Shirley Mae (Church) Venterea passed away on April 3, 2021, at her home in Leominster, MA surrounded by her loving family. She is survived by her husband Thomas and four children, Kim and her husband Mark Zonenshine of Danbury, CT, Rodney and his wife Rosalie of St. Paul, MN, Mark of Fitchburg, MA, and Renee and her husband Mario Meza of Leominster. Shirley and Thomas were blessed with six grandchildren, Jonathan Zonenshine, Mario and Felicia Meza, and Ricco, Raffael and Reesa Venterea. Shirley is also survived by two siblings, Virginia and her husband Vincent Ficcaglia, and Patricia and her husband Ronald Telarico, both of Geneva, NY, and several nieces and nephews. Shirley was born on May 1, 1936 in Geneva, NY and lived there until 1968 when she and her immediate family moved to Leominster to accommodate her husband’s employment transfer.
In high school, Shirley was an honor student, played basketball, ran the hurdles, was on the archery team, and a cheerleader. Shirley and Tom were high school sweethearts and married three years after her graduation. Before they married, Shirley was a clerk typist at the Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, NY, while Tom was in the Army. They married in 1957 after Tom was released from the Army and had started his second year of college at Rochester Institute of Technology. At that point, Shirley went to work for her father’s business, F.A. Church, Inc. as book-keeper. She loved waiting on customers in her father’s store where she got to know most of the people in Geneva. Shirley was committed to being a stay-at-home mom until the children were ready for school.
Shirley became an accomplished cook and loved decorating her home with self-made crafts. Many family traditions started and revolved around Shirley’s expertise in the kitchen. She loved Christmas and the Italian tradition of seven fishes on Christmas Eve. Baked cod smothered in one of her sauces was a favorite, but linguini with tomato anchovy sauce was also enjoyed by most of the family. Every year, she would make a large and colorful variety of traditional Italian cookies and other baked goods that required weeks of preparation, including cookies spiked with spirits, whiskey cake and ricotta pie. She would make sure that her children and grandchildren would get a special package of cookies in addition to other Christmas gifts. At Easter, her 20-inch diameter éclair, covered in chocolate, was famous. After raising their children, Shirley returned to outside employment, working in the finance offices of Sears Roebucks in Leominster. She made friends easily with people she met at work, as well as many close friends from the neighborhood on Grove Ave, Richardson St and Hammond St, and stayed in touch with many friends from Geneva High School. Her preference for a vacation was always a trip to Geneva, which reflected the love she had for family and life-long friends. Shirley was a member of St. Leo’s Parish in Leominster for over 50 years and attended Mass regularly until her illness intervened.
Services will be private at the convenience of the family.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Shirley’s memory can be sent to the following scholarship fund of which Shirley was a founding member: The Ed and Gerry Cuony Endowed Scholarship, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Director of Stewardship, Kelly Young, 300 Pulteney St., Geneva NY 14456, Phone: (315) 781-3783.
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