Helen Maganini would have some suggestions on how to improve this obituary.
But she is no longer here to make things better, so as her family we offer this tribute in a spirit of humility, hoping our collective effort will pay the right tribute to a rich and long life well-lived.
Proud mother of five, loving grandmother of 13, beaming great-grandmother of six (so far), Helen left this world on May 16 at age 95, and the world is already a sadder – and quieter -- place. When Helen loved, she loved deeply, and there was nothing she loved more than family, food and talking, in that order.
Helen Therese Boscia was born in Chicago on December 30, 1927, the second of three children (she had an older sister, Anne, who passed in 2016, and a younger brother, Oreste, who survives her). She tore through life with an energy that the mere mortals among us could only envy. In the yard with a playmate at the family’s home in Little Italy, young Helen would call up to her mother Rose that she was hungry, and in response Rose would lower sandwiches from the open window in a bucket on a rope.
Family, food, talking.
At 15, Helen decided to help the war effort by learning to fly. Not bothering to tell her parents, she took the train to an airfield and talked a pilot into giving her three hours of flying instruction.
She graduated from DePaul University in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree. She was interested in medicine and got a job working in a pathology lab, doing cancer research. One passerby was a clean-cut young intern who always wore a bow tie. She planted herself by the water fountain at a time when she knew he was due to walk past. They struck up a conversation and he ended up asking her to a formal dance the next evening, apologizing for the short notice.
Bob Maganini needn’t have worried. Helen had already bought a dress for the dance before he even asked her.
They married in 1952 and had five children: Tony “A.J.” (Terri), Elena (Scott), Gina (John), Bob (Robin) and Richard (Tammy). They lived in a house in Hinsdale that was filled with love and chaos. Guest spots at the dinner table were filled by distant relatives who just popped by or philosophy professors who taught classes Helen was taking. Innocents who engaged Helen in conversation often wound up treated to a lecture about Hegel or Sartre.
Education was near to her heart and she managed her money so that she was able to help finance the education of any grandchild in need.
Helen spent her final years in the loving care of her son Bob and his wife, who reaped the benefit of her conversational talents as well as her frequently dispensed tips on cooking pasta and other food.
Helen was preceded in death by her husband Bob, who passed in 2010. Richard, their youngest child, died in 2012 after a long illness. Helen and Bob’s ashes will be commingled and buried next to Richard’s grave in Glen Ellyn. Her remaining four children survive her.
The family will remember Helen at a private memorial mass.
Donations in Helen’s memory can be made at HeadfortheCure.org, which funds research for brain cancer treatments.
How did we do, Helen?