Jan. 20, 1924 -- Aug. 5, 2017
Until she reached her late 80s, Josephine Pera was best known for the white frosted cookies she baked to the delight of generations of her family.
That all changed when the Eggertsville great-grandmother was recruited by her grandson, stand-up comedian Joseph Pera, to make cameo appearances in some of his comedy videos. Josephine Pera played herself, of course, usually interacting with her grandson. But she delivered her lines smoothly and with little nervousness.
"She had this photogenic face that, according to Joe, would 'pop' on film," said Paul Batt, Mrs. Pera's son-in-law.
The topper came last year, when a crew traveled to the Buffalo area to shoot a special for the Adult Swim network, "Joe Pera Helps You Find the Perfect Christmas Tree." They recorded Mrs. Pera, at 92, at her kitchen table for a key scene in the video. She did her own hair and makeup for the shoot.
"She was as funny, if not funnier, than most professional comedians," Pera said of his grandmother. "She never liked doing takes of a line more than once or twice."
The employees and fellow customers at her hair salon all treated her like a movie star after the Adult Swim special came out, Batt said.
"She thought it was funny," Batt said. "She got a kick out of it, obviously."
It was a late-in-life dose of celebrity for Mrs. Pera, who died Aug. 5 in Elderwood at Amherst following a brief illness. She was 93 and had lived in her Eggertsville home up until the final weeks of her life.
The former Josephine Rizzo was born in Buffalo and raised in the Whitney Place section of the city, the oldest of 11 children. She was known as "Red" for her brilliant crimson hair, a nickname used by her friends and siblings throughout her life. She attended P.S. 1 and Grover Cleveland High School and briefly worked in retail at the Wm. Hengerer Co. before marrying Joseph Pera in 1947.
A homemaker, Mrs. Pera raised five children and was renowned for her skills as a baker. She continued to make her famed white frosted cookies every Saturday well into her 93rd year, Batt said.
"Everybody had to come to her house to pick them up," Batt said. At her funeral, instead of a holy card, the family will hand out cards with the cookie recipe on them.
Mrs. Pera was a member of St. Benedict Church in Eggertsville.
She loved keeping in touch with her far-flung grandchildren and she maintained a book that listed their addresses and birthdays. "Everybody got a card and a check," Batt said. "She was just unfailing at mailing them out."
Her husband, a long-time Buffalo firefighter, died in 2010. A daughter, Paula, died in 2005.
Survivors include three sons, Joseph, Christopher and David; a daughter, Michele Batt; a sister, Jessie Smario; 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Christ the King Church, Main Street and Lamarck Drive, Snyder.