Elizabeth M. Freethy, age 73, of Warren, RI, died on Sunday, January 3, 2021 of COVID-19.
Elizabeth was born on October 23, 1947 in Providence, RI to the late John J. and Catherine B. (LaFontaine) Freethy. She was a spirited cheerleader and graduated with highest honors as the Valedictorian of Mt. Pleasant High School, class of 1965. She then pursued a secretarial certificate from Katharine Gibbs College and went on to be proficient in shorthand and stenography. She was also quite skilled at Pig Latin which she and her friends never tired of speaking. She married her high school sweetheart, the late Anthony J. Palazzo. Moving to Fort Worth, TX and Cape Cod, MA where she had her children, she ultimately missed RI and returned to live the remainder of her life. She enjoyed a happy but brief time attending Salve Regina College, in Newport, RI where she considered pursuing a nursing degree. She was always the most thoughtful and attentive caregiver.
Elizabeth will be remembered as a sweet and loving mom. She tried her hand at many things and was good at everything she put her mind to. She was a very talented seamstress and has passed on her love for sewing and textiles to her two daughters. She loved learning and trying new things -- some of her most fulfilled times were spent volunteering and challenging herself. One of her happiest times was when she volunteered at Casey Farm in North Kingston, RI. She would bring home fresh vegetables and was excited about her contribution to the farm. She was a VISTA volunteer teaching English for a time and gained such satisfaction from helping people with their English skills. As kids we remember we could sometimes provoke her, as kids like to do, by purposefully using poor grammar. She felt it was important to know the rules before breaking them. She was always available to help with homework, especially English, and enjoyed word puzzles, making jewelry, upholstering furniture, and even apprenticed as a glass blower.
Elizabeth had a wonderful and dry sense of humor, not to be understood by everyone, and we could make her laugh pretty easily. She often found humor where no one else would, in the ordinary and often serious side of life. Nothing was too serious for a smile. Even during times when she wasn’t feeling her best in her later years, she always maintained this ability and could always take a joke. She also had bionic ears (which her grandson seems to have inherited). We could be whispering in the next room and we would hear her shout “I can hear you, you know!”.
Elizabeth spent her last few years first in assisted living and then in a nursing home due to health complications from diabetes. She had also suffered from depression for many years and ultimately needed assistance caring for herself. In spite of this she had a certain resilience – she came from strong Irish stock after all. In the last few years, she developed early stages of dementia. This made her more optimistic in certain ways – the weather was always beautiful, and she was quite happy with the simple things. She was thankful to the people who cared for her and so were we.
The women in Elizabeth’s family have all lived to be in their 90’s, or even older, surviving the flu pandemic of 1918, breast cancer, and other challenges. Elizabeth was no different – she was a survivor of odds. She lived in a nursing home which was free of COVID-19 cases until weeks before her death. Soon after the first case her body succumbed, and she developed a fever and nausea but tested negative for COVID-19 three days in a row. The fourth test was positive, and her symptoms worsened. It all happened so quickly. She was ill for two weeks. We comforted her as much as we were able, and she knew she was loved and cared for. She died on the way to the hospital on January 3rd.
Elizabeth is predeceased by her husband Anthony J. Palazzo of Bristol, RI. Although divorced, they remained best friends and were significant parts of each other’s lives. She is survived by her much-loved daughters Kristen Palazzo (Michael Berkowitz) of Great Barrington, MA and Gina Palazzo (Michael Kotarba) of Phoenix, AZ; grandson Oliver Berkowitz; her sister Cathy Jurkowski; and 10 nieces and nephews. Elizabeth was buried in a beautiful and eco-friendly seagrass casket. If you knew her, you know how much she loved wicker baskets. She liked the idea of being buried in one too. There was a private green burial at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, RI. We are regretful that there will not be a service at this time for obvious reasons. COVID-19 is real. In lieu of flowers please wear a mask, practice social distancing and do your part in preserving the safety of those around you.
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