November 27, 1915-February 21, 2019
Jemma Sassaman passed away peacefully at Hillcrest Convalescent Center, Durham, NC, at the age of 103. The oldest of six siblings, she was born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrant parents, Felicia Turchi and Paul Stella, and was always proud of her Italian heritage. She married Grant M. Sassaman June 1938 while they were both working for the Federal Writers Project in Philadelphia. Grant joined the Federal government, working for a precursor of the CIA early in WW II and they lived in Arlington, VA, with foreign assignments in Okinawa (1949 to 1952) and Cyprus (1956 to 1960). Both assignments were to conflict zones at the time, and Jemma relished the excitement and made the most of her life in these countries while raising two young boys. She made many local friends and in so doing, developed her international cooking skills.
She and Grant moved to Chapel Hill in 1991, where she made many new friends and resumed her passion for quilting and needlework. Jemma was well-known for her beautiful, award-winning quilts and wall hangings, delicate Christmas ornaments, and especially her rolls, Christmas cookies, and Italian cooking, including handmade pasta. She is survived by her two sons, Jan (Anne) of Galloway Ridge, Fearrington Village, NC and Clay (Trudy) of Riverside, CA, grandchildren Frances Sassaman (Charlottetown, PEI, Bill Saul), Kristen Ball (Richmond, VA, Rik Cropley) and Robert Ball (Washington, DC, Tara Billingsley), and great-grandchildren, Catey, Mere, Kate, and Caroline, as well as cousins, nieces, and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her siblings, and husband Grant, who died in 1993. The family would like to thank the staff of Hillcrest, who for seven years provided her with caring and comfort and were with her at her final breath, and also friends in Chapel Hill and elsewhere who remained faithful to the end of her life.
Her remains will be interred at a later date in Orwigsburg, PA beside Grant, in a family service led by Rev. Bill Gattis.