Elizabeth P. Sgarlat

Sgarlat_ElizabethWEBFINALElizabeth (Paragallo) Sgarlat ,  age 97, of Milton, MA passed away peacefully on January 1, 2014 with her daughter and son-in-law by her side. Beloved mother of Mary Anne (Sgarlat) Baumgartner and her husband Michael, of Milton and Zurich, Switzerland.  Devoted aunt of Danielle E.  deBenedictis (Karlson), Louis C. deBenedictis, Peter Karlson, and Diep V. deBenedictis.  Sister of the late Luis Marden and Anita deBenedictis.  Sister-in law of the late Ethel Marden and Daniel deBenedictis.  Wife of the late Francis A. Sgarlat. Mrs. Sgarlat is also survived by her great nieces and nephews, Francesca and Christopher Karlson, Daniel, Grace and Matthew deBenedictis, and great-great nephews Andre and Marcus Karlson.  She retired from Harvard University (former Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Graduate Society for Advanced Study and Research, now Graduate Society Fellowship Program). Mrs. Sgarlat was born Elisabetta Maria Paragallo on October 12, 1916 in Chelsea, Massachusetts at 22 Chestnut Street to Louis and Ersilia (Poté) Paragallo.  Her family’s houses in Chelsea welcomed many Italian immigrants as their first “port” of call after landing in New York and Boston, where her parents and grandparents assisted the new immigrants with finding housing and jobs.  She graduated from Simmons College and Middlebury College with graduate degrees in Romance Languages and Literature.  Her specific field was 20th century Italian poetry and translations.  Her translations of poems by the Italian poets Guido Gozzano and Eugenio Montale are published in Twentieth Century Italian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, edited by L.R. Lind, Bobbs Merrill, 1974.  She was a voracious reader all her life.  Her daily readings included a wide range of literature from the English satirist P.G. Wodehouse and the American crime novelist Donna Leon to the Italian late medieval masters of Dante and Petrarch.

During the war she was a volunteer with several Boston organizations. Her fiancé, Joseph Costello of Harvard, was killed in the war.  She later married Francis Abbott Sgarlat, and they had a daughter, Mary Anne.  Mrs. Sgarlat worked for many years at Harvard University, first at the Medical School and later for the Harvard University Development Office, where she was instrumental in developing the fund-raising arm for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), with the establishment of the Graduate Society for Advanced Study and Research, now the Graduate Society Fellowship Program.  She declined to call herself a feminist, but was certainly a woman ahead of her time.  Although a woman of deep faith, she decided to end her marriage to Mr. Sgarlat and returned home to Milton, where her parents built their retirement house. It never occurred to her that she could not achieve success in her own right. One small example is that Mary Anne recalls her mother’s charge and credit cards, which were in her mother’s own name, not a common practice at the time.  Socially, she had a vibrant and active life.  She was, in particular, a supporter of several cultural institutions in Boston.  As a devoted patron, she regularly attended the Friday afternoon concerts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the exhibitions of the Museum of Fine Arts.  She was a member of the Circolo Letterario Italiano and other social and charitable organizations.  She was an avid theatregoer and, together with her mother, attended virtually every play and musical in Boston during the Broadway tryouts, and then would travel to New York to see them again.  She attended opening night of “South Pacific” and recalls standing on her chair with her mother cheering Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza.  She was passionate about the arts, taking her daughter to her first opera at the age of 9 (Don Giovanni at Harvard University’s Dunster House Opera Society).  Her daughter Mary Anne also recalls their trip to New York to see the Mona Lisa at the Metropolitan Museum during its visit from Paris in 1963.

She was a keen swimmer and skier in her younger years, and enjoyed many summers at her vacation houses, first in Centerville, MA and later in Scituate, MA.  She was also a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan and is a member of the generation who never thought they would live to see the Sox win the World Series; but she got her wish after all, and even managed to convert her European son-in-law to baseball.  Her greatest joy in later life came with travel in her 80s to England and Europe, where her daughter was living, and when her daughter Mary Anne married Michael Baumgartner of Zurich in 2000.  Mrs. Sgarlat said that Michael was the son she never had and they enjoyed 14 years of a wonderful mother/son relationship. She was a true intellectual, an elegant and brilliant woman with wonderful style, a great lady. She was also a woman of deep religious faith who attended daily mass at St. Agatha’s in Milton, as well as St. Anthony’s in Boston.  We will not see her like again.  May she rest in peace.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Agatha’s Church, Milton, on Tuesday, January 7th at 10:30 AM.  Interment is private.  In lieu of flowers, donations in Mrs. Sgarlat’s name may be made to St. Anthony Shrine, 100 Arch Street, Boston, MA 02110 or Marina Bay Skilled Nursing Center, 2 Seaport Drive, Quincy, MA 02171. There will be a memorial service in Boston in mid-March to which family and friends are invited.  More details will be forthcoming.