March 26, 1929 — May 16, 2019
For decades, Rosalie Viapiano operated a small beauty salon in her Cheektowaga home, doing cuts, colors and perms for loyal clients.
The social interactions were as important as the income for Mrs. Viapiano, who was one of six sisters.
"We used to laugh and say that my mother didn't make any money," said one of her three sons, Dr. James Viapiano. "She always had food out for the customers, cookies and coffee and so on, and she would decorate for every holiday. And let's just say that her prices were pre-Depression."
Rosalie Sanfilippo Viapiano died on May 16, 2019, in her home in Rock Hill, S.C., with care from Providence Care Hospice. She was 90.
She was born on March 26, 1929, in Albion to Anthony and Nancy Anello Sanfilippo. She grew up in Niagara Falls and graduated from Lasalle Senior High School in 1947. Her yearbook motto was "Softly speak and sweetly smile."
In beauty school in Buffalo, she met her husband-to-be, Anthony Viapiano, who studied hairdressing briefly after being discharged from the Navy.
"Mom finished, obviously, but Dad ended up becoming a bricklayer and working at Bethlehem Steel," said Dr. Viapiano. The two were married Sept. 24, 1949, in St. Joseph's Church in Niagara Falls.
The couple moved into a house on Kuhn Road in Cheektowaga, where they lived for the next 50 years and raised their sons.
In her home beauty salon, Mrs. Viapiano had one chair for cuts and two seats under dryers, her son said. She operated it from the 1960s until the mid-'80s, beautifying a small but loyal client base.
After she closed her home salon, Mrs. Viapiano worked for Sierra Research for about a decade, her son said.
Mrs. Viapiano loved to throw parties for birthdays or any holiday and was jokingly called "the Pearl Mesta of Cheektowaga" after the legendary Washington, D.C., socialite and hostess. She was an avid player of pinochle, dominoes and cards, and she enjoyed baking and bowling.
She was close to her sisters, Antoinette, Charmayne, Constance, Nancy and Mary Ann. Their oldest sister, Concetta, who died as a baby, was always remembered by the family, Dr. Viapiano said.
For some 40 years, the six women had monthly "sisters lunches" together. At their get-togethers, they not only chatted about family events — "who was having a first Communion, where they were going to have the family summer picnic," said her son — but documented the discussion in notes, which they kept. "They have notes going back to the '70s, with all these events documented," said Dr. Viapiano. "That was impressive."
In 1964, the sisters pulled off a surprise party for their parents' 40th anniversary, welcoming some 140 guests to their parents' home on John Avenue in Niagara Falls.
Mrs. Viapiano's husband, Anthony Viapiano, died on July 21, 2004, after nearly 55 years of marriage. After his death, Mrs. Viapiano went to live with her son James in Vermont, then moved to South Carolina in 2012.
Besides Dr. James Viapiano, she is survived by two other sons, Peter and Paul Viapiano; two sisters, Antoinette Sanfilippo and Charmayne Pollow; eight grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Infant of Prague Church, 921 Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga.