PORTLAND — Evangelista Donatelli, 84, died Monday, May 16, 2022, of natural causes at his Portland home which he shared with his daughter Anna, son-in-law Tom and their three children, Lily, Lucy and Tommy.
Evangelista was born on March 20, 1938 in the small town of Lettomanopello, Italy. He was the son of Faustino and Santa Donatelli and the brother of Marietta Donatelli. “Vangie”, as everyone in Portland called him, came to the United States specifically to be a tailor. Her aunt, Lucia Donatelli DiPietro, a resident of Portland at the time, went to Gordon’s Men’s Shop in Monument Square to inquire about a sewing job for her nephew.
Zia Lucia (as he called her) and Mr. Gordon then arranged safe passage for Vangie, his wife and son from Italy, by ship, which was generously funded by Mr. Gordon. Vangie arrived on Friday August 20, 1965 and started working the next day. Speaking only Italian, he taught himself the English language. Italian remained his family’s preferred language, and “broken English” became his second language for his clients and friends.
Evangelista and his wife bought an apartment on St. Lawrence Street in Munjoy Hill, where many Italian immigrants settled in Portland at the time. Their son, Peter, joined the family in 1966, then their daughter, Luana in 1969 and Anna in 1975.
Vangie worked at Gordon’s for several years and also worked evenings at Anderson Little’s in the Maine Mall to supplement her income to not only support her growing family here in Portland, but also to support her parents and sister in Italy.
In 1972, Evangelista realized the American dream and opened his own business. He and his wife bought property on Congress Street (known to family and friends as the Old Tailor Shop). Years later he bought the old B&B Laundromat which is now Liliana’s Laundromat and moved the tailor shop to where it has been for over 40 years.
During his 50 years in business, Mr. Donatelli has been fortunate to work with his children, Faustino, Peter and Anna. He was also lucky enough to see his friends daily who stopped in for coffee, lunch and the occasional whiskey which he kept hidden behind the liner. Her grandchildren grew up in the sewing shop and laundromat, which served as their playground and after-school daycare. His life was filled with friends, family and community. Vangie and his wife bravely came to a country whose language they did not speak or understand the culture. They worked hard for years to give their family a better life than they had and to help support their families in Italy. Vangie was an old school Italian who treasured his heritage and traditions.
Evangelista and his family were life members of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Portland and he also belonged to the Italian Heritage Center. An avid golfer, he and his friends were part of the Riverside Golf Course Construction League for many years. Back then, after playing a round of golf, Vangie, his friends, and his sons would often return to the family business and cook Italian meals in the mini kitchen in the store’s basement. It has become common on Munjoy Hill for Vangie and Liliana to serve large pasta meals to friends and customers.
In 2018, when he turned 80, he was treated to a day-long celebration at the Tailor Shop and given a key to the city by the mayor of Portland. Vangie worked full time at the tailor until about five months ago. It has moved a bit more slowly over the past few years, but has continued to put its customers first. He was often seen greeting people from his chair outside the laundromat where he sat for a bit as he got older.
Vangie was predeceased by his wife, Liliana Donatelli in 1999.
He is survived by his children, Faustino, his wife Lisa, Peter, his wife Cindy, Luana and her husband Michael Bosse, and Anna and her husband Thomas Johnson. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Nick Casale, Sam Napolitano, Fausto Donatelli and his wife Kristine, Cassandra Donatelli, Gabriella Casale, Nicolas Donatelli, Isabella Casale, Joseph Casale, Lily Johnson, Lucy Johnson, Tommy Johnson; and great-grandson, Phillip Napolitano. He is also survived by his oldest, closest and dearest friend, Tony Mancini.
A wake will be held at Jones, Rich & Barnes Funeral Home on Sunday, May 22 from 4-7 p.m., and a Christian Burial Mass will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 307 Congress St., Portland at 10 a.m. Monday, May 23, with interment at Cavalry Cemetery in South Portland.
You can offer your condolences or share your memories at http://www.jonesrichandbarnes.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family would like donations made in their name, for
Cheverus High School,
267 ocean ave,
Portland, Maine 04103
Obituary: Lois Pratt Pulsifer