by Cate Murway
Mary Frances Asta, BHS ’65 meaning “wished-for child” was named for her maternal grandmother, Frances [Accardi] Greco who was born on a Memorial Day.
Her maternal grandfather, Gaetano Greco was originally a barber before changing careers to run a Real Estate and Insurance business from their home on 337 Jefferson Avenue.
Industrialist Senator Joseph R. Grundy and Gaetano maintained a political friendship.
Her Paternal grandparents, Giacomo and Tomasina Asta were the original proprietors of the food store, “G. Asta & Sons”, commanding the corner of Lincoln & Pond in 1934.
“Grandpop” passed away when she was 10 but fortunately “Grandmom” was alive until Mary Frances was in her thirties.
“She was our ‘teenage grandmom’. She said ‘When the angel of death comes to get me, I won’t be home’
They were one of the first self-serve grocery stores and they even delivered.
Giacomo retired in 1946 and the store became Asta Brothers until 1963 when it closed.
Mary Frances always stopped for “penny candy” when she was walking home from the Warren Snyder school. Candy cigarettes and her all time favorite, the unwrapped squares of chocolate, were dropped into her brown paper sack.
She heard family stories of live chickens being cooped outside in cages. The customer would make a selection. The grocer would break the neck of the bird and hand it to the waiting customer.
Mary Frances’ great Aunt Pasquale [Asta] and her husband, Agostino Passanante were also a part of the shop owning entrepreneurs of Bristol. Her great Uncle Tom Asta opened a neighborhood grocery store on 1039 Pond Street.
All four of her grandparents emigrated from Campobello di Mazara in Sicily, part of the province of Trapani to historic Bristol on the Delaware, at that time, a most lucrative place for unskilled immigrants.
Almost 80% of the Italian immigrants came from Southern Italy, especially from Sicily, a largely agricultural and overpopulated region.
Mary Frances’ father, the late WWII Army veteran/butcher Nardine J. Asta, who died in August of 1997 was the 3rd born of Giacomo and Tomasina’s seven children. The late Gus [wife, Ida Aida], the late Anna Passanante [husband, Gus] and Marion Passanante who currently resides in Virginia, married the Passanante brothers; and the other late siblings were Robert W. Bracken Cavalier Cadet Corps drummer John [wife Fleda Perry], Frances [husband, Tony Petruccio] and WWII Army veteran/ Robert W. Bracken Cavalier Cadet Corps drummer and instructor, Benjamin D. “Benny” [wife Bobbie].
No one thought much about big families back then. The Asta brood, a part of the Sicilian migration to Bristol, made a major impact on the Borough.
Local mom-and-pop stores, with their limited selections and nonstandard packaging, paved the way for national chains to swoop in and ultimately dominate the grocery industry. The Acme and A&P markets eventually replaced many of the town’s small grocery stores.
The larger stores employed more help and provided a greater assortment of items.
She remembers a time when “Bristol had a store on every corner.”
“Everybody knew my father in the grocery store. They would ask for Nardy to cut their meat.”
The small “mom and pop” neighborhood stores, virtual hidden gems at every turn, continued, but gradually as the supermarkets became larger and transportation to and from the store advanced, the small neighborhood grocery store disappeared.
The fate of mom-and-pop merchants was not the political issue that it had been during the Depression.
The Asta family rented out the front of their shop to a Spanish food store and began to use the back of the store for Asta Brothers Fire & Safety. They established that business in 1962, stocking fire extinguishers and bottled gases to sell to bars to pump beer and beverages.
Dr. Burton, Mary Frances’ foot doctor, later assumed that location and she recalls pictures of her family’s grocery store displayed on the walls.
Originally, Bristol High graduates, Nardine and Eva [Greco] Asta lived with her parents after they married in 1941. Their daughter Donna was born in 1943. Nardine served as a butcher and cook in the Army at Camp Crowder, MO, in WWII. Eva and Donna went to stay with him. When they got home after the war, second daughter Mary Frances was born and they moved to Madison Street for 10 years
Contractor Carl W. Nelson, who proudly built many homes in the Harriman section, built their home for them on Farragut Avenue. All the wives did the Asta Brothers Fire & Safety billing in the basement of the Nardine Asta home.
Her Uncle John’s son, John runs the Asta shop on Pond Street.
As a young girl, Mary Frances roller skated, “yes, with a skate key”, in that basement before her parents made it a finished room for her late sister, Donna Tomasina and her husband, Don Gorton’s wedding dinner party.
