She was warm, hospitable and a wizard cook. Spring Valley residents marveled at the energy she possessed being a mother to 10 while running a successful restaurant.
Beatrice “Bea” Verucchi, longtime co-owner of Verucchi’s Ristorante in Spring Valley, who worked long past retirement age, died Saturday. She was 98.
Verucchi was mourned as an icon of the Spring Valley business community. While she did not establish Verucchi’s – in-laws Battista and Elizabeth “Mama” Verucchi founded it in 1914 – she and late husband Arthur “Buzz” Verucchi Sr. expanded it in size and operation. She was remembered as much for being a gracious hostess as a savvy businesswoman.
“She was the matriarch of that family and she’s a big part of the community,” said Mickey Venegas, a Spring Valley native, family friend and former employee. “She touched everyone. She gave something to everyone.”
Tributes poured in from across the Illinois Valley as longtime diners reacted to her death with a touch of surprise. Though she was weeks away from her 99th birthday, Verucchi astounded people with her age-defying stamina, rooted in deep piety.
“Bea was a very vibrant, faith-filled woman,” said former Spring Valley Mayor Walt Marini, who spotted Bea Verucchi at daily Mass until the pandemic struck.
“She was a giving person who would reach out to others when they needed prayers or just words of encouragement,” Marini said. “She would always greet you with a smile and would make you feel welcome. She will be greatly missed at church, in the restaurant and in the community.”
Daughter Barb DeAngelo said the secret to her mother’s capacity for tireless work and friendship was a rich prayer life.
“Our family and many people in our community have turned to my mother for her special prayers,” said DeAngelo, whose own faith was tested when her husband, Jimmy, was diagnosed with cancer. “I learned from her the power of prayer, and the virtue of patience.
“I will continue to honor her by relying on my faith, and the power of prayer – picking up where she left off.”
Bea Verucchi was also an accomplished cook, not only at the restaurant but in her home, where she welcomed her children’s many friends and plied them with food. Venegas spent many nights at the Verucchi home and still salivates at the memory of her cooking.
Venegas later joined Verucchi’s as a dishwasher, where he closely observed how Bea and Buzz ran their business. Venegas would draw from these experiences years later when he opened Mickey’s Massive Burritos in La Salle.
“If I didn’t have them teaching and coaching me,” he said, “I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”
It was difficult to pinpoint exactly when Bea completed the transition from working mom to full-time restaurateur because even when the children were small Bea made time to help with the business.
“She was always home with us but also helped my dad at the Les Buzz Ballroom,” DeAngelo said. “She worked at the restaurant at night as a hostess and in later years she did the prep work making the meat sauce, which I have now taken over, and she also made our lasagna, which my sister Paula had taken over.
“She probably did that into her early 90s.”
How Verucchi juggled her responsibilities was a mystery to Marie Emmerling, Bea’s close friend of more than 50 years. Emmerling recalled that Verucchi raised her children and worked at the restaurant with heroic patience – “I never saw her get mad; she had a kind voice at all times” – despite her dawn-to-dusk schedule.
Bea still was working when Verucchi’s Ristorante reached its centennial in 2014. Buzz was long gone by then and Bea had relinquished management to their daughters, but at age 90 she had no designs of calling it a career.
“I haven’t retired,” she said then. “The benefits are good and they need me.”
“I don’t know where she found the time, but she had time for everyone,” Emmerling said. “She was up late at night and she was up early in the morning for Mass. She will be missed by everyone, I’ll tell you that right now.”
Arrangements are pending at Barto Funeral Home in Spring Valley.
Source: The Daily Chronicle