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Florence B. D’Urso

Florence B. D’Urso, an international philanthropist who was well known for her support of Catholic causes at the Vatican and in the archdiocese, died April 24 at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. She was 79.

A Funeral Mass will be offered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday, May 4, at 10 a.m.

A wake will be held at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Ave. in Manhattan, on Thursday, May 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

Cardinal Dolan, in a statement, said Mrs. D’Urso “was a valued and trusted friend to me and my predecessors, as well as a great supporter of the Archdiocese of New York and many other Catholic causes.”

“Her deep faith and love of the Lord, expressed in many acts of selfless devotion through the years, was never more evident than during the years of her illness, which she never let deter her or keep her from looking for ways to serve others,” the Cardinal said. “I will never forget being with her at the Kennedy Center in Harlem at Thanksgiving time, helping to hand out turkeys and all the fixings, so that families in need could prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal in their homes.”

Through the years, Mrs. D’Urso funded a host of important restorations at the Vatican Museums, including cherished masterworks by Fra Angelico, Perugino, Raphael and Bernini. Last summer, she was awarded the Michelangelo Medal, bestowed on select benefactors of the Vatican Museums.

She was also a devoted supporter of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity. Shortly before Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, Mrs. D’Urso was among those who visited her in a South Bronx convent run by her order.

Her generosity in the archdiocese extended to myriad Church organizations and institutions, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where she funded major restoration work. She was well known for the plants and floral arrangements she provided and designed for the cathedral’s main altar.

In 2003 she became the first woman to be honored at the annual dinner of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. Msgr. Peter G. Finn, then the rector, said Mrs. D’Urso “has truly strengthened and inspired this entire archdiocese by her endless generosity and works of charity.”

“I cannot think of a faith-centered organization which she has not touched in one way or another,” Msgr. Finn added.

Mrs. D’Urso was for many years a member of the board of trustees of the archdiocese’s Inner-City Scholarship Fund (ICSF). She personally provided scholarships to numerous students who otherwise would not have been able to attend Catholic schools, said Susan George, ICSF executive director.

“She was always encouraging of them and would correspond with them. She really cared about the kids,” she said.

Mrs. D’Urso, she recalled, bought pianos several years ago “for 10 of our schools to give the gift of music to our kids.”

She and her husband, Camillo, underwrote the D’Urso Technology Center at Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, where their two sons were educated.

The D’Ursos also bestowed major gifts on hospitals including Calvary Hospital, which dedicated a patient activity center in their name; St. Vincent’s Hospital in Harrison, which named a nutrition center and library in their honor; and the former Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center in the Bronx, where the Florence D’Urso Pavilion was named for her.

Her husband, who predeceased her, was the founder, chairman and president of D’Urso Supermarkets, operated under the Key Food name. Mrs. D’Urso, for many years, was the company’s vice president of design and planning. She later served as chairman and CEO.

She was a ranking member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, the Order of St. Gregory the Great and the Order of Malta.

Her generosity and support was recognized with many awards, among them the St. Elizabeth Seton Award from the National Catholic Educational Association, the Brother Driscoll Humanitarian Award from Iona College and the Pope John Paul II Medal from the United Nations.

Born in Hamlin, Pa., she held a degree in liberal arts from Marywood University and was a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design. She was a longtime resident of Pelham Manor and Manhattan.

Mrs. D’Urso is survived by a son, Mark; two daughters, Lisa D’Urso and Donna D’Urso; and a granddaughter, Michaela Frances D’Urso. In addition to her husband Camillo and their son David, she was also predeceased by her brother, Father Francis Perkosky, S.S., in whose memory she established churches and chapels throughout the world.

Burial will be private.

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