Lillian Sacco

Rosemead resident left legacy of education, tenacity

By Claudia S. Palma, Staff Writer SGV Tribune
Posted: 03/27/2010 07:12:18 AM PDT

Longtime Rosemead resident Lillian Sacco was a strong community activist and believed in education. The community activist died March 13, 2010 at the age of 86.
(Photo courtesy Merilynn Sacco)
Lillian Sacco used her passion, determination and education to help those who couldn't help themselves.

The Rosemead resident championed for the underdog with her involvement in local politics and community issues.

"She had a heart of gold," said daughter Sandra Sacco.

She died March 13 at the age of 86.

The Ohio native left behind family including her three sisters when she moved to Washington, D.C. to work in the Navy Department during WWII.

There she was set up on a blind date with Peter Sacco. The two kept in touch when Lillian moved to California in 1945.

Peter eventually joined Lillian when he was discharged from the Navy and they were married in 1946.

They settled in Rosemead and had three children, Merilyn, Larry, and Sandra. Larry Sacco died in 1996.

Lillian Sacco began college when her children started school, and she eventually earned a doctorate in English literature. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

"She was one of the smartest people I knew," said Sandra.

Daughter Merilynn Sacco said her mother emphasized education.

Sacco taught English to immigrants for 10 years at Bell Gardens Adult Education and then became an administrator.

"She liked working with adults," said Merilynn. "They were motivated."

Even though Sacco knew French and German, she did not know Spanish like the majority of her students.

"She used to say if you're teaching

somebody English, you don't need to speak the language they speak," said Merilynn.

Lillian and Peter retired in the mid-80's and traveled across the country in their RV.

Longtime friend Allyson Ross said she enjoyed day-long shopping trips with Sacco.

"She was a very good friend," said Ross, 81 of Alhambra. "She was a remarkable person. I will miss her."

Not long into their retirement, Peter became ill in 1989 and Sacco devoted her time to his taking care of him until he died.

"Even though he was in a wheelchair, she still traveled with him. She took him to New York to visit family, took him to reunions for the Navy."

Sacco was always behind the scenes of city politics and help the less fortunate, mainly against eminent domain and redevelopment.

"She was part of that because somebody's rights and their homes were in jeopardy," said Merilynn.

Even as her health failed, Merilynn said her mother would worry about who would take over when she was gone and help the people.

Merilynn said her mother taught her to be tenacious and passionate about things you care about.

"Don't take a backseat and expect somebody else to carry the day," she said.

Sacco is survived by daughters Merilynn and Sandra, grandson Kyle, and plenty of other family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Sacco's memory to the L.A. Regional Foodbank at 1734 E. 41st St., Los Angeles, CA. 90058.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2110