SOUTH PORTLAND – Lauretta Alagero Torraca, 95, died March 28, 2022, surrounded by her loving family. Lauretta was born December 16, 1926 to Laura (Sousa) and Anthony Alagero, and raised in Malden, Mass.
Against the backdrop of the Depression and World War II, Lauretta’s middle-class upbringing was ordinary in all but one respect – her extraordinary piano talent, which her father nurtured by splurging on new sheet music every payday. Lauretta’s high school rendition of Rhapsody in Blue won her a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music (which she attended for exactly one semester – she didn’t want to “study” music, she just wanted to play it! ). Which she did for nearly 90 years, sharing her incredible talent with family and friends.
In 1947, Lauretta married her wartime lover, Nunzio Torraca, starting a family that would grow to include nine children over the next 20 years in Malden, Mass.
In 1973 the family moved to Cape Elizabeth. Tragically, a year later Nunzio died suddenly and Lauretta was widowed at the age of 48 with five children still at home, a high school diploma and no work experience. This marked the beginning of her remarkable transformation from housewife and suburban mother to skilled professional, valued civil servant and world traveler.
A clerical job at the IRS office in Portland soon led to a position in Congressman David Emery’s field office, where Lauretta’s reputation for handling voter concerns with professionalism and grace became so well known that ‘She was hired as a field representative by the candidate who won the current election—Republican or Democrat. During her 15-year career in public service, she also worked in the Portland offices of Representative Tom Andrews and Senator William Cohen. After Lauretta retired, newly elected Senator Susan Collins approached her to establish her office in Portland.
Through it all, Lauretta’s diplomacy and unflappable demeanor have served her and others well, earning countless letters of appreciation from constituents for her attention and diligence in solving their problems and kudos from his peers, receiving their “Iron Pants” award for his years of tireless courage and grace in serving the public.
In her personal life, Lauretta reached another turning point when, in an inspiring act of courage and affirmation, she ended her second marriage at the age of 82, opening herself up to the possibility of happiness. In the decade that followed, new partnerships with Richard “Skip” Skillin and Robert “Bob” Callnan brought love and joy back to her life. Thank you to the Skillin and Callnan families for welcoming Lauretta into their lives.
A beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Lauretta relished every opportunity to share in her extended family life and was a faithful participant in each of the countless family events. She has had adventures around the world with her children and traveled to China as a founding member of the Portland chapter of the Sino-American Friendship Association.
Creative and charismatic to the end, Lauretta rekindled her passion for painting at the age of 85, creating masterpieces that adorn the homes of her loved ones. As a birthday present from her grandchildren for her 93rd birthday, Lauretta got her first tattoo (a musical note, of course)!
Lauretta’s loving acceptance and advocacy of all, especially those who face the pain caused by discrimination and ignorance, was especially appreciated by the various members of her family. Notes from many of her children’s friends mention the lasting impact Lauretta has had on their lives, helping them feel their own worth in the world. Believing in the power of a smile to brighten others’ days and a positive attitude to overcome life’s challenges, she offered us both as often as she could, punctuated with her signature lipstick! She will be deeply missed by all whose lives she touched.
Lauretta was predeceased by her husband Nunzio; brother, Anthony Alagero, sister, Christine Lawday Skomro; and his daughter Anna.
She is survived by her eight remaining children and their spouses/partners (past and present), Paul and Mary (Young) Torraca of Wakefield, Mass., Christine Torraca and Rita Zanichkowsky, and Elizabeth Torraca and John Jones of Falmouth, Michael and Gloria (Miranda Saldana) Torraca of Crowley, Texas, Peter Torraca and Joan Dorney of New York, Lisa Torraca and Paul Oppenheim of Pownal, and Corrales, NM, Kathren Torraca and Jeff Woodbury, both of South Portland. and Aimee Torraca Kohan and Tom Kohan of Cape Elizabeth; with his grandchildren Julie Torraca Kolinsky (Josh Kolinsky); Christine Stevens, Danielle Gladu; Madeleine and Emma Torraca Jones; Sasha, Mattie and Anya Kohan; Simon and Sophia Torraca Woodbury; great-grandchildren Charley Kolinsky and Jett Saldana; his sister-in-law, Eileen Hethy Torraca of Long Island, NY; family friend, Jeff Stanton; and nieces and nephews around the world.
Thanks to Jen Curtis and Sharon Smart for your loving care of Lauretta. She loved you both! And a special thank you to those who cared for Lauretta at the Osher Inn at The Cedars, 75 State Street, and Pinnacle Nursing Home.
A musical memorial service and celebration of Lauretta’s life will be held at Hobbs Funeral Home at 671 US-1, Scarborough, ME 04074 on May 28 from 1-4 p.m. All are welcome. Please view a full obituary and share your memories of Lauretta online at http://www.hobbsfuneralhome.com. In Lauretta’s words, “I’ll see you when I see you!”
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Lauretta’s memory to 317 Main (www.317music.org), an organization that provides music lessons to children and adults in greater Portland, or to the Preble Street Resource Center (www.preblestreet.org). Thank you.
Obituary: Beatrice “Betty” L. Phillips