Gerlanda's Story

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DERRY: Gerlanda Siraqusa, of Derry, N.H., formerly of Waltham, Mass., passed away peacefully Friday morning February 13, 2015, surrounded by her loving family at her home in Derry at the age of 89.

Born on February 7, 1926 in Boston, daughter of the late Ralph and Sylvia (Maffei) Chiacchio, Landa lived during her childhood in Winthrop and for a short period of time in Newton before moving to Waltham where she lived for over 40 years before moving to North Andover then to Derry. For many years, she and her husband, Frank spent the winters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A graduate of Saint Bernard's High School in Newton, Landa unlike many women of her time furthered her education graduating with a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Trinity College in Washington, D.C.

After graduation Landa married in 1949, and became extremely involved as an activist in the Civil Rights movement of the time. She was a founding member of the Waltham Fair Housing Committee. She was passionate about politics and was involved in many local political campaigns. She loved to be to social and entertain for numerous parties at the family home in Waltham.

In 1955 she was a member of the Catholic Interracial Council, the American Friends Service Committee and the Wellesley Fair Housing Committee. In 1960 she established the Waltham Fair Housing Committee which allowed the first negro families to move into Waltham. In 1963, she volunteered at the NAACP Office in the Roxbury section of Boston and in 1965 the Waltham Fair Housing Committee changed its name and became known as the Waltham Human Rights Committee. She established test cases with the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination. She organized silent vigils, lectures, and forums for people to recognize injustice. In 1965, she was awarded the Brotherhood National Conference of Christians and Jews for establishing Waltham Fair Housing Committee and for her work with the socially disadvantaged. Later in 1965, she became the Western area NAACP Representative and all of her children held NAACP cards and helped with her efforts. In 1966, she traveled to Birmingham, Ala. and helped with the integration of the Holiday Inns and formed a local NAACP Chapter where it had been banned for years. In 1967, she helped open a dialogue with Waltham's Spanish community to help integrate them into the Waltham community. In 1968, she was Chairman of the Waltham YMCA organizing a fundraiser using the Boston College Concert Band to further the spirit of equality of all people of different backgrounds. In 1971, she became first woman to serve on the board of the Waltham YMCA. In 1973, she became the Chairman of the Waltham YMCA sustaining membership drive where she received several awards and citations of her work. In the mid 70's, she held coffee hours in many of the homes throughout the Waltham community to bring an awareness about the abuse of drugs and alcohol with the young people of the community.

Landa assisted her husband with his business but was a devoted and loving Homemaker to her family throughout her life. Her central focus in life was her family and spending time with her grandchildren. In her spare time, she loved cooking, arts and crafts, making candles, painting, traveling, playing cards with her old friend Nahir, doing jigsaw puzzles, having "vicious" Scrabble games with her daughters, Christine and Karen, and especially dining out.

Beloved wife for 63 years to the late Francis T. Siragusa and cherished grandmother of the late Anthony Crupi.

Landa is survived by her devoted and loving children, Christine A. Starratt and her husband, William of Lowell, Karen Crupi and her husband, John of Andover, and Gerard Siragusa and his wife, Elizabeth of Derry, N.H.; her cherished grandchildren, William Starratt, Elena Crupi, Christina Kaskiewicz and her husband, Eric, Diana Siragusa and her fiance, Matthew O'Connor, Anthony Siragusa, Michael Siragusa, Marc Siragusa, and Peter Siragusa, and her adored great-grandchildren Gianna and Christopher Kaskiewicz. In addition her beloved grand dogs, "Bubba" and "Bailey."

Relatives and friends were invited to attend funeral services from the Brasco & Sons Memorial Chapels, 773 Moody Street, Waltham, on Saturday morning, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial in celebration of Gerlanda’s Life at Sacred Heart Church, 311 River Street, Waltham, at 12 p.m. Interment followed in Newton Cemetery. Visiting hours were held in the Brasco & Sons Memorial on Saturday morning prior to the funeral Mass from 10 to 11:45 a.m. Expressions of sympathy may be made in her memory to the Doctors without Borders, 333 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001-5004, or the Boston NAACP, 330 Martin Luther King Blvd, Roxbury, MA 02119. Brasco & Sons Memorial Chapels.
Published on  February 26, 2015
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