SOUTH PORTLAND — May Lucy Viola, 77, died peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family Dec. 6. She battled breast cancer for more than a decade with the same poise, beauty and elegance she exhibited through all the endeavors in her life.
Viola was born in Portland May 2, 1938, to Sozio and Mary (Trocchio) Mandarelli. She grew up in the “Little Italy” section of the city, and learned many Italian traditions that she passed on to her children and grandchildren. After graduating from Portland High School, Viola worked at Campbell, Payson and Noyes Insurance Co.
She then took break of more than 30 years from work to raise her five children, to whom she dedicated her life and taught the values of her Roman Catholic religion. While her husband, Philip, worked both for the U.S. Postal Service and on the Portland waterfront, Viola managed the household. She knew how to “stretch a buck,” and her children never went without. The Violas supported their children at school events and athletic events, support that continued throughout their lives.
The door was always open at the Violas’s, which was the gathering place for family events. Viola was a wonderful cook, and when word got out she became the go-to person for school and church spaghetti suppers and fundraisers. She also became a private chef for the Jesuit priests at Cheverus High School.
Viola opened a restaurant in the early 1990s that became a success, but in 1994 she decided to sell it to devote more time to food services at Cheverus High School.
“Miss May,” as she was known to two decades of Cheverus students, ran the food service department at the school until she retired three years ago. Viola earned the students’ respect, but it was her ability to nurture both students and faculty alike that made her a legend at Cheverus.
Viola also enjoyed shopping, relaxing in the sun, gardening and, in recent years, one of her favorite activities was going to any of the region’s casinos. She would travel with her family throughout Maine and Connecticut to play, but there was nothing that made her happier than spending time with her family.
May was predeceased by her parents, two brothers and three sisters.
She is survived by her loving husband of 56 years, Philip R. Viola; three daughters, Filomena M. Russell, of Gorham, Donna M. Viola, of Portland and Krista M. Viola, of South Portland; two sons, Philip A. Viola of South Portland and Jason G. Viola of Portland; seven grandchildren, Joseph, Justin, and Nicholas Russell, Maria Jones-Rivera, Meghan McCusker-DiFiore, and Caleb and Noah Viola; and four great-grandchildren, Luke, Gatlin and Garron Russell and Bella May DiFiore.
The family extends their gratitude to the staff at Mercy Hospital Oncology Department and VNA Home Health & Hospice, as well as the South Portland Police and Fire Departments and Portland Police Department. The family suggests sending memorials in Viola’s name to any of the organizations.
A private Mass was celebrated at St. Peter’s Roman Church followed by graveside services at New Calvary Cemetery, South Portland Dec. 10.