Mafalda Boccelli Ames passed away peacefully at home on March 15, 2022. Mafalda was born in Peterborough in 1925, which made her 96 years young. It would take a novel to express the positive impact Mafalda, or so fondly known as Muffie or Noni, had on her family and those that had the opportunity to get to know her. What you would witness is a woman dressed to the nines and sharp as a tack. She was proud to be an Italian- American, proud of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, proud of her immigrant parents, proud to have been honored to share her family's history at the dedication of the Boccelli Garden and proud to have received a proclamation from the town of Peterborough, proclaiming her an outstanding citizen. In the last months of her life, when asked for advice she’d leave for the family, she lit up with her beautiful brown eyes and said, “Just Go For It!”
Her spirit is carried in the hearts of many generations: Her three daughters-Deborah Ames and spouse, Jim Murphy of Peterborough, NH, Susan Lammel and spouse, Wayne Lammel of Arapahoe, NE, and Janet Boccelli of Taos, NM, her five grandchildren- Erica and spouse Derek McKenzie, Sarah and spouse Patrick Skertich, Ayla Shipley, Jerod Shipley, and Elysa and spouse Tristan Carrillo, and five great grandchildren- Keenan, Kameron, Ian, Finley, Mabel, Paxton, and many cousins, nieces and nephews. What the family would like to express is that it was not luck that led her to a long, full-filling life, but an open-mindedness to continue learning, a commitment to maintaining health with exercise & healthy home-made food, and when adversities should arise to move through, around, and above them.
Mafalda was the last of 8 children to be born to Michael and Maria Boccelli, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1910 and 1913. Her Italian immigrant parents bestowed upon her the importance of patriotism for this country of freedom and opportunity, generosity to those less fortunate, and a hard work ethic. Both her parents worked diligently, Michael as a landlord, cobbler, and gardener and Maria as the operator of their 4-story Italian boarding house which stood on Grove Street just below the GAR Hall (Post and Beam Brewing Co). In 2011, the town proclaimed a piece of that property to be called the Boccelli Garden. Mafalda remembered the day her father planted the single apple tree which still stands on that property and bears fruit to anyone walking by in the fall. Mafalda spent many of her adult years compiling a notebook of interesting facts and memorabilia about her parents’ life and their contributions to the town of Peterborough; a copy can be found at the Peterborough Town Library and the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.
Mafalda loved researching history. She was gifted a camera in the 7th grade by her sister, Virginia, and captured photos of the Peterborough flood in 1936 and the town fire in 1944 that damaged the original movie theater next to her father’s cobbler shop. These photos are currently displayed in the theater’s lobby. Muffie was a witness to many historical events and clearly remembered when the Zeppelin flew over their home on Grove Street and later learned of its fire demise. She was extremely athletic and played on an all-women’s basketball team during her high school years at Peterborough High. Her interests were many: playing the piano, taking photos, sketching, jitterbug dancing, listening to music, bowling, sewing, baking, reading, and traveling; they all brought her great joy, even in her nineties.
During her youth, the US flag had a very profound meaning for Mafalda, and it was proudly displayed on the front lawn of her parent’s home every day. She continued this tradition throughout her life at her residence. As a sophomore, she began a hobby of collecting and saving newspaper articles that she felt were important to the direction of the country when FDR was president. They have remained in good condition because of her great care of sentimental possessions. In high school, Muffie contributed to the war efforts by making a Victory Book seeking donations for books to send to the “enlisted boys”. After her graduation, she began working at the American Guernsey Cattle Club. When the war ended and the boys came home, they formed a group called the “O’Riley’s” and bonded with stories, music, and dance. Muffie fell in love with the man that could jitterbug to her heart’s delight. In 1948, she married Russell Ames, who had been a flight officer in the Air Force in WWII; they were married for 51 years.
Some say that dancing was her key to longevity. If you had the chance to witness her on the dance floor, you could see every cell radiate with joy- the faster the dance, the better! She joined the Monadnock Tri-State Dance Club in her 70’s that met every Saturday in Keene or Vermont and continued jitterbugging till she was 89.
Her husband, Russell passed away in 1999, and to honor his family, Mafalda spent many of her adult years researching the Ames’ contributions to the town of Peterborough dating back to the 1700’s. She gathered facts and created a notebook documenting 2nd Lt. Timothy Kneeland Ames, who fought and lost his life in the Battle of Bull Run. She made it a point to visit and walk on the field in Manassas where this battle took place. This collection of information and memorabilia can also be found at the Peterborough Town Library and Monadnock Center of History and Culture. Mafalda had great respect for anyone who participated in the military; she marched, rain or shine, wearing her father-in-law’s WWI uniform until she was 89. Charles W. Ames had received the La Croix de Guerre from France during WWI and she felt this honor should be remembered. Jim Grant of the Patriotic Committee assigned Mafalda the task of telephoning over 200 veterans to participate in the Memorial Day parades. With her passion and sensitivity, she put her heart and soul into encouraging veterans to march, and/or ride in the parade, and be recognized for their sacrifices to retain our freedoms.
