Luisa DeLauro, a veteran New Haven political player and the mother of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, died Saturday at 103.
Luisa DeLauro, a shrewd politician and a devoted booster of the Elm City, was the longest serving member of the New Haven Board of Aldermen in the city’s history. She was first elected in 1965 and served for 35 years. Her colleagues referred to her as “the dean of the Board of Alderman” because she served under six mayors.
Born on December 24, 1913, Luisa DeLauro was the third of Cesare and Luisa Canestri’s six children. She grew up in the heart of New Haven’s Italian American community and spent most of her childhood in her mother’s pastry shop, Canestri’s.
While serving as vice-chairman of the New Haven Historic District Study Commission, Luisa DeLauro was instrumental in designating Wooster Square as New Haven’s first Historic District. She was also one of the founders of the neighborhood’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Her husband, Ted DeLauro, who died in 1971, was known as the Mayor of Wooster Square.
“My mother was no stranger to hard work,” Rosa DeLauro said in a statement. “When I was growing up, she worked in a sweatshop, sewing shirt collars for pennies. Every day after school, she would make me come by to see the horrible, cramped conditions. It is something I will never forget. The lesson she passed on was clear: work hard. Make something of yourself. Get a good education.”
Rosa DeLauro said her mother was her biggest booster and greatest inspiration. “I will miss her greatly. She taught me the most valuable of lessons of my life,” