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Eleanor (Nora) Meneghetti Berto passed into the next life peacefully, gracefully, and full of faith on January 25, 2023, in Santa Rosa, California, at age 98. Born in Springfield, IL, on September 16, 1924 to Eda (Favero) and Massimigliano (Max) Meneghetti, Nora was always proud of her midwestern roots but considered herself a true “San Francisco Girl” after her family relocated in 1928. A natural born tomboy, she and her younger sister, Olympia, loved exploring the neighborhoods, fields, and playgrounds of Potrero Hill—climbing fences; playing baseball, jacks, and hopscotch; roller skating and jumping rope. She attended Daniel Webster Elementary School, St. Teresa Catholic School, Presentation High School (Class of ‘41, graduating at age 16), and Paine-McMasters Business School, where she studied bookkeeping and accounting. Always a career girl with a “beautiful mind” for numbers, she began working for William J. Raffetto & Sons Insurance and Property in North Beach, managing collections for hundreds of rental properties and developing a lifelong interest in real estate investment. When future Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Dom DiMaggio entered the office one day and asked her to dinner, she declined, explaining he was “wearing a tee-shirt under his jacket instead of a proper shirt.”
World War II loomed during her early adult years in the City, and without hesitation she supported the war efforts by volunteering at the USO. One memorable evening at Bimbo’s Club, she met a handsome G.I., exchanging addresses before he shipped out. They corresponded until war events and injury prevented him from writing. When David Berto finally returned home in 1945, he reconnected with the “good-lookin’ blonde”, and they married on November 30th the following year, honeymooning along the coast to visit California’s missions. They settled into post-war newlywed life, purchased a home in Millbrae, and were soon parents of three baby-boomers. Although a busy mother, Nora still found time to keep her skills sharp by providing accounting services for the Italian-American Pastry Company (now Dianda's) in the Mission. When a job opportunity for her husband presented itself in the North Bay, they relocated to Sonoma in 1956. She became fully vested in “everything Sonoma”—thriving in a community she grew to love as a new neighbor, den mother, Brownie leader, and active member of the St. Francis Mother’s Club, serving up hot dog lunches, planning the fashion show, and volunteering at the annual rummage sale that later grew into the Church Mouse. Still a tomboy, Eleanor entered the annual Kiwanis Pancake Race and won the grand prize: an all expenses paid trip for her family to the newly-opened Disneyland meeting Walt Disney, Lawrence Welk, and the Lennon Sisters.
At 35, she answered a classified-ad for a part-time position as city clerk to fill a mid-term vacancy. One year later she ran another race, this time for the official position of city clerk and began a 41-year career running unopposed in ten consecutive elections holding office longer than any other California elected official serving multiple mayors, city council members, police chiefs, and residents of Sonoma with devotion and joy. “Berto virtually ran the city government while councilmen and other officials came and went. She was a treasury of information about Sonoma and the intricacies of its administration.” (Sonoma Valley Sun, 6/5/08). Often referred to as “the face of City Hall,” she was the one who greeted citizens with a welcoming smile while monitoring payments for business licenses, permits, sales and property taxes, and water bills.
Retiring at age 76, Eleanor stayed active by traveling, attending family gatherings, and interacting with friends in multiple organizations including the Sons of Italy, Italian-Catholic Federation, Sonoma Women’s Club, Republican Women, Sons in Retirement, and the Moose often volunteering as club treasurer. She was regularly spotted at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market registering voters, and treasured being honored as the Grand Marshal of the Sonoma Independence Day Parade in 1994.
A devoted and immensely proud mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she attended as many football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, and volleyball games as possible; every dance, piano, vocal recital, musical performance, or show she could; every baptism, first communion, confirmation, and wedding with joy; and every elementary, high school, college, law school, and medical school graduation without fail. We could always count on “Nonnie Nora” to be the biggest fan in any audience—occasionally even cheering for the opposing team.
Eleanor is survived by her devoted children: Dale (Vic), David (Sharon), and Elena (Jim); her adored grandchildren: Max, Joelle (Anthony), Amy (Nick), Eric (Stephanie), Lindsay (Scott), and Ellen (Matthew); and her cherished great-grandchildren: Ava, Addison, Giulia, Maxmilian, Isabelle, Emma, Henry, Aria, and Louie. She will be missed every day. Eleanor was preceded in death by her loyal husband and brave soldier, David Berto, and her treasured younger sister and best friend, Olympia DeMicheli. Rest eternally and in peace.
A rosary in her honor will be held at 6:00 p.m. on February 15th at Duggan’s Mission Chapel, Sonoma, followed by a memorial mass at 11:00 a.m. on February 16th at St. Francis Solano Church, Sonoma. Interment will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, on February 17th at the All Saints Chapel (new mausoleum) at 10:30 a.m.
For more biographical details, see https://youtu.be/8IwrG3DnddM