A plethora of fond memories include the many extended family celebrations with doo-wop music in the basement.
She danced the Bristol Stomp at the Edgely Fire Hall
Being the younger daughter had its challenges at times.
“My parents bought my sister a bicycle and told me I would grow into it. To this day I haven’t grown into it!”
Their father would get them cream filled donuts from Micozzi’s Bakery.
Life was unfair again when he would cut the donut in half.
“Donna would always take the half with all the cream. She was older.”
It did get her out of work every so often, being the youngest.
Mary Frances much preferred to stay on the beach.
The Asta family worked together at their Seaside home, apartments and rental rooms.
“I was stuck making beds once in awhile, but I was good at ducking out. ‘I’ll be right back’ and I was gone!”
She recalls that the Annual Italian Festival was a big thing for her family as her dad and her Uncle John were members of the sponsoring Bristol Lions.
She was a Brownie and a Girl Scout and remembers that Mill Street was always fun.
A favorite food on Mill Street? “McCrory’s French fries. “I still love French fries!”
The Future Teachers of America/ NHS member graduated from Bristol High along with former Mayor Gary Tosti and Mignoni Jewelry and Gifts entrepreneur, Carol Mignoni Ferguson. Mr. Philip B. Frankmore was the Principal.
Her favorite subject was math, especially algebra and calculus.
She joined the Glee Club. “I can’t sing; the Glee Club has to take you!”
Mary Frances played the piano at her own graduation.
“Donna wanted the accordion and they got the piano for me.”
She had set her sights on a degree in Education, started out at Beaver College and transferred to Holy Family, “It was closer, smaller and had one dorm”. She earned her degree in Math and teaching.
Mary Frances’ quote beneath her yearbook picture was right on target.
“Whose little body log’d a mighty mind.”
After student teaching, she opted for a quite different life career.
Mary Frances retired from the New Jersey Office of Information Technology in Trenton, after working in data processing in the pension department for 33 years.
Her late sister Donna and Don Gorton had two children, Darlene and Daren.
Nephew Daren resides in the Greco family home on Jefferson Avenue. Niece Darlene and her Navy veteran husband, Jason Bergener have adopted Maryland as their home, along with their almost 3-year-old daughter, Julianna.
Mary Frances has apparently always exuded an inborn inner strength.
Her concern for others has made her a very sympathetic and generous person with a sensitive and considerate nature. She displayed this compassion as she lovingly cared for her mother until her death last December.
Eva was most proud of her namesake granddaughter, Julianna Eva Bergener, who now calls Mary Frances, “Nana”.
Mary Frances loves historic Bristol on the Delaware, her family home.
She is a member of the BCHF and the Columbus 500 Foundation and the treasurer of the social group with almost 55 members, the Golden Marks that meets at the Bucks Moose Lodge #1169.
As the league secretary, she bowled with her NJ co-workers, but it was mainly just a social evening for her. Her nephew, Daren is the avid, accomplished bowler in the family.
She and some friends recently enjoyed the Bristol Riverside Theatre, Jon Marans’ production of “The Raw Space”. They had dinner at The King George Inn.
“I had strip steak. It was really good!”
Retired but never idle, Mary Frances worked at Sesame Place for 3 years taking pictures of the children with Elmo. She also loves to roam about with her many travel buddies.
They have taken a two-week Alaskan cruise and trekked on Mount McKinley, or Denali, "The High One", and thoroughly enjoyed a cruise to the Panama Canal.
She has skied downhill in Vermont, soared on the Western slopes once and through the Canadian hills twice, a sport she started in college.
Her favorite color is green and Italian food, especially veal piccata, is her menu choice.
“The music, dancing, the love story” of the film “Dirty Dancing” keeps that at the top of her favorite flick list.
An avid reader, she is glued until the wee morning hours to Jodi Picoult’s controversial fictions.
Mary Frances’ continued pride in her family’s legacy is evident.
The Asta entrepreneurs thrived and have improved life for many generations in the Borough, having made important contributions to the growth of the economy through their business expertise. Their contributions were very significant through jobs provided and with their good example of strong ties with family, their Church, fraternal organizations and political parties.
They helped shape America and were, in turn, shaped by it.
Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNA (nee Asta), on Oct. 6, 2008. Beloved wife of the late Gus, devoted mother of Patricia Grassi, cherished grandmother of Ralph Cacci (Marilyn) and Marcella Cacci, and great grandmother of Amalia Cacci. Also survived by a sister Marion Passanante. Family and friends may call Fri., 7-9 P.M. and Sat. 8:30-9:30 A.M. at GALZERANO FUNERAL HOME, 430 Radcliffe St., Bristol, PA (215-788-2821). Mass 10 A.M. St. Ann Church, Bristol, PA. Entombment at Sunset Memorial Park, Feasterville, PA. Donations to St. Ann School, 418 Jefferson Ave., Bristol, PA 19007.
Eva G. Asta
Posted: Sunday, December 4, 2011 4:00 am
Eva G. (Greco) Asta passed away peacefully on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011,
at her residence surrounded by her loving family. She was 93.
She was born and raised in Bristol Boro. Eva was a graduate
of Pierce Business School, after which she worked as a secretary
for Senator James, then she married and raised her family
and began to work in the billing department
of Asta Brothers Fire & Safety Equipment Co.
She was a member of the Golden Marks, Lower Bucks Senior Center,
and the 5th Ward Ladies Auxiliary.
She was a loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother
who always had a smile on her face. Eva was a wonderful Italian cook who loved
cooking for her extended family and was extremely proud of her Italian heritage.
She was preceded in death by her parents. Gaetano and Frances Greco;
by the love of her life, Nardine 'Nardy', to whom she was happily married
to for over 56 years; and her daughter, Donna Asta Gorton.
She will be sadly missed by her daughter, Mary Frances Asta.
She was the loving grandmother of Darlene Bergener and her husband,
Jason, and Daren Gorton; and beloved great-grandmother of Julianna Eva Bergener. She is also survived by her sisters, Pauline Messina and her husband, Tony, and Gloria Cordisco and her husband, Tony Decino; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Relatives and friends are invited to call from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Galzerano Funeral Home, 430 Radcliffe Street, Bristol. A funeral Mass will follow at 10 a.m. at St. Ann Church. Burial will be in St. Mark Cemetery.
The family requests memorial donations be made to Don Guanella Village, 'A Community for Special People', 1799 So. Sproul Rd., Springfield, PA 19064-1195. Galzerano Funeral Home, Bristol
Pauline G. Messina
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2012 4:00 am
Pauline G. (Greco) Messina passed away peacefully
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012,
at Lower Bucks Hospital, surrounded by her devoted family. She was 90.
Born and raised in Bristol Borough, Mrs. Messina,
along with her husband, owned and operated Messina Realty
in Bristol Borough for the past 60 years.
As a young woman, Mrs. Messina attended Bristol High School
where she was known for her spelling acuity and perfect attendance.
Upon graduation, she went to Rider College and eventually worked
as a confidential secretary to the personnel manager at the former Fleetwing Kaiser Metal Co. in Bristol.
Pauline was a kind, gentle, and hard-working woman who used her great way with people and words, and great attention to detail, to help everyone around her. Pauline was an incredible baker and loved cooking and spending time at the shore, which enabled her to do what she loved most, spending time with her family.
She was preceded in death by her parents Gaetano and Frances Greco; her sister, Eva Asta and her husband, Nardy; brothers-in-law, Angelo Cordisco and Philip Messina; sister-in-law, Frances Diprima and her husband, Richard; and recently, her beloved son-in-law, Fred Allan.
She will be greatly missed by her loving husband of 65 years, Anthony Messina; her loving daughters, Rosemarie Quaranta and her husband, Joseph, of Yardley; and Francine Allan of Yardley. She was the proud grandmother of Paula McKay and her husband, Brian, Marisa Quaranta, Gina Quaranta, Dr. Jennifer Allan, Jacquelyn Allan, and Janine Allan; and great-grandmother of Maya and Joseph McKay. She also is survived by her sister, Gloria Cordisco and her husband, Anthony Decino; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Funeral dates and times will be listed in an additional obituary in Sunday's Courier. Galzerano Funeral Home, Bristol
Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 4:00 am
Marion (Asta) Passanante passed away peacefully Thursday,
June 13, 2013, in Virginia with her loving family by her side. She was 96.
Born and raised in Bristol, she recently moved to Virginia 8 years ago.
She will be remembered as a loving and caring mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and good friend to all who knew her.
She enjoyed spending her time painting, cooking for her family, trips to her home in Florida, golfing, and planting flowers.
She was a parishioner of St. Ann Church, and was a member of their former Sodality.
She was preceded in death by her loving husband, Bartholemew; her parents, Giacomo and Tomasina (Bono) Asta; her siblings, Augustine, Nardine, John, Benny, and Anna Passanante, and Frances Petruccio.
