Josephine A. Manfredi, 99, passed away peacefully on June 2, 2021 at Bear Mountain in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Born in Laurel, Delaware on December 7, 1921, she was the daughter of the late Cecil and Eleonore (Bie) Benson.
Josephine (Jo) graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia at the age of 20, after having received a full scholarship at 16. After graduation, she was recruited to be one of programmers for the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) – the first all-electronic digital computer. She turned down the opportunity, however, to remain at her job with Provident Mutual Insurance Company. This allowed her to spend time with her church and at the New Jersey shore, two places that brought her lifelong happiness. She went on to work in finance positions for the Johns Manville Company and The Franklin Mint.
Jo met her husband, Tom, while taking ballroom dancing lessons, a spur of the moment decision made when her vacation plans were unceremoniously cancelled by her employer. They married in 1958 and lived with Tom’s family in South Philadelphia until they could afford a house in the country. In 1961, they moved to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania with their daughter Carol, and Tom’s brother Joe. There they cultivated a life full of hobbies, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, dogs, music, and friends. Jo was a congregant and choir member of Elam United Methodist Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania for over 40 years. Tom and Jo, both city kids, reveled in the suburban life, but had an urban upbringing that enriched their lives and the lives of those around them.
In 2004 they moved to The American Inn in Southwick, Massachusetts to be closer to Carol and their grandchildren. After Tom’s passing in 2006, Jo lived independently at the Inn for another 13 years. She created a fulfilling life for herself there, enjoying the company of friends, as well as many of the on-site activities.
Jo embraced technology after retirement. The ability to connect with the world through the internet fed her curiosity and love of learning. She became a formidable Words-With-Friends opponent in her 90’s, and at 98, taught herself to text on a flip phone. This, and her Kindle, became her lifeline when her hearing began to fail.
While she found comfort in the precision of numbers, Jo savored the ambiguous and subjective nature of the arts. She enjoyed listening to music – classical, opera, choral, the popular music of her era, and of course, her daughter’s and granddaughters’ musical performances. She sang in church choirs most of her life and was a proud alto (but could begrudgingly tackle a soprano part if she had to). She enjoyed reading poetry, historical fiction, and anything written by Jodi Picoult. But most of all, Jo cherished her extensive art collection which included original works by accomplished family members, as well as several local Brandywine Valley artists. She was a proud docent of her “gallery” and was always happy to give tours.
Josephine was predeceased by her husband Tom, brother-in-law Joseph Manfredi, and her parents. Her younger sister, Eleanore (Benson) Carver of Damariscotta, Maine, predeceased her by only several weeks. To cherish her memory, Josephine leaves her daughter, Carol Spelman of Longmeadow, Massachusetts and Carol’s partner Howard Strickler; her granddaughters, Grace and Julia Spelman; Grace and Julia’s father and stepmother, Stephen Spelman and Elizabeth Dineen; her niece Alison Carver, her nephew Davis Carver and his wife Carla, and her nephew Louis Manfredi and his wife Joanne Carroll. She also leaves behind the Brandywine Crest neighborhood “kids”, many of whom stayed lovingly connected with her until she died.
A celebration of Josephine’s life will be held with family later this year.
If you’d like to make a memorial contribution in Josephine’s memory, please consider the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. https://www.brandywine.org. Arrangements are under the direction of Forastiere Smith of East Longmeadow. Condolences, and messages for her family, may be expressed by visiting www.forastiere.com
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