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Obituary: Joanne Petito, 90

Joanne (Modafferi) Petito, known to her family and friends as “Jo” or “JoJo,” passed away peacefully in her God’s loving arms on July 10, 2023, in her home in Stow, Mass., following a 3-year battle with stage IV ovarian cancer.  She had just celebrated her 90th birthday with people from all walks of her life.

Born in Boston, Mass. on June 21, 1933, to Anthony and Eva (Frissore) Modafferi, she was the oldest of 2.  Her sister, Geraldine (Geri Modafferi) DiMasi died on her birthday, Sept. 20, 2021. 

Joanne spent her childhood in both Watertown, Mass and Boonton, NJ, and her young adult years in Long Island City, NY.  She graduated from Hunter College High School in Manhattan, NY.  Through a high school classmate, she met and married Michael Charles Petito on Jan. 24, 1954.  They started their life together in South Ozone Park, Jamaica Queens, NY, following Mike’s debilitating stroke at 24 years old.  They had 4 children.  Joanne is survived by 3 and their spouses: Michael Charles Jr. Petito (and Denise) of Vassalboro, ME; Ely (Laxamana) Petito of Lynnfield, Mass. (his first marriage); Ellen Ann (Petito) Micol (and Larry) of Worcester, Mass.; and James (Jimmy) Matthew Petito formerly of Waltham, Mass.. Their infant son, Vincent James, died at 8 months of a virus. She’s also survived by her Grandchildren, Adrienne (Petito) O’Brien (and Tim) of Lynnfield Mass.; Eric Vincent Petito of Vassalboro, ME; and David Michael Petito of Glen St. Mary, FL. her Great-granddaughters, Jocelyn (Josie), Mary O’Brien, Alexa (Lexi) Joanne O’Brien, and Rhett Aileen Noyes.

Following the birth of Jimmy in March 1965, they drove their family – 3 kids, Husky their dog, 2 cats Penny and Tiny, and their turtle Oscar – from Queens, NY to Watertown, Mass. where Joanne spent the next 42 years.  She worked as a bookkeeper all her life at Instrumentation Labs (I.L.), Cosmetics Plus, Specialty Products, and Occupational Therapy Associates (O.T.A.) all in Watertown. Joanne went to college and received an Associate Degree in business from Fisher Jr. College when she was 51 years old and even made the Dean’s List!  Music, particularly classical, was an important part of her life.  She played piano, resuming lessons in her 80s, and sang with the Lexington Pops chorus for many years. In her 70s, she was committed to enhancing her mental and physical health, so she began practicing Tai Chi.

Family meant the world to Joanne and she was committed to staying connected to family out of state. Back then it was safe to put your kids on a Greyhound bus alone, so she did. Traveling as a family to California on a 3-day bus trip or a 36-hour trip to Tampa, Florida were 2 very memorable trips. Joanne graciously hosted numerous family gatherings and life celebrations at 28 Forest St, for not only her immediate family but extended family as well.  She opened her heart and home so that everyone felt special and welcomed.

In 2007 she sold her home in Watertown and moved to Stow, Mass.  She treasured the community of friends she found at Meeting House where she lived for 16 years.  For 13 of those years, she was a dedicated volunteer with the Stow Council on Aging – again making lifelong friendships. 

JoJo’s favorites include pasta, knitting, walking, dancing, gardening, the color red (please wear red to the wake or funeral in her honor), forsythia, geranium, lilac, the Summer, sun, hummingbirds, re-using and recycling, her kitty Tuxie and all her pets.  She had an appreciation, love, and respect for all God’s creatures, and thus followed a vegan diet for the past 43 years, long before it became popular.  To Joanne, every life was precious!

The lifechanging events that shaped her into the beautiful, strong, fiercely independent woman she became include:  her 24 year old fiancé’s debilitating stroke, delivery of a stillborn baby girl, the death of her 8-month-old son Vincent, her divorce and raising her children alone while working full time, reading about the cruel treatment of animals in the food industry, and also confronting, enduring and coping with the mental illness of her son, Jimmy.  It was her support group and her very strong faith that helped her through these traumatic times. 

Those who knew Joanne/Jo/JoJo, were grateful to have had her in their lives.  She was a dear friend to all and will be fondly and forever remembered for her kind and caring ways, her love of family, the pride she felt in her Italian heritage, and her deep devotion to the Catholic faith.

Visitation hours will be on Monday, July 17, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Fowler-Kennedy Funeral Home, 42 Concord Street, Maynard, MA 01754.  The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 18, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Isidore Parish, 429 Great Road, Stow.  Burial will follow at St. Patrick Cemetery, 999 Belmont St. Watertown, Mass.

In lieu of flowers please make a memorial donation in Joanne’s name to:

The Pat Brody Shelter for cats 499 Northfield Road, Lunenburg, MA 01462 or St. Isidore Parish, 429 Great Road, Stow, MA 01775.

Arrangements under the care of Fowler-Kennedy Funeral Home, A Life Celebration Home, Maynard.  To share a memory or offer a condolence visit: