Remembering Marie Scarpelli: Beloved Parish Secretary Kept Faith During Illness

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

Wilfredo Gonzalez, Jeanne Shannon, and Mirna Roman come from completely different walks of life, but they all have something in common, or rather someone.

“I remember she always had candies on her desk,” Gonzalez said.

“Every time I’d come to the office she would say help yourself and just talk to her,” Roman said.

Marie Scarpelli sat at this desk for nearly 40 years as the parish secretary at St. Elizabeth Church in Ozone Park.

Gonzalez, the church’s bookkeeper and director of religious education, said nothing stopped Scarpelli from doing her job, not even colon cancer, and definitely not chemo.

“She never complained about her sickness,” Gonzalez said. “She would go to chemo at 9 a.m., and she. She would tell father, I want to go back to work after my chemo.”

Scarpelli passed away on April 19 after keeping her illness a secret from the larger parish community.

“There’s many people that never knew, never found out that she was sick,” Gonzalez said.

“Because there was never a change in her demeanor or her attitude, or her friendliness, or her smile,” Shannon said.

For Roman, an employee at the parish and St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy, Scarpelli’s absence has left a void.

“It’s hard to get used to, you know, not seeing her beautiful smile,” Roman said. “There’s no words about it. And you can never replace someone like Marie.”

Shannon, the principal of St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy, said she misses their talks when she would run errands that brought her away from her post and into the rectory.

“I’d sit down and we would just chat for 15 or 20 minutes,” Shannon said. “And to be honest, it was a great, sort of respite from the struggles of the job. I knew Marie would be here and I could sit and chat with her.”

In the parish calendar, in a spot reserved for the day’s Mass intentions, Scarpelli jotted one down on her birthday this year.

It’s since been replaced with ‘remembrance’.

“If I learn one thing from her, it’s when you are suffering, you always look at God,” Gonzalez said.

“I think Marie’s legacy is just immeasurable,” Shannon said. “The way she did her job was a way to serve God because her faith was very, very important to her.”

Scarpelli remembered everything, every birthday and every anniversary, and it’s part of why she’ll never be forgotten.