Cover photo for Eleanor Zanni's Obituary
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1928 Eleanor 2021

Eleanor Zanni

October 20, 1928 — November 17, 2021

Eleanor “Ellie” Zanni

Passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family on November 17, 2021. She is predeceased by her parents Alphonse & Sylvia Solek; brother Alphonse Solek; son-in-law Richard Hamilton. Survived by her devoted husband of 73 years Anthony; children: Dan (Debbie) Zanni, Debbie (Dave) Karpowich, Ken (Mary) Zanni, Karen Hamilton, Nancy Zanni (Ken Campagna); grandchildren: Jason (Pam), Tony II (Sarah), Kristen (Curtis), Lindsey (Sylas), Nichole, Adrianne (Chris), Rachael (Brian), Audrey, Tia (Steve); great-grandchildren: Lauren, Mallory, Claire, Bennett, Paxton, Tegan, Luella, Jake, Julia; sister: Marie Golba; many extended family members and dear friends.

Calling hours will be held 4-7pm Tuesday, November 23 at Farrell-Ryan Funeral Home, 777 Long Pond Road. Funeral mass at 10am Wednesday, November 24 at St. John’s the Evangelist Church in Greece. Interment Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. A celebration of Ellie’s life will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Eleanor Ethel (Solek) Zanni


Eleanor Ethel Solek was born on October 20th, 1928 to Alphonse and Sylvia Solek in Willimansett, MA. When she was a baby, her father died suddenly, so her mother moved Ella and her brother Al to live with her Meme and Pepe and her colorful Aunt Irene. Soon after they moved, her baby sister Marie was born. With so many women in the household, Ella never really learned how to cook, do laundry, wash dishes…she was a little princess. When it came time to clean up, Ella would practice her piano and her favorite song was “Deep Purple” – the only one she could master.

All through her school years, Ella had so many friends due to her vibrant personality and happy-go-lucky attitude. She was a “Chicopee Girl” and in her high school yearbook, she was voted all the superlatives – prettiest, most popular, and best all-round girl. Everyone wanted to be her friend – and she welcomed everyone as her friend. Ella loved to ice skate in her backyard and enjoyed swimming.


After high school, Ella worked at the Holyoke Better Business Bureau. When she was only 17 she went to her brother’s wedding and met the love of her life, Anthony Zanni. Tony swept her off her feet, and they danced together the whole night. Tony was in the army stationed at West Point – Ella was very proud of him and would tell all her girlfriends that her boyfriend was at West Point. Tony was shipped off to basic training two weeks before Christmas and served two years in the war. Eventually the two soulmates were married on June 12th, 1948 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Rochester, NY.


After they were married, Tony and Ellie moved to Walnut Street to start their new life together. Tony’s mother taught Ellie how to make sauce – and Tony’s father always said it was “Eleanora” who made the best sauce. Ellie missed all of her family and friends after moving to Rochester, and Tony’s gang of best friends really helped her to feel at home. Ellie baked them a chocolate cake, but it didn’t turn out very well and she never lived it down. One by one the gang guys got married and began growing their families, all the while forming a tight-knit bond. In the early days, the boys would go to play poker while the girls would go to Holy Hour at the church. Eventually the girls figured out the boys were having more fun and decided to join them – and that’s how “Church Night” began. Come hell or high water, they would get together once a month for lots of food, drinks, laughs, and shenanigans. In fact, their first child Danny was born after Church Night when they were playing charades – Ellie must have been jumping around too much. Debbie, Kenny and Karen followed.


Eventually there were five kids after Nancy arrived on Trafalgar Street, and it was the favorite place for all the cousins. After the Zanni clan moved in the neighborhood was never the same: sleepovers, water wars, ice skating rink in the backyard, and the rose bushes. Kenny defended his mom when someone teased “your mother wears combat boots”… and he ended up with a bloody nose. She must have been wearing Tony’s slippers. One year there was a record-breaking blizzard, and Tony built a huge toboggan sled from the house to across the street. Even Ellie and Tony got in on the fun and would shoot down the slide after the kids had gone to bed. She was always up for fun, even with five kids to take care of – she would rather join in on the mischief. Ellie would pile all the kids in the station wagon and off they went on adventures like sledding, bowling, and picnics at the beach. She was never too busy – she always made time. Ellie was always the mom that everyone else wished was their mom.


Ellie and Tony decided to buy a beautiful piece of land in Greece, designed a house that would accommodate five kids, and built the home on Old Meadow Drive. Ellie went back to work at the fabric department in Sibley’s – mostly to get the discount so she could decorate the new house. Eventually Debbie, Karen and Nancy were in charge of dinner – their signature dish was burnt french fries. With all her patience, she taught all five kids how to drive. On top of that, Ellie always made time to give back. She volunteered at a hospice center, and would make food to donate to St John’s parish. Ellie also volunteered with the Sisters of Saint Joseph Motherhouse and St. John’s bookstore. There were so many celebrations with the entire Zanni family and all have fond memories of those times.

