Originally printed here in the Staten Island Advance
on September 11, 2010 at 1:00 AM, updated August 02, 2011 at 9:35 AM
Date of Death 9/11/2001
By David Andreatta
Advance staff writer
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — If it were possible to personify the word generosity, it would be the life of Francine A. Virgilio.
The New Springville woman was a trustworthy confidant to her nephews, a shoulder to cry on for her friends, a financial sponsor to a child halfway around the world and a caregiver to her parents.
Now, the 48-year-old vice president of insurance claims at Aon Corp. is listed among the missing in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.
Born in Brooklyn, Ms. Virgilio lived briefly in Sicily as a young girl, but would always call New York City home. She spent nearly 20 years caring for her ailing parents in their Queens home before settling on Staten Island in 1993. A humanitarian who rarely asked for favors, Ms. Virgilio donated her time and resources to several charitable organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Foundation and Save the Children, through which she adopted a little girl.
Even on the day she went missing, Ms. Virgilio had planned to meet her sister-in-law, Susan Virgilio, for lunch in Manhattan, and to give her a 35mm camera so her nephew could take a photography course at his high school. But at 9:05 a.m., two minutes after an airplane slammed into Tower 1, Ms. Virgilio called her sister-in-law from her office on the 98th floor of the building. “Sue, I can’t make lunch today. I’ll call you tonight,” was all she said. But Ms. Virgilio hasn’t called.
With no children of her own, Ms. Virgilio experienced motherhood vicariously through her brother and sister-in-law’s family of four boys. She was known to crack up the boys with her jokes at the dinner table and dispense sound advice they might not have sought from their parents.
“If there was a second mother to us, she would be it,” said her nephew, Kevin. “She would always come up from the city to visit us. We are like the sons she never had.”
Her other nephews are Salvatore, Joseph and Paul Virgilio.
A self-made career woman, Ms. Virgilio entered the workforce as a secretary with the former Frank B. Hall Co. upon graduating from Bishop McDonald High School in Brooklyn. When the insurance firm merged into Aon Corp. a decade ago, she had been with the company so long that co-workers quipped Ms. Virgilio had been conceived by Mr. and Mrs. Hall. She recently celebrated 30 years with the firm. In her youth, she was an active member of several church-sponsored drum and bugle corps in Brooklyn, including the St. Joseph Patron Cadets and St. Rita’s Brassmen.
Of her many talents, perhaps the most notable was her ability to give the perfect gift. Ms. Virgilio could remember loved ones making a comment in passing about a handsome sweater or Broadway tickets months before their birthday or Christmas. Yet the gifts would inevitably make their way into grateful hands. “Giving a gift was the greatest thing for her,” said Susan Virgilio. “A lot of times it was more fun to watch her give the gift than to watch the person she gave it to open it.”
She also had such a knack for finding greeting cards befitting any situation, that relatives used to kid she had an inside contact at Hallmark who custom-made her cards.
One of the highlights of the lifelong New York Yankees fan was meeting Lou Piniella while the All-Star slugger was still with the Bronx Bombers. Ms. Virgilio is survived by her mother, Josephine Sorrentino Virgilio, and her brother, Nunzio.
There will be a memorial mass at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Our Lady of Mount Carmel R.C. Church, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.