakewood; sister Josephine Caruso (nee Ferraro) of Potomac, MD and many cherished cousins, nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Paula Karish (nee Wilker) on October 12, 2017; husband Dale Albert Wilker of Lorain; brothers Carmelo (Carl)Ferraro of Chicago, Mauro (Mickey) Ferraro of Lorain and sister Maria Rosa Ferraro of Lorain. Three siblings, Carmelo I, Santina I and Betty Ann died in infancy.
A funeral mass will be held for Sally Ferraro Wilker on Saturday April 28, 2018 at 11:00am at St. Peter Catholic Church, 3655 Oberlin Avenue, Lorain, Ohio. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery, 555 North Ridge Rd. West in Lorain following the mass. The Amherst VFW Honor Guard will be present to pay tribute to Sally’s military service as a US Navy WAVE during WWII. A
A Celebration of Life memorial and luncheon in remembrance of Sally will be held at the Antlers Grand Ballroom, 300 Washington Avenue, Lorain immediately following the funeral.
Donations can be made to The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc., Donor Services, 17 Battery Park Place #210, NYC, NY 10004 or online: www.libertyellisfoundation