She will be greatly missed by her son, Augustine 'Augie' Passanante of Langhorne; her daughter, Patricia Trippel of Virginia; her adoring grandchildren, Cynthia, Bart, Doug, Kevin, and Michele; 12 great grandchildren; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to call 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Galzerano Funeral Home, 430 Radcliffe Street, Bristol. Funeral Mass to follow, at noon, in St. Ann Church. Interment will be in St. Mark Cemetery.
The family requests donations to St. Ann Church, 357 Dorrance St., Bristol, PA 19007. Galzerano Funeral Home, Bristol
Anthony Messina of Bristol Borough passed away peacefully on May 28, 2014 surrounded by his loving family. He was 95. Born and raised in Bristol Borough he, along with his late wife, owned and operated Messina Realty in Bristol Borough for almost 60 years. Mr. Messina enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp. at age 18 and rose to the level of Master Sargent and worked in the field of Communication.
Two years after his discharge, he married his true love and honeymooned in Florida and Puerto Rico. When he returned, he worked at Philco where he made tuners and repaired radios. He was also interested in photography and did black and white portraits and property pictures for the sum of $1.00. During this time, he took courses in Real Estate in Philadelphia and worked for Insurance of North America. He was a member and past President of the Rotary Club where he held every office at one time or another, and is credited with almost 60 years of perfect attendance. He was also a member and past Vice President of Fidelity Savings & Loan in Bristol Borough.
He was predeceased by his loving wife, of 65 years, Pauline C. (nee: Greco) Messina; his parents Frank and Rose Messina; his sister Frances DiPrima and her husband Richard; his brothers Joseph and Phillip Messina; and his recently deceased son-in-law Fred Allan.
He will be greatly missed by his children Rosemarie Quaranta and her husband Joseph, and Francine Allan all of Yardley. He was the proud grandfather of Paula McKay and her husband Brian, Marisa Quaranta, Gina Quaranta, Dr. Jennifer Allan, Jacquelyn Allan, and Janine Allan; and great grandfather of Maya and Joseph McKay.
He is also survived by his sister-in-law Frances Messina; and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends; especially Anna DeFranco and her husband Joe, Rose Gorton, and Richard DiPrima. He was a well-respected businessman who built an impeccable reputation through hard-work, honesty, and dedication to his work; but most of all he loved spending time with his family; whether it be at the dinner table or at his vacation home on Long Beach Island, NJ.
Family & friends may call Tues. 6pm-9pm and Wed. 7:45-8:30am at Galzerano Funeral Home in Bristol Borough. Funeral Mass on Wed. 9am at St. Ann Church. Interment will follow in Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown.
Mary Frances Asta
May 28, 1947 - November 10, 2016
Mary Frances Asta, age 69, passed away peacefully on November 10, 2016 at Lower Bucks Hospital surrounded by her loving family. Born and raised in Bristol Borough, she was a graduate of Bristol High School class of 1965 and received a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Holy Family University in 1969. She was employed by the State of New Jersey as an information technology specialist. Following retirement, she worked at Sesame Place and most recently at Messina Real Estate. Mary Frances was lifelong parishioner of St. Ann Church in Bristol Borough and was the treasurer of Golden Marks. She enjoyed spending her summers by the pool and taking trips to the beach, especially to her family’s beach house in Seaside NJ. Mary Frances was an avid reader, a patron of the performing arts, a generous philanthropist and well-seasoned traveler covering much of the globe before she passed; but most of all, she enjoyed spending time with her family and friends. She is preceded in death by her parents Nardine and Eva Asta, her sister Donna Gorton and many aunts, uncles and cousins. Mary Frances will be greatly missed by her niece Darlene Bergener and her husband Jason and their two children Julianna and McKenna, and her nephew Daren Gorton. She will also be greatly missed by her brother in law Donald Gorton, her Aunts Gloria Cordisco and Barbara Asta and many cousins and good friends. Relatives and friends are invited to call on Saturday, November 12th from 9-11am at St. Ann Church, 357 Dorrance St. Bristol Pa 19007. Funeral Mass will be celebrated 11am. Interment will follow in St Mark Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to in her memory to American Diabetes Association, 2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 900, Arlington, VA 22202.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
St Mark Cemetery
Rt 13 & Rt 413
Croydon, PA 19021
Saturday, November 12, 2016
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
St Ann Church
357 Dorrance Street
Bristol, PA 19007
Saturday, November 12, 2016
St Ann Church
357 Dorrance Street
Bristol, PA 19007