Pearl Vitelli Hallett
Pearl Vitelli Hallett, 83, of W. St. Paul, MN, passed peacefully at home in Ft. Myers, FL on November 16, 2020. Preceded in death by parents, Nicholas and Pearl (Steenberg) Vitelli. Sent off with love by husband of 31 years, David; children Dale (Judy) Harder, Placentia, CA, Laura (Mark) Suby, Cape Coral, FL, Nick Harder, W. St. Paul, MN, and Monica (Joe) Chiaramonte, Surf City, NC; 7 grandchildren, Stephen, Daniel, Heidi, Kevin, Abby, Molly, and Christine; 4 great-grandchildren, Nicholas, Samuel, Mila, and Vincent; Sister, Carrie Kemp of Lilydale, MN; step-sons Richard Hallett and family of Durham, NH and John Hallett and family of Oconomowoc, WI; and many other relatives and friends.
How do we honor and celebrate a life so well-lived by Pearl/Mom/Granny – a woman among women – who we love so much? Here are words on her life and the gifts she gave us: She loved life, and her childlike zest for fun was unmatched. She loved music and loved to sing. She taught us songs of long ago, belting them out at full volume while pounding away on her piano and encouraging us to chime in. Want to know the words to “Too Fat Polka” or “Hold That Tiger”? The songs taught two generations ago are now her great-grandchildren’s favorites. She had a joyous spirit, laughed easily, and danced while we stood on her feet. Having a love of play/playfulness, she was often the instigator of mischief. Whenever we had pancakes for breakfast, it invariably degenerated into a pancake fight. Our friends envied us, as she was so full of life, unpredictable, and fun. Once, she put a rubber band around her finger, cut a hole in a small box and poked her blue, bulging finger through. Then she had us open the box to see what was inside! She pinched the butts of strangers in a crowd (to see their reaction and make us giggle). Her antics live on (anyone remember Oswald? Or Herman the Goat?). Mom thought childhood should be fun. We don’t know how she managed to plan and take us on so many diverse adventures. As adults, we realize how much planning and effort it took to take four kids and their friends camping, to zoos, and cross-country trips to see a King Tut exhibit, to name a few. She had a lively curiosity and sense of adventure and liked to share it. As kids, we had very free rein in our neighborhood, to the point that the (not so) nearby lake was within limits. Mom would always laud the many creepy crawlies we brought home – everything from bullfrog tadpoles to snakes, salamanders, turtles, toads, the like. Internally she must have shuddered as we presented our prizes and made no mention about dealing with the ultimate results of our catches. Mom’s joyful zest for having fun with children lives in us. She taught us: Live fully, laugh, sing, have fun, and embrace life with the joyfulness of a carefree child.
Pearl’s adventurous spirit continued into later life. Her enjoyment of the outdoors included rafting in the Grand Canyon, learning to sail in the Gulf of Mexico, bicycling (100 miles a day), and bicycle camping, x-country and downhill skiing, and canoe trips to the BWCA. She cruised and traveled by air and car to Alaska, the Eastern Mediterranean, South America, and New Zealand/Australia.
In retirement, she and Dave took RV trips coast to coast joining volunteer projects involving community development and campground hosting, all of which kept her active and engaged. She excelled at each task she took on at work and in retirement.
Interested and energetic, she hiked, bicycled, camped, and traveled distant and exotic places. She loved to explore, go off the beaten path, and was always on the lookout for an unusual experience. She was an adventure eater, and ordered things on menus in Mexico, China, and Italy that everyone else avoided. In her last days, when asked if she was craving any food in particular that we could make or purchase for her, she said she could really go for some ceviche! “Ceviche — really??” we said. So, we picked up ceviche and some other Peruvian food, and sure enough, she thoroughly enjoyed that meal! She approached different cuisines with the same sense of adventure as the rest of her life, and we learned a curiosity and appreciation of different cultures. Mom taught us: Be brave, be open-minded and accepting, be compassionate, and know your place in the world.
She was hard-working, capable, and had a knack for fixing things. She tackled small household repairs, like wiring an outlet and unplugging a garbage disposal, to reupholstering furniture, building shelving, and sewing elaborate Halloween costumes. And she didn’t have YouTube! Her example made us believe we could tackle everything, too. She approached challenges pragmatically and taught by example that we should do as much for ourselves as possible, we should not sit idly while others work, and we had to actively work toward goals to achieve them. She never told any of us that our goals were out of possibility, she just encouraged us to go for them. We were taught to enjoy working hard at home and at work, and to feel accomplishment in completing something worthwhile, especially if it was for someone else. She would say, “It’s not what you have in life, it’s what you do.”
Mom was frugal, too. Instead of hiring gardeners to clean out the snails in our California yard, she paid us $.01 for every snail we caught. We got over $6! What did Mom do with 600 snails? Put them in the garbage disposal – at least most of them. When she went back 15 minutes later, there were dozens seeking escape, crawling up the sink and onto the countertops! Once, Mom related how embarrassed she was when as a child people would come to dinner and she had to hide that she was wiping the table with a rag made from old underwear. But still, we reuse paper towels and hate to throw anything away that still has some use left in it. As kids, we had savings accounts and piggy banks and were encouraged to save for things we wanted. These aren’t things she taught us; they are the way we lived. She liked to teach by example, and we all benefited.
Mom was helpful and kind to others. She remembered details about the lives and cares of her friends, co-workers, and family, and acted with consideration for the feelings of others. As adults, we sometimes thought Mom was considerate of others to a fault. There were times we would try to organize something with her, but she would hem and haw, “I don’t want to impose on anybody..” It often made it difficult to plan things because she was so concerned about inconveniencing others. But that taught us to think of others too – all the time. It results in consideration, politeness, and an understanding of others.
Exemplified by her own parents, she had a selfless devotion to family, and time spent with family gave her the greatest joy. To celebrate her 80th birthday, she treated all of us to a trip to Italy, so we could be together in that special, magical place. Throughout her life, she gave her time and love generously and freely. As our greatest advocate, she made us feel we are smarter, stronger, and more beautiful than even we can imagine. Even at the very end, she put others before herself, was gracious, kind, and tried to bridge gaps. Mom taught us: Family is most important, we are gifts to one another, and there is an endless supply of love to give and receive.
To all those who knew her well, she was our own very special Pearl. We celebrate her life, and her joyful, adventurous, loving spirit lives on within each of us.
Mullins Memorial Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Fort Myers, is entrusted with final care.