Arlene was born on October 16, 1938 in Yonkers, NY to Albert and Angelina Tesoro (née Aurrichio), the younger sister of Marie. Arlene attended Roosevelt High School and met her soulmate, Ronald, at Stuber’s Nursery. They were married in 1958.
Arlene was the first in her family to attend college, earning a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. A talented artist, she designed and made her own wedding dress and briefly worked in fashion before starting her family. Arlene moved from fashion design into art where she mastered many mediums, including: sculptures in clay, wood, bronze and marble and painting in oils, watercolors, sumi-e and acrylics.
Arlene and Ron raised their young family in Briarcliff Manor, NY before moving to Rome, Italy in 1967. It was during her years in Rome that Arlene began to study art and work in clay and palette knife painting. When the family returned home, they settled in Short Hills, NJ and later in Rye, NY, where Arlene continued to develop her artwork, all while raising her 5 children and volunteering in the community.
Arlene and Ron traveled extensively throughout the US and around the world, especially in their retirement, but Italy remained their spiritual home. In 1992, Arlene learned to hand paint maiolica ceramics, contributing original designs to the Grazia Maioliche studio in Deruta. The following year, she was Artist-in-Residence at the University of Georgia art program in Cortona, Italy, where she worked in marble and advised students on their craft.
The only natural athlete in the family, Arlene’s childhood nickname was Butch. She was a tomboy growing up and, as an adult, she played softball (aka Little Blue) and tennis. She was the beloved star on the baseball field during intergenerational softball games at the annual family reunion she hosted for her mother’s extended family. It was Arlene, not Ron, who taught her sons how to play football, throw a baseball and defend themselves against bullies!
Her inherent creativity extended itself to everything Arlene did: from cooking to cutting hair to creating costumes for her grandchildren to designing the logo for the Italian Cultural Society (ICS) in Naples, FL, where she and her husband were early influencers. At ICS, she was renowned for the elaborate themes, table settings and costumes she designed for their galas.
A brilliant cook, Arlene started La Bella Forchetta with several close friends in Naples to explore the regional cuisines of Italy. For each dinner, the group would pick a region, study its history, design a menu and prepare a dinner to celebrate the local specialties. Her delicious meals brought family and friends together, creating cherished memories around the dining table. Whether a grand feast or a simple gathering, Arlene’s cooking filled not just stomachs, but also hearts. A standing family joke is that we always wished she would cook just one more pound of pasta for dinner.
While Arlene shunned the limelight, she had a quiet sense of humor that came out with her family. She was especially creative at family weddings, artistically enhancing statues and painting ‘Help Me’ on the soles of her son’s shoes, visible to the attendees when he knelt at the altar.
Arlene was her family’s quiet compass. She packed incredible strength into a petite frame, creating both a physical and psychological home base for her husband, children and grandchildren. Though soft-spoken, Arlene’s presence was powerful and her calm nature had a reassuring effect on all who knew her. We remember her with smiles and gratitude. She leaves behind a legacy of love, good food and creativity that will forever live on in the hearts of those who knew and cherished her.
A private memorial will be held with family and friends in the coming months. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, in memory of Arlene Diorio.