Anna Maria Amaroli Gillis
September 8, 1920 – February 18, 2022
Anna passed away peacefully at home with her family at her side after a brief illness. Anna was born in Porretta Terme Italy. She arrived in Boston on a ship at the age of eleven months with her mother, Teresa. This was after her dad had made enough money to send for them. Daughter of Attilio Amaroli and Teresa Guidotti Amaroli, she lived most of her life on a small farm n Dutcher Creek Road. During the Great Depression, they raised turkeys, chickens and eggs, cattle, vegetables and fruit. They managed by picking hips and grapes for others. It was very difficult to make enough money to survive, but they did. The farm is still with the family today.
Anna attended school in a one-room schoolhouse on Dutcher Creek Road not far from her home. The bus became available at 2nd Grade and she transferred to Geyserville schools. Anna’s all A’s report card was sent to U.C. Berkeley by her principal Mr. Richardson. She was accepted to attend. She loved playing the violin and mandolin, but a music major was discouraged. She worked her way through school as a maid, cook and au pair for a wealthy family with two daughters. When the girls became school age, Anna did not drive and was unable to take them to school. She gave up the job and found another as a waitress at a nice family restaurant. Her wage was .35 cents an hour plus tips. Anna graduated in 1942 with a B.A. major in Languages and a minor in Home Economics. She took a college graduate business course at Armstrong Business College learning office machines and she became very speedy in shorthand.
Anna found a job with the State of California, seeking a secretary skilled in Spanish. She worked for the California Farm Production Council. Her boss drew up contacts with farmers who wanted to hire “Braceros” workers from Mexico. This was to help in California agriculture during World War II. She worked with the agency until it closed in 1947.
Anna and her girlfriends attended many dances during the war years in the Bay Area. Here she met Alexander S. Gillis from Texas who was not a good dancer, but wanted to learn. She danced at the commissioning dance for the USS Fulton, which was Al’s ship. They enjoyed dancing and continued their love of it until Al passed. Anna still loved to dance and you could see here at Friday Night Live in Cloverdale still dancing with many special partners.
Anna and Al became engaged in 1943 and wrote daily letters while he was in the Pacific. She volunteered as a USO hostess, but her priority was meeting Al when his ship returned to port. They married December 30, 1945.
Anna and Al moved to Dutcher Creek after his job at Atlas Diesel closed. He worked in the lumber mill and she did secretarial work. Anna was lucky to get a job with Henry Trione in Santa Rosa. She would ride with her brother Ralph to work. Mr. Trione was funding new subdivisions. Anna did the plats for him on paper showing the size and configuration of the house the loan was on for FHA. Long legal sized contracts, she became an expert at producing acceptable requests for FHA loans. Anna and Al decided to build their own little home across the road from the family farm. The book was “How to Build Your Dream House for $3500”. Having no experience except what she learned from Mr. Trione, Anna, Al and Anna’s brothers Ralph and George, built the house by hand. No electricity was brought in until the house was completed.
Al decided to go into the insurance business. He became a Farmers Agent and required Anna’s capable assistance in running the office. She helped him for 27 years until they retired from insurance. Anna went back to work in the medical office of Lombard Sayre MD and then Dr John and Terrie Spenst. Anna worked until 1997 until she was diagnosed with stomach cancer and she retired.
Anna survived cancer and became very interested in organic produce. She supported the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market since its opening in 1978. Anna loved to still go to the market at age 101 and visit with her favorite farmers. She was still cooking daily until her passing. Here love of cooking was enjoyed by family and friends. Her specialty was gnocchi – she loved teaching people how to make them. Gnocchi was always made Christmas morning by Anna.
She did many fundraisers for the Cloverdale Senior Center by cooking elaborate dinners with help from friends. The fundraisers helped build the Senior Center. The Senior Center gave her a 101st Birthday Party in September and she was so thrilled to see all her friends. She loved supporting this worthwhile organization.
Anna was also a strong supporter of the Cloverdale Historical Society. She was a speaker for some of their events about the history of Cloverdale. Her life story is on file at the History Center and she was so honored when a young girl wrote a story about Anna for a class assignment.
Anna and Al loved to travel in their trailer and had many happy adventures. They met many people and came home with great memories. They traveled cross country several times, one to attend the decommissioning of the USS Fulton in 1991. They were both active in the USS Fulton Association, traveling to many reunions. Al was a plank owner of the ship and Anna danced at the commissioning. They loved to share their memories with new members.
Anna’s passion was painting and she said that this was her therapy. She loved sharing her paintings with others. She served on various art groups and was Cloverdale’s representative to the Sonoma County Arts Council for ten years. Anna was still painting daily until her fall.
Anna was a founding member in the early 1970’s of the “Fun Girls” luncheon group. Many new members were added throughout the years and the still met until the shutdown. Anna loved seeing her friends and giving hugs.
Anna was a member of the V.F.W. Ladies Auxiliary and past member of Cloverdale Grange #456.
Anna is survived by her loving daughter Shirley and her “favorite” son-in-law Gary; her beloved granddaughter Cara and partner Adam; nieces Jackie Kennedy (Jeff), Aileen Reeves (David), and Lisa Amaroli; nephews Thomas Amaroli (Gisella) and Paul Amaroli; great nieces and great nephews and a large extended family in Italy. Anna leaves a host of many cherished friends. She was preceded in passing by husband of almost 70 years, Alexander Gillis; her brothers Ralph Amaroli (Theodora) and George Amaroli (Marilan).
A heartfelt “Thank You” goes to ProMedica-Heartland Hospice. Their compassionate care of Anna and support during this time was much appreciated. Thank you to our friends for your support, too. Donations in Anna’s memory may be made to the Cloverdale Senior Center 311 Main Street Cloverdale CA 95425 or to the Cloverdale History Society 215 N. Cloverdale Blvd. Cloverdale CA 95425.
A Celebration of Anna Maria’s life will be May 21, 2022 at the Cloverdale Veteran’s Memorial Building located at 205 W. First St. Cloverdale CA from Noon-3pm. Please RSVP to the Cloverdale Senior Center 707-894-4826 before 4pm May 13th.