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Welcome to the memorial page for

Elisa Josephine (Lotens) Zanella

March 12, 1923 ~ April 2, 2017 (age 94)

Elisa Josephine “Josie” (Lotens) Zanella, 94, passed away peacefully Sunday, April 2, 2017 at the Westerly Royal Nursing Home surrounded by her loving family. She will be sadly missed by her children: Johanna Christina and husband, Jimmy, Rhonda Cherenzia and companion, Bernie, Ronald Zanella and wife, Denise. Also deeply saddened are her nine grandchildren, Elisa Raymond, Shanna Hinchcliffe, Sergio Cherenzia, Damon Cherenzia, Vanessa Cherenzia Miller, Taurean Zanella, Dillon Zanella, Samantha Walsh,  Jennifer Schwab  and five great granddaughters, as well as many nieces, nephews  and special friends.

Josie was the daughter of the late Camile and Johanna Lotens. She was predeceased by her loving husband Louis R.  Zanella, three sisters and a brother from Antwerp, Belgium, and another sister, Charlotte Micklich, who resided in Westerly. She was also predeceased by her son in law Raymond F. Cherenzia.

Josie met her husband, Louis Zanella, in Antwerp, Belgium at a USO dance, during WWII. He was a Sergeant in the United States Army stationed there. When Louie returned to the states, he sent for Josie and she came on a freighter into NYC to meet him. They were married in February 1947, and spent 66 years together until his death in 2013. Josie kept in touch all these years with the two women with whom she traveled to America, where they began a courageous new life in a new place.

Josie spoke four languages: Flemish, German, French and English. She loved to travel to see the world firsthand, and she brought her mom and siblings to Westerly to spend time with her family and experience life in America. Everyone looked forward to their visits, and enjoyed Josie’s favorite food, patat frites (French fries) with mayo.

Josie loved to cook, bake and shop and she had such style and grace! Josie loved animals. She shared stories of her all-white cat, Minnekapus who was her special childhood pet in Belgium, and her children were never without a dog to love as they grew up too. Even the stray dog Rhonda brought home became a member of the family. Josie’s backyard was a perfect spot to feed the birds and she enjoyed watching them every day through the window. She even befriended an injured seagull who she named Mary.

Elisa Josephine Zanella is the last of a generation to many, and had the courage to come to America to become a young bride and experience life’s challenges with perseverance and grit.  That courage was often a “quiet voice that said, I’ll try again tomorrow.” She was a faithful communicant of St. Pius X Church throughout her life. She will be remembered with genuine gratitude as a good listener, offering heartfelt advice. Her keen wisdom and sense of humor were much appreciated and her guidance and commitment were steadfast support for her family.

A sincere thank you to all the caregivers she had while still at home. 

A special thank you to the entire Westerly Royal Nursing Home staff and to Cheryl, for the love, compassion and fabulous care they gave to Josie.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 10:00 am at St. Pius X Church, 44 Elm Street, Westerly. There will be no procession from the funeral home. Burial will take place at St. Sebastian Cemetery, Westerly. Calling hours will take place on Friday, April 7, from 5:00 - 8:00 pm at Rushlow-Iacoi Funeral Home & Crematory, 64 Friendship Street, Westerly.

For online condolences, please visit

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Elisa (Josie) Zanella’s name can be made to the Jonnycake Center, 23 Industrial Drive, Westerly, RI 02891 or Stand Up For Animals, 33 Larry Hirsch Lane, Westerly, RI 02891.

 Service Information

April 7, 2017

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Rushlow Iacoi Funeral Home and Crematory
64 Friendship Street
Westerly, RI 02891

Mass of Christian Burial
April 8, 2017

10:00 AM
St. Pius X
44 Elm Street
Westerly, RI 02891

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