Velia Maria Giannetti Phillips, 84, died peacefully on October 13, 2020, surrounded by the love of her family in Virginia Beach. She was predeceased by her parents, Cesarina Federici de Giannetti and Umberto Giannetti; her brother, Roberto Giannetti; and, her dear friend, Claude Andrews. She is survived by her daughter, Vanessa Phillips Flores and her husband Rodney of Virginia Beach, Va.; her son, Alexander Phillips and his wife Susan of Harrisonburg, Va.; her sister, Liviana Giannetti of Buenos Aires, Argentina; her former husband, David. S. Phillips; and her beloved grandchildren, Kirsten, Luke, and Nicholas Flores and Zachary and Connor Phillips. She is also survived by many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Maria was born on October 12, 1936, to an opera singer and a builder, in Marina di Carrara, Italy. During World War II, her family survived in a cavern in the Apuan Alps. In 1948, they immigrated to South America, settling in the Olivos area of Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a ballet student, she was proudest of her performance as Odette and Odile in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” at the Teatro Astros. Maria loved swimming, tennis, sailing, and times with friends at the Yacht Club-Olivos. In 1964, she married David and they raised their children in Richmond. She was a dedicated Italian mother: from elaborate displays of affection to undying love and faith in her children. She was the first investor in her son’s business. She shared many adventures with her children, including trips to Europe and South America, long days immersed in art museums and slow walks along the James River. Her essay, “America Still Offers Hope to Other Lands” was published by the Richmond News Leader. Maria taught Spanish and Italian in Henrico County Public Schools and the University of Richmond. Many of her paintings were shown in local cafés. She enjoyed walks with her devoted friend Claude and their dogs. She was always there for a friend and neighbor in need. Her grandchildren were a dream come true and “Nonna Maria” loved them with enthusiastic kisses, hugs, and lots of play, which will be greatly missed. Judy, Erica, Karen, Manny, Devin, Candice, and Jen, her caregivers, and the dear Sister Anne, were extraordinary blessings. While living, Maria knew the love of those whose lives entwined with hers and her family holds that love and sympathy in their hearts.
In lieu of flowers, she would have requested that her family and friends remember her by sharing special time with loved ones. After a private service, she will be laid to rest at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Richmond.