Marie Elena Ronzio Ardito - age 87, of The Mooring, a Scarborough assisted living facility and formerly a longtime resident of Augusta, Maine, died May 11, 2021 in Scarborough after a brief illness and with her family by her side. She was born in Italy in August of 1933 the daughter of Eugenio Ronzio and Anna Leone Ronzio. Fondly known as “Nonna”, she was the matriarch of a close-knit family whom she adored.
In 1939, at the age of six, Marie and her mother emigrated from Sant’ Apollinare, Italy to Providence, RI where her father moved previously. She and her family fled Italy before World War II ravaged her birth home. While her parents never spoke English, Marie blossomed in her new world and received the Anthony Medal for Academic Achievement at Mount Pleasant High School. She met her future husband, Ralph Ardito, by happenstance while she was a senior in high school, and he was a sophomore at Providence College. It was love at first sight, and they have been together ever since. In 1953, Marie and Ralph married a week after he graduated from Providence; next month they would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. It is rare to see such a love affair. To the end, Ralph held her hand and called her his girlfriend and the love of his life.
Ralph was drafted by the Army a week after they were married and was sent to Austria to run an enlisted club. They had their first child while he was serving in Europe, but Ralph was able to send for his wife and newborn son, Ralph Jr, to live with him while completing his assignment in Europe. When they returned to the US, Ralph accepted a lead auditor position with the US Department of Transportation in Augusta, Maine where they lived since 1961. Marie worked from home raising her five children, Ralph, Eugene, Gregory, Ann Marie and Mark. True to her heritage, Marie was a fantastic cook, making all meals from scratch before that became trendy. Her Italian dishes and baked goods were the envy of all who experienced them. Marie and Ralph added a second kitchen in their basement and added a large dining room to their home so they could regularly host family and friends to elaborate dinners she and Ralph prepared. Preparing fabulous food was their way of connecting with people who may have been without family and to introduce new families to the community. Marie and Ralph befriended families moving to Augusta from all around the world and from different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. They became godparents to a child whose parents were from India; became mentors to a black family from Alabama; and hosted inner city children from Boston for several summers. With about a day’s notice, Marie and Ralph were asked to host a high school exchange student for an entire school year. Marie happily agreed, and Matteo became part of the family. Their bond became so strong, his parents even visited Ralph and Marie in Augusta, and they, in turn, visited them in Italy.
Anyone who met Marie would have immediately recognized her warmth and gentle nature; she was known to extend her hand to both family and acquaintances alike, always with an endearing smile. Much like her sweet and compassionate character, she was a model of her faith. She had a kind and empathetic soul that made for a loving environment for her children and grandchildren. Often referred to as “saintly” by her family members, she cherished her faith life and celebrated it with her family. Marie was like a mother to anyone she met and opened her home and kitchen to those who needed assistance or a good meal. There was never a holiday meal without someone joining them who did not have family in the area.
Consistent with the theme of food and hospitality, in 1984 Marie and Ralph opened Ardito’s Family Restaurant which they operated for thirteen years. They treated their customers as if they were dining in their own home. Because Ardito’s was located at the Augusta Airport, they met people from all over the world, including many celebrities who were vacationing in the area. Marie charmed Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was on the airport tarmac in need of good food for his next destination. Her desserts, in particular, were always in demand at the restaurant, on display right upon entering the restaurant. Christmas Eve dinners served seventy-five family and friends, and Marie hosted all gatherings with ease and grace.
According to her son Gene, one of his best memories was escorting his mother to her hometown of Sant’ Apollinare in October of 2011 where they met her other son Mark for a week of grape harvesting and wine-making at Marie’s cousin’s villa. While in Italy, Marie was treated like a celebrity. They celebrated a week of fabulous food and delicious homemade wine and lived as if they were part of the community. Her story and presence resonated with everyone they met. Family was always first with Marie. She dearly loved her husband, her children and grandchildren and their spouses, and her great grandchildren.
Surviving is her husband of 68 years, Ralph W. Ardito of Scarborough, ME; four sons: Ralph Ardito, Jr. of Belgrade, ME, Eugene Ardito of Portland, ME and his wife Barbara, Gregory Ardito of Augusta, ME, and Mark Ardito and his wife Jenny of Belgrade, ME; one daughter, Ann Smith and her husband David of Augusta, ME. Her grandchildren are Anthony of Cape Elizabeth, ME and his wife Katie, and their children Vincent and Carolina; Elena Neuts of Cumberland ME, who last year lost her husband John unexpectedly, and their son Easton; Amelia of San Diego, CA; Ava and Joseph of Belgrade, ME.
The family would like to thank Dr. Karen Saylor, the nurses and staff at Compassus Hospice and the nurses and staff at The Mooring for the extraordinary and loving care they provided to Marie over the last year.
Family & friends may visit, with CDC guidelines, from 4-7 pm on Friday, May 21, 2021 at Plummer Funeral Home, 16 Pleasant St., Augusta, ME. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 AM on Saturday, May 22, 2021 at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 41 Western Ave., Augusta, ME. Burial will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Manchester.