Anne Ramere showed up in York in 1949 at her husband’s side as he took over running a textile plant with a few things that made her different from pretty much everybody else in town.
She was a Yankee from Pennsylvania who talked funny, and she was a Catholic, the child of Italian immigrants, new to a town full of Presbyterians and Baptists and Methodists.
None of that mattered one bit. Ramere threw herself into her new home by using what immigrants have always used to become part of a community – her faith and her stove.
Ramere died Monday at 90 after a battle with cancer, but her legacy remains forever in bricks and stone and mortar and a cross. And semolina flour and egg yolks, pork and beef and tomatoes and garlic – and love.
Ramere was one of the founders of Divine Saviour Catholic Church on Herndon Avenue in York. It is a church that will stand forever, and it was built in good part by strands of spaghetti.
Anne Ramere’s spaghetti, and meat sauce, of course.
“Fall in York, for as long as anybody can remember, means the spaghetti supper at Divine Saviour,” said York Mayor Eddie Lee. “The spaghetti supper meant Anne Ramere. She wasn’t from York, originally, but she sure made it here fast and she made it her own.
“Style, grace, she had them both.”
Ramere so much loved York and York so much loved her, that a couple of years ago she was given the key to the city, an official proclamation and all the other trappings that come from officialdom.
A crowd muscled into the little City Council chamber until there wasn’t room for another elbow. The room cheered for this tiny lady who came to York an outsider and helped make her new hometown an even warmer and nicer place.
That is some legacy. Just like the pasta and meat sauce, cooked without a recipe because the recipe was in her head.
For 51 years, starting in 1960, Ramere and her family put on the Divine Saviour spaghetti supper fundraiser.
In the 1950s, York’s few Catholics celebrated Mass in a tiny convent chapel at the old Divine Saviour hospital in York. There was enough room to pray and kneel, but little else.
The smell was not incense, or burning candles, but formaldehyde and ammonia. The morgue was not far away, near the cleaning closets.
Ramere and a few others hatched an idea: Let’s build a church. Yet there was that age-old problem; they didn’t have any money.
But they did have a spaghetti recipe handed down to Ramere by her mother.
The first year, a few dozen plates were sold for a buck apiece and the church raised about $60. The spaghetti continued, each fall, right after Halloween.
Ramere would stand at a stove and stir sauce until her arm ached and she would switch arms.
Once the church was built in the 1960s, the spaghetti continued. Ramere continued stirring sauce, even after her husband died and she was raising two kids by herself.
Without Ramere and a few others, there would be no Divine Saviour in York.
In 2008, Ramere described how to cook spaghetti sauce from scratch: “You cook with a little bit of this, a little bit of that, you add love and you have it.”
Turns out, it’s the same recipe for building a church
Through the years, Ramere became so loved by so many, and so vital to the church, that some people at church and around town called her “Mother Superior” – although Ramere was not a nun.
She was a devout Catholic and devout champion of her little city and her church.
“A giant,” said David Duncan, a few hours after his mother-in-law died.
The past few weeks, despite fighting for her life, Ramere would tell people, “We must start planning for the spaghetti supper.”
But the supper won’t happen in a couple of weeks, Duncan said. Maria Ramere Duncan, Anne’s daughter and David’s wife, had to spend so much time with her mother during the illness that the work needed to prepare the supper could not get done.
The only thing that could stop Anne Ramere’s spaghetti supper was time.
But her legacy lives on. The church building she helped create, a place that helped the old and the sick, the poor and the broke, is there. It still has a poor box where people can donate to those in need.
Her funeral Mass, at 2 p.m. today, will be right there at Divine Saviour – the church she helped build.