Lorraine June Sangiacomo, a nurse, matriarch, and founding partner of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, a third-generation family business in Sonoma, California, died on Tuesday, March 7th. She passed away peacefully at home at the age of 93.
An equal partner with her siblings, she participated in all major business decisions for the family business even while working as an operating room nurse at Santa Rosa Hospital from 1953 to 1987. While her brothers worked on the front line, she preferred to work behind the scenes where she quietly oversaw legal and financial matters. Together they grew Sangiacomo Family Vineyards to become one of the largest family-owned premium wine grapegrowing businesses in California with over 1,600 acres of vineyards in Sonoma County. The family also launched a namesake wine brand in 2016.
Born on April 3, 1929 to Vittorio and Maria Sangiacomo, she was the oldest of four children. She graduated from Sonoma Grammar School in 1943 and Sonoma Valley High School in 1947. She lived her entire life on the family ranch in Sonoma Valley with the exception of her early adult life when she earned a nursing degree from St. Mary’s in San Francisco in 1951, and then worked the following year at St. Mary’s Hospital.
She grew up in a bygone era when agriculture and a slower pace of life prevailed in Sonoma Valley. Italian immigrants from rural Genoa, her parents settled in San Francisco in the 1920s prior to moving to the valley to begin farming just two years before her birth. She lived and breathed agriculture from the day she was born until the day she died.
Lorraine helped guide the family through good times and bad. During several tough times for the family business, she helped keep the family afloat financially through her work at the hospital. When it became obvious in the 1960s that orchards were no longer financially viable, she deftly switched gears and helped the family plan for the conversion to vineyards.
Upon her mother’s death in 1995, she assumed the mantle of matriarch. She remained humble and led by example, determined to carry forward her parents’ spirit of generosity and compassion that helped many through the dark days of the depression. She was known without fail to “do the right thing” and held to the belief that when you are being good to someone else, you are being good to yourself. Forceful yet gentle, she always maintained an unfailingly positive attitude.
She never married but took great joy in spending time with her niece, nephews, and great nieces and nephews, instilling within them an appreciation for the family legacy, a love of nature and respect for all people.
She had a deep connection with nature and drew nourishment for most of her life from her twice-daily walks through the vineyards to the creek, accompanied by her dog. She was particularly gifted in spotting quail, pheasants, wild turkeys, birds, owls, snakes, river otters, and turtles in their natural setting.
The people and places in Sonoma Valley were near and dear to her heart. She was committed to giving back to the community, serving as a volunteer for Catholic Social Services and as a board member of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation for over twenty-five years.
She loved to cook, garden, play mahjong and spend time in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. She was a world traveler, regularly visiting the Far East, Europe, the Caribbean and Central America.
She is survived by her brother Victor “Buck” Sangiacomo (Sue); Diane Sangiacomo, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews Michael Sangiacomo (Whitney), Mia Pucci (Michael), Steven Sangiacomo (Connie); and great nieces and nephews Joe, Julia, Rob, Drew, and Sam Sangiacomo; and Michaela and Dominic Pucci. She is also survived by her friend Frank Yates. She was preceded in death by her parents Vittorio and Maria, brothers Bob and Angelo.
Private services to be held. There will be a celebration of life to be determined at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.
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