Sister Gemma Atanasio, a Sister of Our Lady of Charity, died peacefully at the convent in Carrollton, Ohio, on Saturday, April 20, 2013, at the age of 97. She was born February 27, 1916, in Ozone Park, New York, and was one of four children born to Anthony and Carmela Atanasio.
Sister attended schools in Ridgewood, N.Y., where Braille and typing were offered, as she was born sightless. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a BA majoring in romance languages. Sister was employed as a transcriptionist by the Dictaphone Corporation and secretary to the vice-president for 11 years prior to entering the convent. She was the first handicapped person hired by Dictaphone. She was proud that her work performance opened the door for other visually challenged persons to be employed prior to the American Disabilities Act. She traveled the subways to work with her seeing eye dog, Queenie. During 1939 and 1940 she worked the World’s Fair advocating the need for training availability for the handicapped and demonstrating her capabilities.
Sister entered the convent in Wheeling in 1952 and was a generous and faithful member for over 51 years. There she continued her secretarial/receptionist work for many years in the community. She also taught Braille to students from the nearby Catholic high schools.
In 1968 Sister Gemma ministered for four years at Maurawood, a maternity home for unwed mothers, in West Palm Beach, Fla., as receptionist and secretary. During this time she completed her certification in medical transcription. She then worked at the Catholic Service Bureau in West Palm Beach, traveling daily from Delray Beach to West Palm by bus.
Sister returned to Wheeling and her secretarial work in 1980. She was a member of the Legion of Mary and of the St. Michael Parish adult and funeral choirs. As her health failed she came to the convent in Carrollton where she continued to support others, especially through prayer ministry.
Sister was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Joseph, her sisters Mary Fucito and Sister Anthony Atanasio, OLC. She is survived by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; her niece, Sister Eileen Fucito, C.P., of Memphis, Tenn., and nephew Ralph Fucito of Raleigh N.C. and several great nieces and nephews.
Mass of Christian Burial was held April 24 at the convent in Carrollton, with burial in the Immaculate Heart Cemetery.