Ellie and her friends started a Rosary Group that met every Wednesday and continued on for over 30 years. On one occasion, Angie & Carl Jr. came to visit just on time to join in. Little did Carl know he would be there for hours – but the coffee and cookies were worth it.

Eventually the five kids grew up and started families of their own. Old Meadow was always the gathering spot – their special place. Thursday Night Pasta started in 1973 when Danny got married. Ellie missed the whole family being together so she invited him over for dinner. Each week more chairs were brought to the table on Thursday night. It got to the point where all the grown-ups would stay in the kitchen to eat while the grandkids were relegated to eating in the formal dining room under the special chandelier that Tony bought for Ellie.

The house on Old Meadow Drive became the epicenter of social events. The parties there were famous: birthdays, Christmas Eve, and especially the 4th of July picnics. No matter who the kids or grandkids brought over, Ellie would welcome them with open arms. She welcomed everyone and was always happy to meet new people. Since Ellie was always quick with a joke and loved to laugh and sing and dance, she made the perfect hostess at every Old Meadow festivity.


Only Ellie could organize five kids to take them on amazing vacations: pilgrimages to churches in Ottawa and Montreal, road trips to Niagara Falls with Toine, going back home to Chicopee were just a few. After the kids grew up and they had more free time, Ellie and Tony loved traveling with their gang to exotic places. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Greece, London, Paris, Alaska, the Holy Land…the list goes on. Ellie went to Medjugorje twice with her church friends and again with Tony and Marie. She would always come back with a special treasure for all of us. To Ellie, it wasn’t a celebration unless it included everyone – which is why they took the entire family on a cruise for their 50th anniversary, a beach house on the Outer Banks, and Lake Placid to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary and Ellie’s 90th birthday. Nothing made her happier than being all together and enjoying each other’s company – especially with a few glasses of her favorite zinfandel.

Ellie always found such joy in being with children, especially her grandkids and great-grandkids. She made up a song for each of them and made them feel so special and loved. She taught them how to swim in the big pool at Old Meadow – she loved being in the water, even just sitting on the steps to put her feet in. All the birthday cards she gave had “SWAK” and her angel stamp on the back (and she never forgot a single one). She was always so proud of everyone’s accomplishments, no matter how big or small. You could feel the love she had for all of her five children and their spouses, nine grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren every time she was with them.

Christmas was the most special time of year for Ellie – that love is one of the greatest gifts she has given to us all. Every Christmas Eve she would gather her grandchildren around a cake at midnight to sing happy birthday to baby Jesus. When we hang her special ornaments on the tree, we always remember exactly when and where she got them for us. And of course the baby doll wrapped in Tony’s handkerchief at the top of the tree. For Ellie, the spirit of Christmas was about giving. Finding a special gift for every single person was something she truly loved.

Some of Ellie’s favorite things were her blue glass crystal collection of vases, birds, and goblets from Sibley’s, her beautiful Lladros, and the nativity set from Kresge’s. She had a keen eye for design and creativity – she could make something out of nothing. Ellie made every single curtain and drape in Old Meadow Drive on her Elna sewing machine. Easter bonnets, Halloween costumes, Christmas dresses and stockings – she was so patient, and always thoughtful.


Eventually, Tony and Ellie became two halves of a whole – each had something the other needed, and they took care of each other. Every morning Ellie would read Tony the newspaper while she enjoyed her favorite sticky buns (always licking her fingers). She would describe for him what her beautiful blue eyes could see, and he would help her make sense of the world around her. Despite her short-term memory loss, Ellie always knew all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren by name. She wondered why they didn’t have a car but thought her bicycle would do just as well. Tony and Ellie were blissfully married for 73 years, showing us all the meaning of true love.

Ellie brought faith and kindness into our lives. She had a genuine personal interest and connection with everyone, and always put other peoples’ concerns above her own. Ellie always had a kind word and never said a harsh word to anyone. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” was her best advice. She taught all of her kids and grandkids how to say their prayers, and helped us all to live with God in our hearts.

Ellie always found the good in people. Maybe that’s why everyone loved her, even if they only knew her for five minutes. There was always room at her table – and of course she made sure that everyone had a chair. Every time you would walk into the room, her face would light up and her smile would let you know that you were welcome and loved. Ellie will be exceedingly missed and her memory will be forever treasured by all who were touched by her life.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Eleanor Zanni, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation at Funeral Home

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

4:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

Farrell - Ryan Funeral Home

777 Long Pond Road, Rochester, NY 14612

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

St. John The Evangelist Church

2400 West Ridge Road, Rochester, NY 14626

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