Born Thelma Mae Saunders in upstate New York on July 30, 1928, Thelma moved to Port Washington, NY, just like her sisters. She attended beauty school in New York City and became a beautician, working at the Port salon Kay and Ann’s. She met and married John M. Villani, a Thanksgiving bride, on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1955. John, a musician and graduate of Port Washington schools, owned Long Island Home Cleaning on lower Main Street, like his father before him, who also owned a business there making fine Italian shoes. Thelma answered the business phone from their home while taking care of five girls. John then opened Villani Realty on Port Washington Boulevard, a commercial real estate business, and Thelma received her real estate sales license and helped to manage the properties they owned, even long after John’s passing in 1984. They had a reputation for kindness and generosity to tenants.
Thelma was a traditional homemaker, making every holiday and family celebration special with decorations, cards, gifts, candles and together with John, food. Many family who lived in Port would “swing by” her home unannounced to help with errands, chat a little or have their hair styled. Thelma taught her girls to sew, knit, crochet, embroider and clean the house. She instilled in them a respect for higher education and encouraged them to study, achieve and work outside the home. She was a very good Girl Scout leader for many Girl Scout troops throughout the years. Together with her coleaders, she provided many interesting experiences.
She was devoted to her faith in God and Jesus Christ through the Catholic church throughout her life as a parishioner of St. Peter’s of Alcantara, where she had been married and raised her family. She passed away peacefully at home on Saturday morning, Nov. 19, in the presence of her family and devoted caregivers, in the spirit of how she cared for her mother and mother-in-law. She will be remembered by sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and daughters as a woman of grace and poise from a by-gone era who enriched the lives of her family in her own unique way.