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Letters from Home: Marianne (Leonard) Sabatino

by Patricia Heffernan

Dear Mary Jo,

Though they will never acknowledge it, Aunt Marianne, Mom (Barbara), Aunt Betty Lou and Aunt Linda are renowned for their hospitality.

Those who have ever wandered into a Leonard Sister kitchen unannounced and shared in a meal or a simple coffee break know that the delightful food is only a small part of what makes the welcome so warm.

The Leonard Sister approach to hospitality should come as no surprise considering their upbringing, Mary Jo. The McManus family of Lakefield and the Leonard Family of East City were no strangers to guests at their tables. Perhaps somewhere in their story, we’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon their secret recipe for attracting return visitors into their lives.

Marianne (Leonard) Sabatino

Marianne is admired by her sisters for her cleverness and wit, her exquisite culinary artistry and her impeccable style. They add, most sincerely, that she is in a class all of her own when it comes to kindness, generosity and hospitality.

All this, coupled with her lovely looks, proved to be more than enough to pique the interest of Joseph Sabatino, son of Lakefield’s John and Margaret Sabatino. And, it didn’t take long for Joe to impress Marianne, either.

“It would be nice to go to the hockey game, tonight,” Marianne sighed to her sisters and within earshot of her uncles. “It’s too bad we don’t have enough money to go.”

Knowingly, their kindly uncles John, Vic and Leo reached into their pockets and dug out enough silver for their nieces to enter the hockey game.

With some begging and pleading, young Betty Lou convinced Marianne and Barbara to take her with them. “I thought they were the most beautiful people in the world,” Betty Lou says of her two older sisters. “And whenever they took me with them, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

The sisters met chums, including their closest friend and kindred spirit, Middy (Margaret) Heffernan, at the old Colborne Street arena. Her sisters say that Marianne took no notice of any activity around her because Joe Sabatino was playing hockey that night.

Whenever Marianne began to expertly whip up a batch of spaghetti and meatballs at home, one uncle would quietly say to the other, “He’s coming for dinner.”

According to Barbara, Joe could do no wrong in the eyes of her older sister. Whenever Marianne took Barbara out in the car to practice driving, Marianne was quick to say, “For goodness sake, Barbara, don’t let anyone see you stop at the stop sign! Just slide right through it like Joe does.”

Marianne’s sisters, who think the world of their brother-in-law to this day, say, “It is no wonder that the handsome and well dressed Joe Sabatino caught her eye.”

Marianne’s school friend, Denise (Doubt) Edwards, says, “Marianne was such a wonderful artist that she could have made a career of it had she chosen to.” She adds that her good friend and classmate was calm, quiet and respectful of others and that they have cherished memories of growing up together in Lakefield.

Marianne has fond memories of good neighbours and friends Keitha Pearson, Denise Doubt, the Wassons, the Brattains and the Hunters. She laughs when she recalls how they quarreled with the Wassons over religion.

True to her Catholic training, Marianne would inform the Wassons, “I know it’s not your fault, but you’re not going to heaven.” In response, one of the Wassons would inevitably retort, “I suppose you’re going off to confession to tell all the bad things you’ve done!” Then as quickly as their differences had flared, they vanished and everyone resumed the business of play.

Marianne says that her parents, sisters and family have always meant so much to her throughout her life and that her husband, Joe, has always loved them all. “We were happy and we didn’t lack for anything. Our uncles were so good to us and we loved them.”

That’s not to say that the sisters didn’t have their moments, Mary Jo. When scrubbing the kitchen floor, they often disagreed over who would wash the side around the kitchen table. And when Betty Lou, the adored youngest for many years, disappeared when it was time to wash dishes, her older sisters said, “Yes, she has to go to the bathroom again!”

Beyond those amusing moments, Marianne recalls no sibling rivalry They enjoyed each other’s company and accomplishments, sang while they worked and traded clothes with only occasional controversy over particular sweaters on date nights.

Marianne recalls how much they all adored Baby Linda when she came along in 1946. Linda says, with affection, that Marianne has always been like a second mother to her.

Marianne has fond memories of “Teen Town” dances held every Saturday night at the Town Hall. She recalls the waterfront pavillion as another source of great entertainment with Big Band music by Herb Knox, Bob Sutton, Leanna Payne, Charlie Ridpath, Jack Chittick, John Peel, John Deck and others.

Marianne remembers good times after the war with family purchases of their first television and an automatic washer and how her lovely and hard working mother, Bregetta, enjoyed these luxuries so.

Marianne recounts the gathering of friends and neighbours at their home one evening in the mid-1940s to watch a heavyweight boxing match between Joe Louis and Billy Conn. Men from the Village, including John and Joe Sabatino, Charlie and Harry Armstrong, Dr. Alec Fraser, Mucker Hall and Tom and Kevin Heffernan, filed into the house and gathered ’round the television in anticipation of a great fight. The fight lasted just two minutes and only minutes had passed when the same men tipped their hats in thanks to the McManus family and filed out again.

Overnight stays with her grandparents, Daniel and Leona (LaCroix) Leonard in Peterborough were a delight for Marianne. Having moved to the area through work in the historic Marble Works district in Vermont, Daniel and Leona raised their family in East City. Marianne and her sisters loved to spend time with them and especially with their Aunt Jeannie and Aunt Alice Ann whom they considered cousins since they were the same age.

As the Leonard-Sabatino romance flourished, a typical date included a movie or an evening of dancing at The Pines or at Club Aragon where Bobby Kinsmen and his Orchestra performed as the house band and big names such as Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington appeared.

After finishing school, Marianne enjoyed working at the Bank of Montreal in Peterborough and wedding bells began to ring in 1957.

Barbara recalls Marianne as a beautiful and gracious bride when she married the dashing and devoted Joseph Sabatino on August 17, 1957. Barbara admired her sister when, with grace and sincerity, Marianne thanked her mother, her father and her uncles for all they had done before departing on her honeymoon.

Barbara, Betty Lou and Linda all agree that, from that special day forward, Marianne and Joe Sabatino have touched many lives in quiet and generous ways too numerous to mention.

Marianne and Joe are proud grandparents of Christina, Cara, Tyler and Jessica and are ever grateful for the love and friendship they share with their children, John and Faye (Carveth), Mike and Samantha (Bolton) and Carla.

Through quiet, generous giving of themselves, Marianne and Joe have produced a generous harvest for family, friends and their wider community. Like countless drops of water, their selfless promotion of others through education, business and service have formed ripples with no conceivable end.

I know how deeply fond you have always been of our aunt and uncle, Mary Jo. I hope the sharing of this story reflects the multitude of reasons for the depth of your affection for them.

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