Petrina Marie Caruso Libby
Petrina Marie Caruso Libby
  • July 26, 1921 - September 19, 2017
  • La Jolla, California

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Petrina M.C. Libby, dear wife and mother and proud grandmother, died peacefully at home on September 19, 2017.

Petrina was born on July 26, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York to Mary and John Ignatius Caruso, and attended Girls High, where she excelled academically and played on the basketball team. She was the eldest of three children, and was close to her brother Frank and sister Anna throughout their lives. During World War II she served as a civilian employee in the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. After the war Petrina attended Hunter College, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1948. She was then employed at Bell Labs in the West Village of Manhattan at an exciting time of invention there, including the development of the transistor. At Bell Labs Petrina served first as a technical writer and editor, and then as the head of job evaluation, one of the few women in an executive position at the time.

Petrina Caruso was introduced by mutual friends to Paul Libby, then a professor at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, at a holiday party in 1953. They were married on September 25, 1955 at Riverside Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Petrina continued to work at Bell Labs until shortly before the birth of her son, John, in 1958, who was followed by a daughter, Patricia, in 1961.

In 1964 the young family moved to La Jolla, California, as Paul was named one of the first faculty members at the new UC San Diego campus. Long time New Yorker Petrina had to adapt to Southern California life, learning to drive and missing the seasons. Since Paul’s academic calendar provided summers off from teaching duties and allowed for consulting opportunities in New York, the family spent the summers there for about ten years, giving Petrina her annual “New York fix.” Petrina ended up making many friends in California as well as maintaining her friendships with those in New York and on the East Coast.

Petrina and Paul loved to travel, starting with their honeymoon in Italy. Later, they took John and Patricia on many European travels, including a six-month sabbatical in London in 1973 followed by a grand six-week adventure driving through Europe in a red VW minibus, starting in Amsterdam and ending in Naples and Rome.

Petrina’s passions were art, both as an artist and an art lover, reading, current events and politics, and her grandchildren. She is survived by her loving husband of almost 62 years, Paul; her children John (and wife Cindy) and Patricia (and husband Joel), and six grandchildren (Michael, Andrew, Matthew, Eric, Paul and Maddie).

Services will be at El Camino Memorial Park, 5600 Carroll Canyon Rd, San Diego, Ca 92121 on September 23, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Hunter College Mother’s Day Scholarship Fund. Checks may be sent to Hunter College Foundation, 695 Park Avenue Rm. E1313, New York, NY 10065, Attn: Mother's Day Fund or donate online at Please note that the donation is in memory of Petrina Marie Caruso Libby, Class of ’48.