Myriam Francisca Vela Gangi, beloved mother and sister, died in Chapel Hill on March 4, 2020 after a period of declining health.
The daughter of Dr. Luis Vela and Victoria Vergara, she was born on January 26, 1928 in Cundinamarca, Colombia. Myriam lived in Chapel Hill for more than 40 years and enjoyed travel and spending time with her family and friends.
Family who will cherish her memory include son Gregory Gangi of Durham (wife Emily); daughter Lisa Gangi of Cleveland, Ohio (husband Omar); grandchildren Nicholas Peterson, Joseph Mian, and Olivia Mian, all of Cleveland; devoted sister Elizabeth Skema of Chapel Hill; sister Margarita Morales of Bogota, Colombia; a special niece Catalina Christensen and her husband Kier of London, England; and many nieces and nephews. In addition to her parents, Myriam was preceded in death by her husband, Ernest Gangi, and adult siblings Victoria Vela, Luis Eduardo Vela, Yolanda Restrepo, Francisco Vela, and Beatrice Molinos.
“Though she be but little she is fierce,” are words written by William Shakespeare that amply describe Myriam. She was indeed fierce, as those fortunate to be loved by her can most attest. She loved fiercely and she overcame adversity in a fiercely positive way. Myriam’s mother died when she was 8 years old and then her father when she was 17 years old. As a young woman, she immigrated to New York with two of her sisters. There she met Ernest Gangi at a dance, and they married and formed a family. Myriam was a homemaker and raised her children to be kind, intelligent, disciplined, and industrious. After her husband retired, she worked for several years at Belk department store in Chapel Hill. She relished being a grandmother and dedicated much of her attention to Nicholas, Joseph, and Olivia, who affectionately call her Nana.
Myriam was a passionate traveler and always ready for an adventure. She enjoyed sharing memories of trips to Germany and Costa Rica with her son, Spain with her daughter, Egypt and Russia with her sisters, Italy and Peru with her grandson, and England and Denmark to visit her niece. Paris was one of her favorite places and she often dreamed of returning there after her health made international travel too difficult. She enjoyed one last trip to Maine last fall with her son and daughter-in-law. In Chapel Hill she was part of a wonderful circle of friends with whom she enjoyed spending time over long lunches and cappuccinos.
A memorial mass will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 at The Newman Catholic Student Center, located at 218 Pittsboro Street in Chapel Hill.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are welcome at A Helping Hand, a non-profit organization whose caregivers made it possible for Myriam to remain at home until her death (ahelpinghandnc.org and 1502 West NC Hwy 54, Suite 405 Durham, NC 27707). The family expresses their sincere gratitude to Nancy Avila and Rosezetta Manuel, who cared for Myriam with kindness and friendship in the last two years of her life.