Best known for her love of family
Lydia Buonaguro died peacefully of complications from lymphoma in Red Bank, NJ on April 28, 2020. She was 73 years old and is survived by her soul mate and husband Anthony Buonaguro, who feels she was the best woman any man could love for more than 50 years, beloved son Andrew Buonaguro, dear daughter Gina Buonaguro, much-loved son-in-law Ajay Agrawal, treasured daughter-in-law Janine Buonaguro, and the apples of her eye, grandchildren Amelia, Andreas, Nicholas, and Gabriella.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on June 12, 1946 to Gaspare and Josephine Ingoglia, Lydia grew up in the Glendale section of Queens and attended elementary school at Sacred Heart, where she was also a devoted parishioner. At age 10, she even considered becoming a nun. For high school, she attended Our Lady of Wisdom Academy in Queens, where she made several lifelong friends. With the help of her grandmother, with whom she shared a bedroom, she became an accomplished seamstress. On St. Patrick’s Day 1963, when she was 16 years old, she met her forever love, Tony, whom she married at Sacred Heart on August 17, 1968. They both knew deep down from Day 1 that a lasting relationship was possible when they found out they shared the exact same birthday, day, month, and year.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in home economics at Queens College, where she was president of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, and a master’s in education there as well, Lydia’s first job was at a tough middle school in the Boston public school system, where she supported her new husband as he completed law school in Cambridge, MA and they happily started their lives together in student housing.
After briefly returning to New York, where her son Andy was born in 1971, and living for three months in rural Georgia while Tony attended army officer training school, Lydia and her family moved to Leonardo, NJ, where her daughter Gina was born in 1974. There, she and Tony made friendships that would last a lifetime, seven couples that dubbed themselves “the Gourmet Group.” After spending time at home to raise her small children, she decided to go back to work in 1980, but teaching jobs were hard to procure. Ever appreciative of fashion, she worked at Hahne’s Department Store as an assistant buyer.
After several years in retail, Lydia became a preschool teacher at Christ Church Nursery School and also taught sewing and cooking classes for elementary school magnet programs. In 1984, the family moved to Holmdel, NJ, where she unexpectedly became involved in local politics, running Tony’s campaign for town council.
After successful treatment for breast cancer, Lydia went to work for the American Cancer Society, where she was the Education Director for Monmouth and Ocean Counties. She then moved into the financial sector, employed by the Copeland Companies/Citi Street, and used her teaching skills to help people with retirement planning. She was not well known for the excellent expertise she developed in financial planning education, but this was one of her great accomplishments.
In 1993, Lydia moved with Tony to Reston, VA, where she continued to work in financial planning. While she enjoyed her time in the DC metro area, particularly the Fourth of July fireworks on the Mall, she was thrilled to move back to New Jersey, the state she always considered her true home, in 1998.
At first, Lydia and Tony lived in West Orange, where she was successfully treated for endometrial cancer, before moving to Somerset in 2005 and returning to the classroom, teaching first grade at Franklin Park School. She once told Tony that if a shooter ever invaded the school, she would sacrifice her life to save her students. This did not surprise him. During this period, she had skin cancer three times, complications arising from her original breast cancer radiation.
Her retirement coincided with her final move to the Enclave, an active adult community in Shrewsbury, NJ. There, she lived up to the word “active” by both working part-time as an adjunct education professor at Rutgers and Drexel and throwing herself into the community’s social life, using her expert planning skills to start the Scrabble club and organize biannual bocce tournaments. She was also an active participant in mah-jongg and canasta, a book club member, and on the social planning committee, even agreeing to head it after being diagnosed with lymphoma in 2018. She loved the Enclave and fashioned strong friendships with many of her neighbors. A parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, Lydia renewed her marital vows with Tony there for their 50th anniversary on August 17, 2018.
A master planner, Lydia designed and built with Tony as they moved around six homes, where they enjoyed playing Scrabble and Carcassonne, with Lydia reaching expert levels of play, soundly thrashing Tony most of the time. She was a proud parent of Villanova University, which both her children attended, and while never known as a sports fan, she made an exception by enthusiastically rooting for the Villanova men’s basketball team. She was beyond thrilled when they became national champions in both 2016 and 2018.
Another little-known fact about Lydia was her crowning physical achievement: hiking to the top of the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park in Montana. She came to hiking later in life and enjoyed trips with Tony and friends to Smoky Mountain National Park and Vermont, among other places. An avid traveler, she visited 46 of the 50 states, did a seven-week cross-country road trip with Tony, and enjoyed two romantic European river cruises, as well as drove frequently to Toronto to visit Gina and family.
Lydia was best known for her love of family. For her, family always came first. She welcomed both Ajay and Janine into her life, treating them as if they were her own children, and she could not have been happier than at each of the births of her four grandchildren, whom she absolutely adored. “Lala” loved babysitting and playing board games and trains with them all. She was a devoted daughter and granddaughter and a wonderful mother, ready to lend a hand, an ear, or her support at a moment’s notice. She was a loving, caring, and generous family member, friend, and neighbor, always looking for opportunities to organize reunions, parties, outings, and celebrations. And she was a cherished, ardent, and dedicated wife to Tony, their marriage lasting almost 52 years and serving as an example to their children and grandchildren of perfect love and marital commitment.
Lydia had many jobs in her lifetime: educator, financial advisor, wife, mother, grandmother, friend. Now she has one last one: her family’s guardian angel.
Due to the pandemic, a very small private service will be held on May 15, 2020, with a larger celebration of life planned for the future. Funeral services are being arranged by the John E. Day Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating on Lydia’s behalf to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, http://mskcc.convio.net/site//TR?px=4136814&pg=personal&fr_id=3484&_ga=2.165177663.1841047713.1588779445-249596605.1588779445 where she received excellent care.