Maria Morris, age 88, of Cokato, passed away Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield.
She was born Dec. 12, 1926, in Naples, Italy, to Giovanni and Anna (Grasso) Battaglia.
Maria attended school only through the second grade, when she began to work outside the home to help support the family.
At the age of 19, while working in a GI laundry, she met George Wandersee, an American soldier stationed in Naples. Maria and George were married Oct. 14, 1945, through an interpreter, as neither spoke the same language.
While George remained in Italy to complete his tour of duty, an extremely frightened Maria joined other “war brides” and departed by ship to America. Her destination was to a farm in Waverly, where she would live with her new in-laws.
Some months later, George returned to Minnesota, and they made their home in Howard Lake. Three daughters and one son were born to this union. Maria was widowed Nov. 19, 1953.
In May of 1954, Maria and her children journeyed to visit her family in Naples. After a three-month reunion, Maria bravely returned to America with her children to become a US citizen and to offer her children the opportunity of good health and education.
Maria married Russell Morris Oct. 1, 1955, in Cokato, where they made their home. Five sons were born to this union. Russell passed away Nov. 11, 1991.
Maria enjoyed her family and was extremely proud of her three daughters and six sons. As the years passed, she became “Nonna” to 21 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Mamma Mia! How she loved them all!
In Maria’s “free time,” she enjoyed bowling, growing houseplants, and winning at bingo. Maria appreciated good food, and good eaters, but never claimed to be a good cook. However, family and friends enjoyed her cooking, especially her lasagna, potato sausage, and glorified rice. Maria used her skills at the Cokato Norseman and Dairy Queen, where she was a cook for many years.
Maria was a proud member of the American Legion Auxiliary for over 50 years.
She was always grateful for many wonderful friends who helped her to learn to speak and read English and to obtain her American citizenship. She had a heart of gratitude for those who prayed with and for her.
Maria is remembered by many for her fun sense of humor and quick wit that sweetened her life with laughter and friendship. But to her family, her lasting legacy will be her gift of love for them, and how her sacrificial love impacted each one of them for the future.
Her motive was to give her family a better life. But the hidden treasure they received, as they witnessed to her about Jesus, was that they, too, grew closer and closer to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Maria was preceded in death by her parents; four brothers; three sisters; her husbands, George Wandersee and Russell Morris; a son-in-law, Stephen Baldwin; and a granddaughter, Laramie.
Survivors include Maria’s children: Rose Baldwin of Barnes, WI, Anna Marie (Joe) Harmala of Cokato, Carlo (Theresa) Wandersee of Elk River, Rita (Greg) Hayek of Minnetonka, Tom (Kim) Morris of Cokato, Jon Morris of Moundsview, Bob (Mary Kay) Morris of Cokato, Timmi (Marianela) Morris of Bloomington, and Tony Morris of Cokato; her sister, Yolanda Castaldo of Naples, Italy; 21 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends.
The funeral service took place Thursday, Aug. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato. Interment was at Cokato Finnish Cemetery.
There was visitation Wednesday, Aug. 12 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the church.
Arrangements were with Swanson-Peterson Funeral Home and Cremation Service of Cokato, www.swansonpeterson.com.