Arlene Rose Diorio, an accomplished artist, designer, and cook, passed away peacefully in her sleep in Naples, Fla., on July 28, 2023. She was 84.
Born on October 16, 1938, in Yonkers, N.Y., to Albert and Angelina (Aurrichio) Tesoro, she attended Roosevelt High School, where she met her soulmate, Ronald Diorio, at Stuber’s Nursery.
The first in her family to attend college, she earned a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. A talented artist, she designed and made her own wedding dress and briefly worked in fashion before starting a family. She moved from fashion design into art where she mastered many media, from oil painting to clay sculpture.
Arlene and Ron were married in 1958 and lived in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., before moving to Rome, Italy in 1967. It was during their years in Rome that she began to work in clay and palette knife painting. When the family returned home, they settled in Short Hills, N.J. In 1978, they moved to Rye, N.Y., where they lived for the next sixteen years, and where Arlene continued to expand her mastery of the arts, while raising her five children and volunteering in the community.
The Diorio’s traveled extensively, especially in their retirement, but Italy remained their spiritual home. In 1992, Arlene learned to hand paint maiolica ceramics, contributing original designs to the Grazia Maioliche studio in Deruta. The following year, she was Artist-in-Residence at the University of Georgia art program in Cortona, Italy, where she worked in marble and advised students on their craft.
The only natural athlete in the family, Arlene’s childhood nickname was Butch. She was a tomboy growing up and, as an adult, she played softball and tennis. She was the star of the intergenerational softball games at the annual reunion she hosted for her mother’s extended family. It was Arlene who taught her sons how to play football, throw a baseball, and defend themselves against bullies.
Her inherent creativity extended to everything Arlene did, from cooking to cutting hair to creating costumes for her grandchildren to designing the logo for the Italian Cultural Society in Naples, where she was renowned for the elaborate themes, table settings, and costumes she designed for their galas.
An inspired cook, Arlene, with several close friends in Naples, started La Bella Forchetta to explore the regional cuisines of Italy. For each dinner, the group picked a region, studied its history, designed a menu, and prepared a dinner to celebrate the local specialties.
While Arlene shunned the limelight, she had a quiet sense of humor that came out with her family. She was especially creative at family weddings, decorating statues and painting “Help Me” on the soles of her son’s shoes, visible to the attendees when he knelt at the altar.
Arlene was her family’s quiet compass. She packed incredible strength into a petite frame, creating both a physical and psychological home base for her husband, children, and grandchildren. She leaves behind a legacy of love, good food, and creativity that will forever live on in the hearts of those who knew and cherished her.
Mrs. Diorio was predeceased by her husband Ronald. She is survived by her five children, Cathy, Stephen, Jeffrey, Paul, and Jonathan; her daughters-in-law, Lyn, Dawn, Irm, and Kim; and nine grandchildren.
A private memorial service will be held. Donations may be made in Arlene Diorio’s memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.