Cusmano, Jennie Minardi, 93, passed away March 12th, 2020. A lifelong “Tampan”, she was born on July 15, 1926, the only daughter of Ignacio S. “I.S.” Minardi and Maria Minardi. Jennie, known to her family simply as “Nana”, was perpetually in a good mood and always smiling and laughing. Born into the Depression era, Jennie was seemingly never depressed about anything. At family gatherings into her ‘90s, she was famous for breaking into dance at a moment’s notice. Her doctor once referred to her as “…the most happy-go-lucky person I’ve ever met”, reminding him of “a happy fern, freely blowing in the breeze.”
Like many of her era from Tampa, she could communicate in three languages: English, Italian and Spanish, and would often hilariously mix the three together in one sentence. Jennie grew up in old West Tampa, living above her father’s plumbing shop with a backyard of chickens, goats, and fruit trees. She held true to those humble beginnings and always kept things simple.
Though typically very modest, once she got on a roll, she would brag of her athletic exploits at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Ybor City, for which she attended and graduated high school in 1944. To hear her talk, you’d think she was a gold medalist in the high jump and an all-American softball player.
Jennie worked hard in the family business well into her 70s. Her husband, P.J., and their son, Nelson, may have done the heavy lifting in the field for Cusmano Plumbing, but Jennie ran the show behind the scenes, always with a friendly greeting, and treating every client like an old friend.
She loved socializing and playing cards at the beach house her father built at Redington Shores. One of her favorite stories was playing cards into the wee hours during a hurricane party and putting one of her kids on the top shelf of the closet “in case it flooded”. Happy fern, nothing to worry about.
Jennie was thrifty, as her cabinet full of empty margarine containers could attest. But big department stores like Maas Brothers and Burdines were her Kryptonite, helping her find our favorite Christmas gifts every year. During lunch or after dinner, she and P.J. enjoyed relaxing in their matching recliners, and watching The Price is Right, Benny Hill, and her “stories”. Her love of TV elevated her propensity for using commercial catch phrases, most famously, “You got it, Toyota!”
Above all else, there were her 30 grandchildren, many of whom she helped raise at her home on Gomez Avenue, where she lived for over 60 years. By her own frequent admission, “she loved babies”. If one skinned their knee, she was there with a comforting hug, a dab of MercuroChrome, and something to eat. Self-deprecating, particularly when it came to her cooking, her grandchildren thought she made the best “pasta with the succo” and peanut butter & Saltine crackers in the world. Into her 80s, she still enjoyed her grandkids taking her to play bingo at the Sons of Italy hall, or them painting her fingernails, always bright red at her request. She was one of a kind, never to be forgotten. We will all miss our happy little fern.
Nana was preceded in death by her parents, I.S. and Maria Minardi, her brother, Louis Minardi, her grandson, Philip N. Cusmano, and best friend and true “soul mate”, Philip Joseph “P.J.” Cusmano, her husband of 64 years. She liked to brag that they never fought a day in their lives. She is survived by her four children, Joseph P. Cusmano and his wife Theresa, Mary Ann Griffin and her husband Mark; Nelson S. Cusmano and his wife Debbie; and Philip Cusmano and his wife Patsy; daughters-in-law Marie, Becky, and Kathy; and 11 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild (and another on the way!). In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Joseph’s Catholic School on Gomez Avenue in Tampa, which she attended, or your favorite charity.
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