Volume 78 / Number 20 - October 15 - 21, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower
East Side, Since 1933

Obituary

Anne Eco, married the boy downstairs, dies at 100

By Albert Amateau

Anne Eco, born and raised in the Village, where she helped run a grocery store with her late husband until 1960, died Wed., Oct. 8, in St. Vincent’s Hospital six weeks after her 100th birthday.

“She had been declining for several years and died after a brief illness,” said Robert Fleck, a lifelong friend whose family had been Village neighbors of Anne’s family since 1910.

Born on Downing St., she was the daughter of Nicolina Botte and Salvatore Porzio, both immigrants from San Bartolomeo near Naples. Her mother and father had met in New York, but separated when Anne and an older sister were small children. Her mother then married Umberto De Agostini, a chef who worked for several years at the Waldorf-Astoria and later on the Hudson River Day Line excursion boats between New York and Albany.

The family lived in various places in the Village: on Sullivan St., Vandam St. and then on Grove St. above a grocery store. Anne first attended a school on Washington Square South run by French nuns of the Our Lady of Mercy order.

“She was the kind of child who got into trouble at school,” said Fleck. He recalled a family story about Anne when she was in the first grade and wandered off from the nuns’ school, across Washington Square Park, up Fifth Ave. and past Washington Mews. “It was where families on Washington Square kept carriages — and where one family had a cow tied up,” said Fleck. Anne untethered the cow and took it for a walk up Fifth Ave., until the school was alerted and a nun came running up, and returned the cow to the mews and Anne to school, Fleck related.

When Anne was 8 years old, the family moved to 19 Grove St. and Anne was enrolled in P.S. 3 nearby. She left school after the eighth grade and found a job with the telephone company.

“She was baptized at Our Lady of Pompei as Giovanna, but everyone called her Anna,” Fleck said. “One day, a group of her teenage girlfriends at the phone company told her that Anne sounded better and that’s what she went by from then on,” Fleck said.

Since she was 8, Anne lived about a grocery store on Grove St. run by Peter Eco, who was 10 years older that Anne. Peter had worked in the store as a boy and took it over from his parents around 1920.

When Anne was 16, she and Peter went out to dinner with another couple, Peter’s friends, Fleck related.

“After a while she asked what time it was,” Fleck said. “It was 10:15 or so and she said, ‘Oh! It’s past 10 o’clock, my stepfather will kill me.’ Pete said, ‘O.K., so let’s get married.’ His friend said he knew someone in the East Rutherford, N.J., town hall, so he called and they went out there, I guess they drove, and they were married. The certificate — it’s on town stationery — is dated Jan. 3, 1925,” Fleck said.

Her husband, Peter, ran a grocery store at 42 Grove St. and then at 23 Grove St. In the early 1930s, he opened a grocery store at Sullivan and W. Third Sts. where Anne worked with him until they retired around 1960.

In 1957, Anne and her family moved into the ground-floor apartment at 40 King St., a house that her mother, Nicolina, a dressmaker who became a successful dress designer, bought in 1950. Anne and Peter had two sons, Peter, a cinematographer, who died in 1996, and Richard, a retired teacher, of Canajoharie, N.Y.

Nicolina died in 1976 at the age of 95, and Anne’s husband, Peter, died in 1977 at the age of 80.

Anne celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends at Villa Mosconi restaurant on MacDougal St. Over the years, she kept many pets, both cats and dogs, and when they died, she had them buried at the pet cemetery in Harts-dale, N.Y.

“She decided not to have anymore pets, but a few months ago a cat began hanging around her back door and wouldn’t go away. She called it ‘Baby’ and finally took it in,” said Fleck, who goes to the King St. house daily to look after the cat.

In addition to her son Richard, she is survived by a half-sister, Maria Bragalini, who ran Maria’s Cin Cin restaurants in the Village and Midtown for many years. Three grandsons, five great-grandchildren and four step-grandchildren also survive.

The funeral was on Oct. 10 at Our Lady of Pompei Church on Carmine St. and burial was in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale next to her husband, who had served in the Army Air Service in 1918 when he was 20.

Perazzo Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker St., was in charge of arrangements.

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