By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — Carole Mancini was much more than a longtime volunteer and worker at the Naugatuck Senior Center.
“She was the heart and soul of the senior center and she will never be replaced,” Naugatuck Senior Center Director Harvey Frydman said.
Mancini, who volunteered and worked at the center for 50 years, died on Dec. 12, 2020, due to COVID-19 complications. She was 84.
About three dozen senior center members, local officials and Mancini’s three daughters came together June 24 at the center to remember and honor a woman known for her compassion and heart.
Frydman dedicated the rose garden at the center to Mancini. There are five rose bushes growing in the garden — one for each decade Mancini dedicated to the center.
“There’s four pink rose bushes because those were her favorite color of lipstick. In the center is a red rose bush, and that is the color of a heart,” Frydman said. “She had heart. She had compassion.”
Mancini’s three daughters, Leslie Spring, Lori Bozzuto and Linda Dominici, shared memories and spoke of the impact the senior center had on their mother.
Buzzuto said her mother would always tell them about the events at the center, which was her “home away from home,” like the annual Christmas bizarre and all the raffle baskets that she took chances on to win.
“She enjoyed every day here,” Buzzuto said.
Leslie Spring said the center was her mother’s first home because she spent more time there than her actual home.
“She loved people,” Spring said. “She loved to interact.”
Mancini managed the kitchen and also worked as an office assistant, among other duties, at the center. She worked right up until the center closed last March due to the pandemic.
Buzzuto said when the center shut down it affected her mother physically and emotionally, and she couldn’t wait to return.
“Even on the days when she was in so much pain, she would say that she needed to get better so she can get back to work at the center,” Buzzuto said.
On the day of her funeral, the hearse driver stopped in the senior center parking lot to fulfill Mancini’s last wish of a final visit.
“She loved coming to work every day and taking care of the people,” Dominici said. “It’s hard to believe she was such a big part of the setup for 50 years.”
Spring said her mother loved everyone at the center.
“I know she is looking down on everybody here today,” she said. “I know she’s enjoying it. She would enjoy it more if she was serving all of you.”