Geraldine (Zanussoe) Saitta was born on July 30, 1939 and passed away on April 8, 2021 after a 9-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Gerry was born in Passaic, New Jersey and attended school in East Paterson later moving to Clifton where she graduated from high school. She attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in New York City, where she graduated summa cum laude and received the Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award, along with a four-year scholarship to Rochester Medical School. Due to her family financial responsibilities, she declined the scholarship and started her career as a Medical Technologist.
While food shopping with her mother, she ran into her future husband George, who ran back to get a can of sauerkraut to start up a conversation, they married in 1961. Gerry worked full-time to support her husband while he attended college for electrical engineering. During “their” third year of college, a surprise arrived with the birth of their daughter while she was working at the hospital. As luck would have it, she had the ability to walk to the delivery room, during her shift, to deliver her daughter, returning to work a week later. In 1966, after George graduated, the family moved to Huntington Beach, California and in 1968 welcomed their son.
In 1968, the family moved to Florida as George was transferred to the Kennedy Space Center. Gerry kept herself very busy raising the kids, taking care of the pony, cake decorating and volunteering at the local church and school.
In 1973, the family moved back to California but this time to Barstow due to the space program being cut. Gerry began volunteering at the school the kids attended (Mount St. Joseph Catholic School) and quickly realized that there was a real need to provide immunization and lunch programs. She began documenting the need to bring a State sponsored hot lunch program and health (immunization) program into the school. After submitting the appropriate documentation to the State, the school was approved to provide both programs to the kids.
One year and 10 days later, the family moved back to Huntington Beach where the kids started school at St. Bonaventure Church, which is where Gerry focused her attention. At the school she ran the health room for 8 years and coordinated multiple fundraising activities. For the parish there was a 13-year stint as the food chairman for the annual festival and she began volunteering at the HOPE (Helping Other People Every Day) Office. Then in 1978, the pastor, Monsignor Duffy, requested Gerry take over as Director of HOPE. Under her guidance, HOPE grew assisting seniors and families throughout Huntington Beach. The holiday programs grew from the original 25 families to over 800 families. In order to ensure there were enough gifts for the kids, she started making hand crafted angels each year. Each year had to be different and she would search during her travels for the perfect creation. Of course, like all other projects, this took on a life of its own going from 100 to 1,000 each year. Her focus was to make life a bit more manageable for those seeking assistance. Her partnerships with the Orange County Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Oakview Task Force, Catholic Charities, United Way and Toys for Tots helped ensure that the clients were always taken care of.
Gerry exemplified unselfishness, determination, kindness, and patience. She believed that giving of yourself is a privilege not an obligation. In 2014, with these attributes and almost 5 decades of service to her community, she was recognized by the Italian Catholic Federation (ICF). Gerry received The Pope Saint John XXIII Award – the highest award given by ICF to an individual for humanitarian service to society.
After all that is said about Gerry, she was first and foremost a wife, mom, and grandma. Her family was always her top priority – she was loyal, kind, hardworking, dedicated, and a caregiver oh so many times; a partner in crime to all of George’s crazy ideas (Sierra Products 1966-1968 and an embroidery business beginning with the letterman jackets at Mater Dei for the pageantry corps and leading into the 1984 Olympics); she was a jack of all trades for their real estate investments because Gerry could fix anything (bookkeeper, painter, cleaner, and most memorable “Josephine the Plumber”). To break up the work, George and Gerry took vacations and traveled all over the world, cataloging their crazy trips through photographs. Everything she did, she did with grace and patience. She is at peace to watch over and gently nudge her family from heaven.
Gerry is survived by her husband of 60 years George, daughter SueAnn Kuiper and husband David, son George, granddaughter Jessica Kuiper, and brother Richard Zanussoe.
Services will be held at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Huntington Beach. The viewing and rosary will be on April 21st at 6:00 pm; Funeral Mass will be on April 22nd at 10:30 am, which will be livestreamed through a link on the St. Bonaventure website; Internment will immediately follow at Good Sheppard Cemetery in Huntington Beach.
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