Donna Papa, a longtime Sayville High School monitor who captured the hearts of thousands of students and co-workers, died on Memorial Day, 11 months after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
She was 62.
Motivated by “getting back to work and the kids” and inspired by texts and phone calls from high schoolers, the Sayville resident waged a hard-fought battle against the disease. In March, she underwent life-saving surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, an operation that left the Papa family optimistic for her longtime survival.
But her health began to deteriorate, and this month she had been in and out of Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson.
Papa is survived by her husband of nearly 40 years Tony and their four children, Kristin Watson and Anthony, Jason and Jesse Papa; her mother Patricia West; and eight grandchildren. Madison Marie Papa — the couple’s eighth grandchild — was born just hours after Donna Papa’s death.
In another touching twist of familial synchronicity, Papa’s eldest son Jason (Madison Marie’s dad) shares the same birthday, March 7, as his mom, Tony Papa reports.
“I just hope they met in the middle, and this little girl is as spicy and sassy as her ‘nonna,'” said Tony Papa, who is looking to establish a scholarship in his wife’s name at Sayville High School.
The family held a private memorial service at Raynor & D’andrea Funeral Home on Thursday. It was followed by a highly attended graveside service at St. Ann’s Cemetery in Sayville.
“I miss her — her smile, her happiness, her sadness, her yelling at me and her loving me, all at the same time,” Tony Papa said on Friday. “We wanted to renew our wedding vows — this coming October, we would have been married 40 years. And we wanted to see our eighth grandchild for the first time, together.”
An obituary by posted by Raynor & D’Andrea spoke of Donna Papa’s tremendous strength.
“Even with battling Multiple sclerosis and eventually cancer, she was full of life, love and never let her own struggles take her down,” the obituary read. “She had a way about her that drew people to her. Whether for a laugh, a cry, a talk or even a kick in the rear, Donna was always there for everyone and anyone.”
“Donna Papa will forever be a legend in the Sayville community and will be missed beyond measure by her loved ones,” it continued.
Donna Papa is also survived by her daughters-in-law, Jamie and Samantha; her son-in-law Daniel Watson; and two sisters, Cheryl Lyes and Lynn Connor. In addition to her eighth grandchild Madison Marie, she is also survived by her seven other grandchildren: Luke, Alexandria, Vincent, Antonia, Dominic, Sadie and Joseph.