Philomena “Mena” Joanna Raphael Archangel Manzella Blank, 95, formerly of Brookfield, died peacefully at home in Naperville, surrounded by love, on April 10, 2023.
Mena was born Oct. 24, 1927 in Buffalo, New York, and raised by Fabrizio and Angela (nee Gorga) Manzella, the second youngest of 15 children, and the last surviving member of her family.
She met her husband, Martin Blank, in Buffalo, before Martin left for Chicago to study at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts on the G.I. Bill. Mena often told the story of the one and only time she lied to her mother: She packed a suitcase and said she was spending the weekend with a girlfriend, but she took a train to Chicago to elope. They wed on March 25, 1950.
Mena had many jobs throughout the years, starting as an assistant to a pharmacist, a profession she had dreamed of pursuing. She loved her work as a caseworker for York Township in Lombard, since she had a passion for helping people in dire need.
She worked as an office manager for various companies and was the director of personnel at the Oak Park Post Office. In retirement, she worked part time at the local junior high, helping struggling students.
After Martin passed away in 1998, Mena relocated from Mundelein to Brookfield, where she became a magnet for others in the condo building, several of whom have remained extremely close to her over the years. In 2019, after a series of falls, Mena moved in with her daughter in Naperville.
Mena is survived by her children, Martin Blank, Cynthia (Kim) Blank, Candace Blank and Steven (Angela) Blank, and her grandsons, Parker, Jordan and her beloved Lew, whom she helped raise when he was small. She also has many, many nieces and nephews spread across the country.
A celebration of life will be held at Unity in Naperville, 1600 Shore Road, Unit C, at 11 a.m. on April 29. In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations in her memory to your local library or Reading is Fundamental, secure.rif.org/page/48405/donate/1.