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Obituaries

Agatha Lanzillotti

Died: Sunday, August 11, 2013
Age: 93
Agatha Lanzillotti, 93, recently passed away in hospice care in Park Ridge, Ill.

Mrs. Lanzillotti, in addition to being a loving wife and mother, had a long, diverse professional career that included writing, acting, and teaching.

During the 1950s and 1960s, living in Lake Geneva, Mrs. Lanzillotti was a reporter for the Janesville Gazette. Mrs. Lanzillotti won many news awards and was noted for her coverage of several contentious events that occurred in and around Lake Geneva including the spread of dutch elm disease, which ravaged thousands of trees but previously had been relatively unknown in Wisconsin, a multi-year controversy surrounding the construction of the Highway 12 bypass, and a proposal to build the U.S. Air Force Academy on the shores of Geneva Lake. In 1954, a visiting delegation of Air Force engineers was greeted by demonstrators opposing the school when the party came to inspect land. Never one to avoid a good story, a photo on the front page of the Gazette showed Mrs. Lanzillotti in the middle of a face-off between the engineers and demonstrators.

Other events covered by Mrs. Lanzillotti included summer visits to Lake Geneva by world famous pianist Dave Brubeck and trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Mrs. Lanzillotti had long conversations with them and afterward remarked at how gracious they were in discussing their lives. She interviewed senators John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey during their 1960 campaigns for the Democratic Party nomination to run for President. A sidelight of the interview with Humphrey was that her husband, G.M. Lanzillotti, and Humphrey had been close friends at Louisiana State University and her husband and Humphrey had occasion to reminisce about their university experiences and eventual careers.

Mrs. Lanzillotti, along with co-author Leo Terry, wrote a musical play about the history of Lake Geneva that was staged at the Lake Geneva High School auditorium in 1958. The semi-professional production, featuring local actors, singers, musicians, and support crew played to standing-room-only audiences, was widely acclaimed in the region, and attracted comment in Chicago and Milwaukee newspapers. It was often mentioned that the “whole town” was involved in the production and was a source of great civic pride.

At other times in the 1950s, Mrs. Lanzillotti taught in a one-room elementary school near Lake Geneva and was a member of the editorial staffs of the American Journal of Ophthalmology and the Encyclopedia Britannica, working mostly from home. In the 1970s and 1980s, while living in Chicago, she wrote several children’s stories and tutored reading to at-risk youngsters as part of a community project.

Mrs. Lanzillotti for many years worked at the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters in Chicago as a copy writer for, among other things, product descriptions that appeared in the famous Ward’s catalogs. To better understand the details of the products, she enjoyed visiting manufacturing plants throughout the U.S. to meet with designers.

In the 1940s and 1950s Mrs. Lanzillotti acted in little theater presentations in Louisiana and elsewhere and was a character voice on live radio soap operas originating from New Orleans radio station WWL.

Mrs. Lanzillotti (nee Passantino) was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana and often talked about the unique culture at that time in the city and state and about the happy family times she had with her mother Josephine and father Joseph, four younger siblings and a host of relatives and friends. She received a Bachelor’s degree in 1940 from Louisiana State University where she majored in English She married G.M. Lanzillotti, another Louisiana State University student, in 1939 and they were married for 72 years until his death in 2012.

Mrs. Lanzillotti is survived by her devoted son Adrian (Young Hee) Lanzillotti of Fairfax, Virginia, and daughter Diana (Robert) Karis of Chicago, and grandsons Michael Karis and John (Eden) Lanzillotti of Chicago and Paul Lanzillotti of Las Vegas.

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1942: U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Hornet is sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, in the South Pacific. Led by legendary flier Jimmy Doolittle, 16 U.S. Army B-25 bombers broke through Japanese defenses on April 18, 1942, to strike Tokyo and other cities in broad daylight.
1950: A reconnaissance platoon for a South Korean division reaches the Yalu River. They are the only elements of the U.N. force to reach the river before the Chinese offensive pushes the whole army down into South Korea. A year after leaving West Point, Lt. Joe Kingston was en route to Korea, where he, like a lot of others, found himself retreating and advancing in a single day.
1954: Chevrolet introduces the V-8 engine.
1955: The Village Voice is first published, backed in part by Norman Mailer.
1957: The Russian government announces that Marshal Georgi Zhukov, the nation's most prominent military hero, has been relieved of his duties as Minister of Defense. Khrushchev accused Zhukov as promoting his own cult of personality and saw him as a threat to his own popularity. Red Army Assault on Berlin.