Mary Allegra (née DeStefano) was born in December, 1949 in East Boston, Massachusetts, the eldest of four children who survived childhood. With her beautiful voice she sang at funerals when she as still a child. She graduated from Boston College where she majored in Biology and extracurricular activities. (She worked for Julia Child as an intern, sang with the Boston College Chorale and in coffee shops, rode an elephant in the Boston Opera Production of Aida, was the sultry late night voice on BC radio, and helped found a communal college in the President’s House.) She met her husband to be, Frank Allegra, when she was fifteen and he was eighteen. (Her aunt was married to Frank’s uncle - no blood relation).
They married in 1971 at St. Lazarus parish, with Frank’s brother, Fr. Chris celebrating the Mass and their favorite cousin, Fr. Eugene, delivering the homily. They wrote and memorized their own vows. She passed up on a trip to Europe with the Boston College Chorale to go on her honeymoon. She moved to Manhattan, where she and Frank both worked for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. In 1972 she gave birth to their eldest daughter Jennifer, born two and a half months prematurely. They took her home seven weeks later when it was calm in the eye of a hurricane.
From 1973-75 they lived in a residence hall at Rutgers University, where Frank was the Director and she was his boss as Assistant Director for Residential Life. With her creative ideas she transformed Rutgers residence halls and founded The Rutgers Repertory Theatre.
In 1975 they moved to Philadelphia where Frank was Director of Harnwell House at the University of Pennsylvania and she was - you guessed it - his boss! She was Associate Director of Residential Life.
They then lived in large Victorian houses where they rented rooms to other young adults. Meanwhile she was creating a community at the Newman Center at the University of Pennsylvania, even after she left Penn, leading the guitar folk group and throwing memorable parties.
She got a civil service job with the City of Philadelphia, eventually working her way to General Human Resources Manager of the Water Dept. She was proudest of starting an apprentice program with technical high schools to replace aging City trades workers. For a while she was a keynote speaker for national water organizations, stressing the need for diversity. She won awards for her work as a board member for Philadelphia Academies Inc.
In her spare time when their daughter was a teen she directed youth theater productions (abbreviated plays which she condensed) for the University City Arts League, housing many teens over the weekend at their home after rehearsals. She also conducted the guitar folk group at St. Francis DeSales for 23 years.
Their son Christopher, who acted in some of the theater productions as a small child, was born in 1985. When he was old enough in 1999, Mary and Frank started traveling to Europe, often with friends and family - 14 trips in 20 years - where she took some excellent framable photos and wrote entertaining travelogues. For Christmas she lavishly decorated their home, which was on several Christmas tours.
She served as President of the University City Arts League, President (twice) and Treasurer of Garden Court Community Association, and Secretary of Curio Theatre. She hosted many fund-raising events for these and other organizations. And then there were the wonderful parties for their friends - Christmas, New Year’s, Super Bowl, and - in earlier days - Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Halloween. And the elaborate dinner parties and the all day Thanksgiving Dinners!!!
She is survived by her husband Frank, daughter Jennifer, son Chris, daughter-in-law Jennifer, grandchildren Claire, Mike, and Lin Rose, sisters Irene and Janine, brother John, and countless adult “kids” who considered her “Mom”.
Services Saturday, August 24th at
St. Francis DeSales Church
4625 Springfield Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Viewing: 10 AM - Noon
Funeral Mass: Noon
Reception to follow at their treasured home, 4603 Cedar Ave.
In lieu of flowers, consider donating to
Curio Theatre: www.curiotheatre.org/ways-to-donate.html
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary A. (DeStefano) Allegra, please visit our floral store.
815 South 48th Street, Philadelphia PA 19143