May 11, 2005 — Funeral services are scheduled Wednesday May 18 for Blanche Sasso who died Tuesday night at Roy L. Schneider Hospital. She was 105 and known best as the Virgin Islands "grand lady."
Perhaps the oldest living resident on St. Thomas, Sasso, who was also known affectionately as "Mama Sasso," "Granny" and "Auntie Blanche," was born Sept. 15, 1899, in her Bunker Hill home. She grew up in the Virgin Islands under Danish rule.
In 1921, she and her sister played an important role in Virgin Islands history when they embroidered the territory's first flag.
Sasso graduated from Convent School on St. Thomas, where her musical talents were encouraged. She soon took up playing the cello and the piano. In fact, family members recall that her love for music continued to her final days.
Sasso began her teaching career in the public schools in 1921, teaching on both St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Specializing in teaching the performing arts, Sasso developed her own school on the first floor of her family home. She married Ernest D. Sasso, a former finance commissioner, in 1921. The birth of her only child, Leah, led to the closing of her school. She later returned to teaching at Sts. Peter and Paul School in 1950, at which time she taught kindergarten, first and second grades until 1967, the year after her husband died.
Sasso was named teacher of the year on several occasions and was acclaimed by Pope John Paul II, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and the sitting President George W. Bush. Former Gov. Alexander Farrelly also recognized Sasso's contributions, as has Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who last year, on her 105th birthday, proclaimed Sept. 15, 2004, as Blanche Mary Joseph Sasso day. She has also been honored by numerous community organizations.
Sasso who died of respiratory failure, is survived by her daughter Leah, three grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Her survivors also include a large extended family and a circle of close friends.
Family members said Wednesday night that Sasso had taken ill in the past few weeks and was hospitalized. Viewing will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17 at the John Thomas Funeral Chapel. A final viewing will be held from 8 to 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday followed by a funeral mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.