[SIZE="6"][B]Owner of Leo's Latticini, best known as Mama's of Corona, will be missed
Wednesday, December 23rd 2009, 4:00 AM
Nancy DeBenedittis never took a civil service exam or held a city job.
But in her own quiet way, she made a huge difference in the lives of scores of municipal employees.
DeBenedittis was the owner of Leo's Latticini, better known as Mama's of Corona to its many devotees.
I am proud to be one of them.
So I shared some of her family's pain earlier this month when DeBenedittis, the 90-year-old matriarch of the family, passed away.
Her parents, Frank and Irene Leo, opened the store back in the 1930s. She continued the business with her husband, Frank DeBenedittis.
"Mama," as we all knew her, sat at her table in the corner of the store while her daughters Carmela Lamorgese, Irene DeBenedittis and Marie DeBenedittis, made their magical mozzarella, famous sandwiches and hot specialties such as roast beef, eggplant parmigiano and meatballs.
She usually had a Daily News open in front of her, but Mama also kept a watchful eye on her girls - including her beloved granddaughter "Little Marie."
"We all miss her so much," said Irene. "People keep coming in and telling us how much they miss her. She treated everyone the same. Everybody was like her family."
Cops, firefighters, sanitation workers, parks employees and other city workers were regular visitors to Mama's. They usually ran in to grab one of her famous "Mama's Special" sandwiches: prosciuttini, salami and mozzarella with mushrooms and peppers.
In fact, I'm pretty sure every time I visit the place I see a civil servant of some kind.
But there are also legions of food fans from the neighborhood and all over the city. The walls of Mama's are lined with photos of actors, athletes and politicians who have come to pay homage.
And of course there is the connection to the New York Mets. The store's proximity to Shea Stadium and now Citi Field makes the family a natural fan and partner. Their specialities are sold at the ballpark.
"She was very humble," Irene said of her mother. "All these people came to see her. But she used to say, 'People are people.' "
While her store was a success, Mama reveled in an even greater accomplishment - her family.
"She was always so proud of all of us," said Irene. "Her family was her biggest source of pride."
The staff at Queens Borough Hall is mourning the passing Thomas Campagna, a long-time consulting engineer who died last week at age 63.
Before working with Borough Presidents Helen Marshall and Claire Shulman, he worked at the Water and Sewer Operations Division of the city Department of Environmental Protection.
"Tom was a great public servant, whose expertise and knowledge of the city's infrastructure was legendary," Marshall said in a statement. "He was invaluable to me and my staff and our entire city is in his debt. He was involved in every major infrastructure project for many years."
That place was so crazy sometimes, an unsuspecting motorist passing by might be frightened out of their minds; Firetrucks in front, cop cars pulling up left and right...ambulances jockying for spots....like some sort of horrible disaster unfolding, when it was only a bunch of gavones trying to beat the lunch rush.