Mary Verbert DeBlasio, 96, Watertown

WATERTOWN, NY —  Mary was born, Mary Verbert on July 3, 1925, in Antwerp, Belgium. Her mother, Jan Verbert was an opera singer and her father, Robert was an architect and linguist. Her early childhood was filled with music, education and travel.  She hoped one day to become an opera singer, like her mother.

Her dream of pursuing a singing career was interrupted by the Nazi Invasion of Belgium in May 1940. The following 5 years of occupation greatly influenced the remainder of her life.

Mary’s strength showed through the horrors of the occupation from the very beginning. Initially, the Nazis decreed that all dogs were to be shot. Mary, just 15 years old, was assigned by her sobbing  family and neighbors, to take each terrified pet to the square, one at a time, to be shot and thrown into a pile.

Soon after, as her Jewish friends were required to wear the yellow star, she demanded that her parents let her wear the star as well, in both solidarity and rebellion. However, with her father and brother aiding the resistance, they wisely stopped her.  Following liberation, she subsequently worked for both British and then the American armies.

The war led to a deep religious conviction. Mary miraculously escaped death three times during the war. The first time, while sleeping in bed, a V1 rocket hit her house. She jumped up in her bed, covered in glass to see that the house, ceiling, and walls were gone, just she and her bed remained. The second time, she was going to the Rex Cinema to see a Gary Cooper movie. In what was the most deadly V2 bombing of WWII, the rocket hit the theater killing or injuring over 1200 people, she survived, helping rescuing the injured. The third and final time was a V2 bombing of the Antwerp’s main square. She was in the square when the bomb hit. Hundreds died, but Mary, covered in blood and body parts, walked home without a scratch on her.

Having been named after the Blessed Virgin, she knew she was saved for a reason and dedicated herself to the church and always helping others.

After the war, Mary moved to New York. Her father, fluent in eight languages, was hired by the newly formed United Nations as a translator. Mary also became a translator, fluent in Dutch/Flemish, English and French, for Sabina Airlines, while resuming her singing career.  She eventually produced a record at Radio City, which she has kept for all these years.  Her career highlight was singing solo at Carnegie Hall.

She then met her future husband, Serafino DeBlasio. Unfortunately, the marriage soon ended.  Having basically become a single mother, she had to give up her dreams to raise and support her two sons.

She has dedicated her life throughout the years, to making toys for disadvantaged children.  She has organized and led charitable groups, providing toys and items of hope for poor and needy families, not only during the holiday season but throughout the year.

Mary was a wonderful mother, who gave her sons a love of animals, a moral foundation, a love of education, a strong work ethic, a need to help the less fortunate, and a love of Christmas.

She was truly a remarkable woman who had a full and loving life.

Mary died Monday, July 26, 2021.

She is survived by her two sons, Daniel and Tony DeBlasio.

In her memory, donations to a food pantry, Toys for Tots, or a dog shelter would have made her very happy.

Arrangements are with Reed & Benoit Funeral Home.