August 28, 1925 - December 9, 2021
Elma Jean Cafarelli, 96, passed away peacefully at The Cottages at Garden Grove in Cicero, NY on Thursday, December 9, 2021, with family at her bedside. But please don’t call her “Elma;” no one who knew her ever called her by that name. To those who knew her, to those who loved her, she was always just Jean. Or Aunt Jean. Or Mom, or Grandma, or Nonnie. By whatever familiar name, if you knew Jean Cafarelli, you loved Jean Cafarelli. She entered this life as Elma Jean Williams, born in Aurora, Missouri on August 28th, 1925, the first child of Cyril and Vada Williams. Jean was born into the Jazz Age, and she was four years old when a stock market crash set off the Great Depression. Both events—the flourish of jazz and the hardships of the Depression—would impact Jean as she grew old enough to become aware of them. She knew the value of hard work and determination. She knew the giddy pleasure of music and dancing. She wouldn’t have been Jean without both of those influences. Jean’s own independent streak led her to move to Joplin, Missouri when she was still in her late teens. In Joplin during World War II, Jean met a serviceman from Syracuse, Robert A. Cafarelli, then stationed at nearby Camp Crowder. No one ever called him Robert; he was Bob or Bobby. As war raged in Europe and Asia, love was declared for Jean and Bob. They met. They danced. They would remain dance partners for the next 67 years. They were married in 1945, and she moved to Syracuse as Bob was shipped overseas for the final days of the war in Europe. With the Axis defeated, Bob and Jean were able to start building a life and a family in Syracuse. Jean and Bob. Bob and Jean. The family grew with son Art, son Robert C., daughter Denise, son Carl, and all subsequent branches of a family tree rooted in love, music, dedication, and wonder. Jean worked on the assembly line at Prestolite in Syracuse for years, and both she and Bob later worked for Huntleigh as boarding security agents at Hancock Airport. She was an active advocate and cheerleader in all aspects of her children’s development, and she volunteered at their schools in whatever capacity was needed. Jean was a calming and supporting presence in the life of all fortunate enough to know her and love her. Jean was Bob’s rock. She was a caring and non-judgemental anchor for her children, for nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And friends. She had a lot of friends. Jean was the quiet voice that told you to go out and experience life, try new things, find out what you like and what you do not like. She deeply loved and was openly proud of all members of her family, every one of them. A child of the Ozarks, Jean would reflect on the circumstances of her youth to guide and sometimes caution her children. The lessons she learned, from the Jazz Age and the Great Depression through the experience of family, work, travel, dance, and music, and from her love of reading and theater and records, gave her the tools to model both a sense of right and wrong and the importance of delight in the magic world around us. From Dixieland concerts to nature walks, from immersion in the local arts to travels across the country and across the ocean to visit loved ones (and dance to more music), Jean Cafarelli lived a life well-loved, and loved a life well-lived. Jean was predeceased by her beloved husband Bob, her cherished granddaughter Stephanie Dees, and her adored daughter-in-law Patti Cafarelli. She is survived by her sister Bettie Stout, her brother Carl Williams, sons, Art Cafarelli, Rob (Barb) Cafarelli, and Carl (Brenda) Cafarelli, daughter Denise (Tony) Cafarelli Dees, eight grandchildren and their partners (Lisa and Mike Schweigert, Michael and Cory Cafarelli, Todd and Courtney Cafarelli, Robert J. and Meagan Cafarelli, Matt and Alicia Cafarelli, Mallory Jean Dees and Alvaro Garcia Capilla, Tim Dees and Yelena Guillen Ortega, Meghan Jean Cafarelli and Austin Hernandez), eight great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. In keeping with the giving and supporting life she led, Jean has donated her body to Upstate’s anatomical gifts program, so that she may continue helping others even as she leaves this physical world behind her. A memorial service and celebration of Jean’s life will be held at 10:30 am on Saturday, April 23, 2022 in St. Margaret's Church. In lieu of flowers, her family asks you to give your time and support to charities near and dear to you. The family would also like to thank the staff at The Cottages, #60, for their support, especially during these past several weeks. And we ask you all to dance, to smile, and to hear the music as it plays. That is how we remember our Jean Cafarelli.
Elma Jean Cafarelli, 96, passed away peacefully at The Cottages at Garden Grove in Cicero, NY on Thursday, December 9, 2021, with family at her bedside. But please don’t call her “Elma;” no one who knew her ever called her... View Obituary & Service Information
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