Mafalda raised 3 daughters. She was a passionate provider and cooked only home-made meals, sewed most of their clothes: pants, dresses, jackets, and formal gowns. She continued to sew Christmas tree skirts, tree top angels, pajamas or stuffed animals and dolls for her grandchildren as well. Besides her talent to sew, Mafalda always cooked incredible meals from scratch. The family members would agree that her spaghetti sauce, wild hand-picked mushrooms cooked as Nona (her mother) would have prepared, drenched in olive oil and garlic, and fresh blueberry pie were her claims to fame.
When her youngest daughter turned 3, Muffie reintroduced herself to the workforce at A&P Grocery Store. With her hard work in the meat, deli and produce departments for 25 years, she was able to buy her first car, a sporty ford mustang, and venture with her daughters to York Beach, Maine, which became her favorite summer holiday escape.
At one point in the 1980’s she began to get headaches from a chemical introduced into her work environment to keep bugs away from foods at the A & P. Mafalda was the sole advocate for the removal of this toxic spray device installed directly above the worker’s head in a room with no ventilation. Her persistent research and letter writing made a nationwide change for all employees working in such adverse conditions and the device was removed. Without knowing, Muffie was role modeling to her daughters to be independent, determined, vigilant, and strong women.
In her retirement years, Muffie would take classes from Joseph’s Coats and learn to craft hand-made dolls or layered plush, corduroy jackets. She took weekend classes at ConVal learning the art of massage. Muffie participated in cake decorating and chocolate making classes so that she could make her daughter’s wedding cakes, and cakes and candies for family or friends’ retirements and birthday celebrations. Her skills at creating were impeccable and she was generous with the gifts she made by hand, be it food or craft.
Mafalda found holistic methods to cure her headaches and altitude challenges and introduced herbs and vitamins to her daily regimen. Unfortunately, she experienced a stroke at age 90 and wasn’t expected to recover. Muffie remained positive and worked hard; she miraculously regained her mental and physical strengths rehabilitating at home. She was always surprising the medical field and it became necessary to remind them not to look at her age when looking at her chart. A perfect example after reading an echocardiogram, the doctor exclaimed, “She has the heart of a 45-year-old!”
When the Monadnock Wellness Center opened, Muffie began a 3X week routine of building strength and cardio-vascular health until it closed due to COVID. She realized the importance of an active lifestyle, if she wanted to keep up with the younger generation which gave her ‘joi de vivre’! This joy of living included her love of adventure and travel be it by plane, train, cruise ship or automobile. A life-long dream of Mafalda’s was to venture to Italy and meet her relatives in Castel de Franci. Mafalda’s eldest daughter and Italian relatives from Massachusetts were able to make this reunion happen when she was 71 years old. Family meant the world to her; she longed for the opportunities to visit California, Nebraska, Kansas, Chicago, and Taos, New Mexico where her other children, grand-children and great grandchildren live. She was always up for a new experience and adventure.
Mafalda challenged herself to learn something new in every decade of her life. She took on the role of motherhood in her 20’s; she reintroduced herself to the workforce in her 30’s; she learned to ski in her 40’s; she drove cross country from NH to Oregon in her 50’s; she snorkeled off the coast of Belize in her 60’s; she volunteered at the Peterborough Players and played a role in “Anything Goes” with the Actor’s Circle Theater Group in her 70’s; she still emailed and google searched information in her 80’s; and she text messaged and Face-timed with her iPhone; and, she raised and released monarchs in her 90’s!
Throughout her life, Mafalda was always asked about the origin and the spelling of her name. When she was a young girl, she asked her mother why that name was chosen for her. Her mother told her that she was named after Princess Mafalda of Italy and hoped the name would entitle her to good fortune. Mafalda believed her good fortune was to have been blessed with a loving family and a long life that allowed her to share countless experiences/adventures with her daughters, grandchildren, and relatives. May Mafalda’s legacy continue to inspire us to make the most of each day, never use your age as an excuse, and try your best to smile and the world will smile back!
Calling hours will take place at 10:30 am on Friday, April 29, 2022, followed by the Funeral Service at Divine Mercy Parish Catholic Church in Peterborough. The burial will take place at upper Pine Hill Cemetery on Sand Hill Road followed by a reception back at the Divine Mercy Parish Hall.
IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, the family requests donations for the upkeep of the Boccelli Garden and the planting of more flowers to attract the butterflies, especially the monarch. Mafalda became quite fond of monarchs last summer when she participated in the hatching and release of these butterflies. A check can be made out to the Town of Peterborough with Boccelli Garden in the memo, and sent to Deborah Ames, 47 Concord Street, Peterborough, NH 03458