Nora Marie Villamia
Nora Marie Villamia
  • October 8, 1933 - February 24, 2017
  • Tampa, Florida

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Nora Marie Villamia, nee Rodriguez touched the face of God on 2/24/17. Born in the Ybor City section of Tampa FL 10/8/33, she was the only child of Richard Callahan Rodriguez & Noemi Catherine Concepcion. Richard was manager of the Ritz Theatre in Ybor, the Royal Theatre in West Tampa, & life-long electrician with the American Can Company. Noemi began her nursing career with Dr. Juan Silverio, then Dr. Blackburn Lowry, & ultimately at the Tampa Eye Clinic with Dr. Burns Creighton. Her maternal grandparents Hipolito Concepcion from Matanzas Cuba & Maria Coniglio from Alessandria della Rocca met as cigar-makers in the Ybor factories. From that maternal Coniglio lineage came granduncle Alfonso Coniglio, who was instrumental in unionizing the cigar-makers; grandaunt Rosa Coniglio Fernandez, owner of The King Bee Grocery in Ybor; cousin Anthony “Chino” Coniglio, Tampa Fire Rescue Chief; & cousin Ateo P. Leto, Chamberlain High School Principal for whom A. P. Leto High School was named. Education was particularly esteemed in this branch of the family tree, & a number of her cousins were teachers, including Dorinda Garcia Davison, with whom she was especially close. The role of brother-she-never-had was occupied by her cousin Israel Colina from the Concepcion lineage, who was brought from Cuba by Nora’s grandfather Hipolito, & raised in the same house on 13th Avenue in Ybor. Israel worked at the Columbia Restaurant for decades. Her paternal Callahan lineage hailed from County Kerry Ballybunion Ireland. Grandmother Norah Callahan Rodriguez ran a rooming house in the upstairs area of a building on the same block as Las Novedades Restaurant in Ybor. Spaniard grandfather Gustavo Rodriguez was a Merchant Marine. Nora graduated from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1952. As a teenager, she always had fond memories of her participation in Sodality Conventions, visits to Cuba with her best friend Conchita Portocarrero Cotera, & beach parties. Never wetting her bathing suit, she was affectionately called “Miss Hollywood” as she’d sachet along the water’s edge. She was in the 1950-51 Latin American Fiesta court, which took part in the ceremonial unveiling of the historical marker for Jose Marti’s visit to the Vicente Martinez Ybor cigar factory, where Cuba’s Apostle addressed cigar-makers in one of his most significant speeches. Her involvement in the Latin Fiesta was one of the highlights of her life. She’d often share stories of the various memorable activities this afforded her. Her first job after graduating OLPH was at Tampa Electric, where she met & became dear friends with Dahlia Lopez, who was Maid of Honor at her wedding, Godmother to her first daughter, & wife of baseball player Charlie Cuellar. Her 2nd job was with dentist Steve Demmi, brother of John Demmi, her Godfather & owner of JD’s Sandwich Shop, formerly across the Columbia Restaurant. It was with her 3rd job at Broadway Bank in Ybor that she began her career in that industry, which continued at Central Bank, & People’s Bank, before her moving to New York City in 1979 & ultimately retiring from a supervisory position at Financial Federal Savings in Sunnyside Queens. After retiring from banking, she began working for the New York City Board of Education as a Family Worker with the Special Education program, from which she permanently retired. In 1953 while standing at the bus stop in front of Cuervo’s Restaurant in Ybor, she caught the attention of Cuban minor-league baseball player, Raul Andres Villamia. Those beautiful green eyes of hers were all it took to melt his heart. It was love at first sight. They married that same year & had 2 daughters: Rhonda Jean & Denise Elaine. Grandsons Wynter & Javan Galindez, Rhonda’s sons, were the passion of her life, whom she enjoyed doting on, as they grew up in Queens. She was so proud of them, missing no opportunity to state as much. She was blessed to become great-grandmother to Luna Rose (2 years old) & Rio Oz Galindez (5 months old). Nora’s kind words & gestures touched many lives. She always found something pleasant to say to everyone. She enjoyed engaging stranger & friend alike in conversation, loving to share with them stories of her past or some family accolade. She had a unique gift for making people feel valued, special, & loved. She was an animal lover from childhood, tending to creatures big & small that crossed her path. Throughout her life, she had pets that included cats, dogs, birds & chickens. Whether it was feeding the cats of the neighborhood, giving seagulls bread, or peanuts to the squirrels, she was a modern-day St. Francis. She loved the Lord Jesus Christ & felt most awake to His presence while at a beach, where God’s artistry was most demonstrative away from the distractions of life. Nora was pre-deceased by her parents, grandparents, & son-in-law Lorenzo Maldonado. She is survived by her ex-husband Raul, daughters Rhonda & Denise, grandsons Wynter (Melissa Rose), & Javan (Rita Gastolomendo), great-grandchildren Luna Rose & Rio Oz, many cousins, & innumerable friends. Visitation will be held at Garden of Memories / Myrtle Hill Cemetery on Saturday March 4 beginning at 1pm. The memorial service will begin at 2:45pm followed by interment.

In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer a plant of your choosing that will be included in a memorial garden on the family’s property.