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Elio 'Lee''s Story

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Elio 'Lee' Desiderio, poet, writer, and World War II Veteran, passed away May 11, 2017, after a brief illness. He was ninety.
Lee was born in Niagara Falls on November 19, 1926, to the late Camillo and Giustina (Paolini) Desiderio. He is predeceased in death by his three sisters, Elma Catherine, Yola (late Charles) Civiletto, and Jeanette (late Anthony) Scibilia, and his nephew, Charles (Judy) Civiletto, with whom he shared love of books, history, and fifty years of correspondence.
Lee graduated from Niagara Falls High School in 1944. He proudly served in the U.S. Army as a company clerk from early 1945 to late 1946. He was stationed in the Philippines. After his service, he graduated in 1951 from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Lee moved to New York City in 1951, and embarked upon a decades-long career in news, writing, and the entertainment industry. He served as a private secretary to celebrities, including Henry Ephron and Noel Coward. Lee had a near-encyclopedic memory for vintage Hollywood films and actors, recurring themes in the construction of his numerous crossword puzzles. Many of those puzzles (he called them things of "balanced beauty") were published in the New York Times, Daily News, Soap Opera Weekly, and by Dell Publications and the Penny Press. He's a member of the Crossword Puzzle Hall of Fame. He also published poetry.
Despite the geographic distance, Lee was intimately connected to the lives of his adoring family in the Buffalo-Niagara region. His frequent--usually hand-written--letters were filled with interesting cultural references, family history, or news commentary, and his kind words encouraged generations of nieces and nephews. He valued literacy. He often sent family members a heavy box of novels or children's books. His humility and compassion for others was evident with every stroke of his pen, or in any interaction with him.
Although Lee's perfect recall of dates and events was a source of ongoing amazement for the entire family, it truly reflected the incredible level of love he had for everyone.
Lee is survived by his nephews, Joseph (Marie) Catherine, Michael (Cindy) Scibilia, Robert (Jeannine) Scibilia, and Anthony Scibilia; and nieces, Judy (Clarke) Gould, Lisa Scibilia-Higgins, Cynthia (Robert) Krause, and Sandy Sirianni. In addition, he is survived by great-nieces, Justina Sirianni, the late Theresa Sirianni, Christen Civiletto, Jacqueline (Tom) DiFonzo, Camille (Carmen) Panaro, Jennifer (Jesse) Feuerstein, Joanna (Dale) Crisp; and great-nephews, Stephen (Ryan Gendreau) Gould, David (Jaime) Catherine, Charles (Reyna) Civiletto, Nicholas (Ashley) Scibilia, Zachary (Janelle) Scibilia, Michael (Katie) Scibilia, Joseph (Cassie) Scibilia, Marc (Mindy) Scibilia, and Matthew Scibilia. His many great-great-nieces and nephews will have scores of treasured letters to read for years to come.
There will be no prior visitation. The family will privately gather to celebrate his life. Memorial offerings may be made to the Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main Street, Niagara Falls, NY 14305. ARRANGEMENTS BY M.J. COLUCCI & SON NIAGARA FUNERAL CHAPEL.
Visit mjcoluccifuneralchapel.com for register.
Published on May 15, 2017
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