We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Cummings - Gagne Funeral Home
Barbara L. Caruso 1933 - 2021
Norwich - Barbara Lee (O'Neil) Caruso passed away July 6, 2021.
She was born November 7, 1933, in Norwich, to Marion Larsen O'Neil and Patrick Witter O'Neil. She walked to school alongside her brothers and sisters Skipper O'Neil (Rae), Tommy O'Neil (Shirley), Patricia Clabby (predeceased 1995), Marion "Sis" O'Neil (predeceased 2018), cutting through the woods near Uncas Leap at Yantac Falls on the way to Norwich Free Academy.
She went on to nursing school at William W. Backus Hospital. She received her nursing degree and after graduation, along with a few classmates, drove across the country to California, widening her sense of adventure. Returning to Connecticut she accepted a job at Backus Hospital as an RN.
Soon after, Barbara attended a wedding and met James Vincent Caruso, a skinny, street-wise, Italian kid from Union City, New Jersey, home on leave from the Navy. He took her to a Red Sox game at Fenway for their first date, swam often at Misquamicut Beach, and taught her (what came to be one of her passions) the game of Pinochle. Against the advice of Grandma O'Neil they were married on August 31, 1957. Today, they have been married for 64 years, inspiring and an exemplary role model for her entire family. Now she is playing pinochle with her mother and father, Patty, Sis and mother-in-law Helen Byrne Caruso, who gave her children, their love of cards.
Her and her husband traveled to the great cities of Norwalk, Lynn, MA, Elgin, IL and Pittsburgh, PA to plant the Caruso family tree and have "her kids" -
James Vincent Caruso Jr. (born January 22, 1959, died January 24, 1959), Michael Joseph Caruso (Emie) of Woodstock, GA, David James Caruso (Bonnie) of Charleston, SC, Cathleen Rettig (Frank) of Arlington Heights, IL, Jeffrey John Caruso (Alicia) of Senoia, GA, Beth Caruso Sanchez (Steve) of Missouri City, TX, and Jennifer Lee Caruso of Woodstock, GA. The branches of the family tree extend to 16 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
She enjoyed fresh snow in the winter, the smell of spring's flowers, the brilliant reds and yellows of autumn's trees and her favorite, a summer afternoon thunderstorm witnessed from a porch on the beach.
Growing up as a young child in the late stages of the Great Depression, she knew the value of an education, how to "be efficient", and taught her children to always do the right thing regardless of the sacrifice for them. Barbara worked nights and James worked days, so her efficiency was paramount, especially when it came to feeding her hungry children. The evolution of food that was boxed, bagged or canned was ideal for her schedule.
They shared many laughs over Barbara being known as the box, bag or can queen. They are quite certain none of them will ever forget the taste of brown bread in a can. But food was always on the table and there was never a stranger who walked through the front door.
She had a gift to put people at ease and make them feel warm and welcomed, as if they were lifelong friends (wink, wink, Mrs. Pat Bowers).
She was also blessed with the gift of humor. Barbara enjoyed a dark Irish sense of humor and could take almost any situation and find something funny about it just to lighten the mood or put you at ease. She loved to send cards for all holidays and always celebrated your birthday or special occasion with a card. She never forgot and never missed a birthday.
During the peak of the pandemic, she was unable to restock her card inventory, so she would use what she had on hand. Once she sent a "Happy Thanksgiving" card with "Thanksgiving" crossed out and "Birthday" hand-written in. But you received the card and it would bring a smile to your heart.
That's who she was, completely unselfish, completely giving of herself, 100% unconditionally loving. She was loved.
A funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, July 31, 2021 at 10 am at the Cathedral of St. Patrick's, 213 Broadway, Norwich, with burial to follow in St. Joseph Cemetery in Norwich.
Donations to Sacred Journey Hospice www.sacredjourneyhospice.com are requested in lieu of flowers.
Please visit www.cummings-gagnefh.com to leave condolences or share a memory.