Reta Harriet Palazzolo, a longtime resident of University City and beloved matriarch, passed on April 13, 2020. She was 102. 

Reta Harriet Palazzolo

Reta Harriet Palazzolo

Born Reta Harriet Stern in 1917 to Freda and Maurice, an electrician, she grew up on Blair Street in North St. Louis. In 1935, Reta married Joseph Palazzolo, whom she met at a boxing match. She was 17. Joe was 23. They eloped in Illinois, hiding their vows until Reta turned 18. The Sterns and Palazzolos disapproved of the union, but they came to accept it. 

Reta and Joe, who owned a scrap business, had five children: Samuel ("Babe"), Bernard, Reta ("Snooky"), Joayne and Stewart ("Skip"). Reta became a receptionist at age 59 to support herself after Joe’s death. The job made good use of her voice, a rasp that was lovely for being unlovely and that she came by honestly. (She didn't smoke.) She often joked that she missed her calling as a singer. Her birthday serenades -- Reta sang to her grandchildren every year, without fail -- were better than any present. 

Reta was small: 4'11," according to her; 4'9," according to imperial units of measurement. But she could stare down an NBA center. She lived through the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression, two world wars, the loss of her daughter Snooky to childhood illness and her son Sam to cancer, and the deaths of her husband Joe and brother Harold “Hershey” Stern. But Reta never lacked for a sense of humor or joy. She loved -- and loved to sing along to -- Dean Martin’s "That's Amore," which her family will never hear again without laugh-crying. Again, imagine her voice. 

Reta lived in her University City home until she moved in with her daughter Joayne at age 98. She read the newspaper every day with a magnifying glass and avidly followed the Blues and the Cardinals. She was frugal and no-nonsense but prideful, warm but skeptical. She hated garlic but loved Skip’s garlic-heavy cooking. 

Reta cherished dinner out on the town, good gossip, international travel with Joayne, and above all, her family, including her 10 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren, and seven great-great grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother Alvin "Al" Stern, son Bernard and his wife Francis, her daughter Joayne, her son Skip and his wife Jackie, and her daughter-in-law Renee. A memorial will be held at a later date. Contributions to BJC Hospice are appreciated.

A Rindskopf-Roth Service