Maria Ciotto-Larose remembers her mother, Jeanne Ciotto, who was a den mother for her brothers’ Cub and Boy Scout troops, running one meeting at their home with everyone gathered around the family’s dining room table laughing.
“She was always very active in that and everyone in the neighborhood loved her. She was the best den mother,” Ciotto-Larose said. Jeanne Ciotto was constantly volunteering, Ciotto-Larose recalled, whether it was through her church or at Hartford Hospital, where she would later work as a medical secretary for the dialysis unit.
The children of Jeanne Ciotto and husband Biagio “Billy” Ciotto will now see their parents’ legacy continue with a memorial fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Former state Sen. Billy Ciotto died at the age of 91 in March. Jeanne passed away a month after her husband, also at the age of 91. The couple, who were married for 66 years, had 5 children and 5 grandchildren.
Billy Ciotto had decades of public service under his belt. He was a former deputy commissioner for the state Department of Motor Vehicles and was elected to the Senate in 1994 for the first of six terms representing the 9th District, which included Wethersfield, Newington, Rocky Hill, Cromwell and Middletown. Until shortly before he died, Ciotto worked for Congressman John Larson as his ambassador-at-large.
In addition to Hartford Hospital, Jeanne Ciotto was involved in numerous civic and political organizations, including the Sisters of St. Joseph board, the Red Hat Society, the Young Italian Women’s Club, the St. Theresa’s Guild at Sacred Heart Church and the Wethersfield Senior Center.
Ciotto-Larose said the Biagio “Billy” and Jeanne Ciotto Memorial Fund was the brainchild of former Sen. Paul Doyle, who followed Ciotto representing the 9th District, and P.J. Cimini, an attorney and lobbyist.
”They’re very good friends of my dad’s and my mom,” Ciotto-Larose said. “There was a group of people that my parents just loved as their own children and those two are part of it. They came up with the idea right after Dad died and they presented it to the five of us. We all loved it.”
Proceeds from the fund will initially be directed toward mental health initiatives and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Ciotto-Larose said. The Ciottos’ five children and grandchildren will be advisers to the fund’s annual grants.
“Their motto that they both lived by and taught us was, ‘Faith, family and friends,’ and to help those who can’t help themselves and to never forget where you came from,” Ciotto-Larose said. “My mother always said it is so much easier to be nice and to make someone smile. My dad always said that every house has their cross to bear. You never know what people are going through.”
Ciotto-Larose said her parents would be thrilled that their family will be participating with this fund.
“They are smiling down,” she said.