Sunday, April 11, 2010

Melanie Margaret Loreti (Mitchell), Seamstress, Restaurateur, “Cool Mom”

From a very early age, Melanie Loreti, who was born Melanie Margaret Mitchell, a woman whose outgoing and enthusiastic personality set her apart, enjoyed the finer things in life.

Her sister, Linda Bischof, recalled when they were both flower girls in their oldest brother Larry's wedding. Melanie was thrilled when she learned she'd get to wear pale pink patent leather shoes and a very frilly new dress.

As the baby of the family with four older brothers and one older sister, Melanie set herself apart with her sense of humor and outgoing demeanor. She viewed life as something to be enjoyed to the fullest.

She attended Valley Forge High School in Parma Heights, Ohio, and worked for many years at Bride 'n Bouquet on Pearl Road, a bridal shop owned by her mother, Viola Mitchell. Through her work at the shop, Melanie became a skilled seamstress who also had a talent for dealing with difficult customers. Long before the term Bridezilla was invented, her niece Bernadette "Bernie" Telmanik recalls that Melanie was able to calm the nerves of tense brides-to-be and reason with them. She had an amazing ability to relate to people she had known just a few minutes, instantly empathizing with them and making them feel she completely understood their needs.

In high school, Melanie drove a '69 Mustang Mach I, and she wasn't content to be a hands-off car owner. Instead, she eagerly asked her brother Mike, "Hey show me how to do this," and Mike demonstrated. Mike fondly recalled how proud Melanie was that she could change the oil on her Mustang and tune up the car's engine, entirely on her own. Melanie also enjoyed frequent nights out, disco dancing with her niece and co-worker Bernie.

As a birthday gift in her mid-20s, Melanie's parents bought her a vacation to Italy. On that trip, she met Gianfranco Loreti, who was working as the maitre d' at a restaurant in a luxury hotel, and it was love at first sight. She returned from the trip and announced to family and friends that she was moving to Italy to marry the man of her dreams. Melanie and Gianfranco were married in his hometown of Colle di Tora, Italy.

After living in Italy for a short while, they returned to the U.S. where they briefly lived in Cleveland. However, they longed to own a restaurant of their own, away from Cleveland's harsh winters.

Together they opened Ristorante Ciao in Naples, Florida, on April 9, 1987. Melanie used her sewing skills to decorate the restaurant, and she was the restaurant's business manager. Melanie's vivacious, fun-loving personality always put customers at ease, and the restaurant flourished.

Melanie and Gianfranco had four sons during their marriage: Gregory, Alessio, Sebastiano "Basti" and Michelangelo "Mickey."

As a mom, Melanie never lost her love of loud music and encouraged her kids to invite friends over to watch movies. She was the “cool mom” other kids wanted to hang out with because she understood what being a teenager was like. Yet Melanie was also a firm mother with an eye on her sons' futures -- she insisted on good manners, high grades and help around the house. Each son went on to study engineering.

Melanie made sure the family saved up to enjoy summer trips to Italy. In addition to visiting relatives, Melanie built in side trips to other cities in Europe, carefully choosing the most beautiful resorts and finest restaurants. She knew her sons would treasure these experiences for the rest of their lives.

Through the years, friends and family occasionally called upon Melanie's background as a seamstress, and she was always ready to help. When her niece Susan was about to be married, Melanie did the alterations on the dress. The result was flawless -- the dress fit like a glove. Bernie recalled sending her daughter's choral uniform for alterations, and despite providing only the measurements to Melanie, her ability to tailor the piece to the exact need was remarkable.

After her marriage ended and her youngest sons were away at college, Melanie started a new chapter in her life, this time in Cornelius, North Carolina. Along with her companion and business partner, Rob Coles, she opened Norman's Grille in early 2009.

Even as her illness weakened her body, Melanie insisted on visiting with guests at her restaurant. They loved her "contagious enthusiasm" and her ability to remain optimistic despite the challenges that accompanied opening a new business.

Services for Melanie, who died Wednesday, May 6, 2009, at age 55, were held on May 9, 2009.

Survivors include her four sons, Gregory, Alessio, Sebastiano and Michelangelo; brothers, Larry Mitchell, Terry Mitchell (Nancy) and Mike Mitchell; and sister, Linda Bischof (Larry). Nieces and nephews are Jennifer Sloan (Bob), Charles "Pete" Mitchell (Susan), Bernadette "Bernie" Telmanik (Jim), Jerry Mitchell (Shelly), Kate Mitchell, Susan Mitchell (Larry Nutter), Sherry Adamson (Jamie), Roger Mitchell, Daniel Bishof (Dana) and Julia Bischof. Melanie was preceded in death by her parents, Glenn and Viola Mitchell, and a brother, Gerald "Jerry" Mitchell.

This “In Remembrance” was composed by Melanie’s family, edited slightly by and originally posted on on Aug. 20, 2009.

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