Josephine ‘Jo’ or ‘Nonni’ Daisy Operti Del Papa
April 30, 1930 - January 10, 2021
Born in Bakersfield, CA, Jo was the daughter of Domenico Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Operti and Anna Maria Roero Operti Garrone – immigrants from Bra and Ceva, Piemonte, Italy. At the young age of two years old, Jo’s father passed away unexpectedly, which left a void in her life. Her mother then re-married to Vincent Garrone. Jo was later blessed with the birth of her sister and life-long friend, Marguerite Garrone Bentz.
Jo’s love for animals and agriculture was developed while being raised on a small farm in the Greenfield area. She attended Fairview Elementary and graduated from Kern County Union High School in 1948. It was during these years she developed life-long friendships with her country neighbors and classmates. She even re-connected with her childhood friend, Masako, whose family had been relocated to an internment camp during WWII.
After graduating high school, Jo took a job with Pacific Finance. Some years later, she was introduced to Robert ‘Bobby’ Del Papa, a farmer from the Kern Lake bottom area. Bobby and Jo were married in 1953 at Sacred Heart Church. They lived in Kern Lake until 1958 and during this time she gave birth to first son Mark (1954) and second son Stan (1956). In 1958, Bobby and Jo moved to a home they built on Baldwin Road near the Valley Plaza. Their third son Steve was born in 1963.
Bobby and Jo started their lives together running a small family-farm operation and later purchasing Valley Plaza Liquors. Always willing to help, Jo devoted much of her time to helping with the family business, and, after Bobby had passed away in 1980, she continued to operate the liquor store for five more years. Jo will forever be remembered as an outstanding cook, most notably her specialization in authentic Italian cuisine. While her three sons were growing up, most Sundays were spent preparing homemade spaghetti sauce and a roast which the whole family would enjoy. Her sons’ friends frequently visited the Del Papa household, and it was guaranteed they would never leave hungry.
Jo was very talented in all the different hobbies she pursued. Even though most of her time was spent raising a family and helping with the business, Jo managed to find time for gardening, sewing, tole painting, decoupaging, etc. However, her strongest passions were expressed through China painting. Over the years, she won many blue ribbons at the local Kern County Fair for her China painting displays. Through her more than 50 years of China painting, Jo met many wonderful people, many becoming life-long friends. Many friends and family were blessed with gifts of her beautiful artwork.
Jo finally got to visit the homeland of her parents and meet some of her Italian relatives when she went to Italy with her son Steve in 1989. She had a wonderful time with her family members in Verona, Turin, Ceva, and Florence, and with her late-husband Bobby’s relatives in Santa Maria Del Giudice. She travelled again to Italy in 1994 and this is where her heart would forever remain. Jo took a lot of pride in being Italian and what the Italians have provided the world in food, art, architecture, and hospitality. In 2019, Jo’s Italian relatives, Francesca and Marinella, came to visit her in Bakersfield. She cherished these visits dearly, and it gave her a chance to speak the Italian language and reflect on memories of her time spent in Italy.
Josephine had an immense appreciation for nature. This stemmed from her time visiting family and friends’ cabins on the beautiful Greenhorn Mountain. In her golden years, she enjoyed maintaining a beautiful yard (always overflowing with vibrant flowers), completing the daily crossword puzzle, watching Jeopardy and Dodger games, and car rides with her dog, Lady. Besides her own cats, Jo always fed the stray cats in her neighborhood since she could not stand to see them go hungry. She also enjoyed attending mass and Eucharistic Adoration at St. Francis Church, Golden Ager lunches, and Italian Catholic Federation meetings.
Amongst all the other aspects of her life, her greatest joy was being a “Nonni” to her five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. It is because of this she became known as “Nonni” to many people. She cherished spending time as Nonni at birthdays, sporting events, get-togethers, holidays, and dinners at both Woolgrowers and Benji’s.
The family would like to extend a special “thank you” to the following people: Her sister and friend Marguerite who visited her almost every day and brought her any special food requests she had. Her beloved caregiver, Sheila Gray. Over the last four years, Sheila drove her to doctor appointments, beauty days, and car rides, including occasional trips to the casino. Sheila kept Nonni going with constant positive energy and doted on her, especially when Nonni was not feeling well. And, Dr. Tommy Lee who monitored her medical conditions closely and gave her tough talks when needed to keep her going.
Her body finally wore out, even though her mind stayed sharp until the end. Nonni passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, January 10th. She was under the wonderful care of Hoffmann Hospice.
Jo was preceded in death by her parents and step-father, her husband Bobby, brother-in-law Angelo Fanucchi and sister-in-law Hazel Fanucchi. She is survived by her sister Marguerite Garrone Bentz, sister-in-law Diane Del Papa Butkiewicz. She is survived by her immediate family including son Mark (Mindy) and his children Robert, Andria (Jeff) Destefani, and Danielle, son Stan, son Steve (Birdie) and his children Vincent and David, and great grandchild Giuliana Josephine Destefani.
In lieu of flowers, Jo’s memory may be honored by a donation to the following animal related charities or a charity of your choice:
DELTA Rescue, PO Box 9, Glendale, CA 91209
Bakersfield SPCA, 3000 Gibson St, Bakersfield, CA 93308
Critters Without Litters, 4300 Stine Road, Ste 720, Bakersfield, CA 93313
Pallbearers will be Robert Del Papa, Jeff Destefani, Vincent Del Papa, David Del Papa, John Bianchi, John Coombs, and Joe Butkiewicz. Please bring a mask.
Rosary and mass services will be at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 12300 Reina Rd, Bakersfield, CA on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 10AM. Graveside burial at Hillcrest Memorial Park, 9101 Kern Canyon Road, Bakersfield will follow church services.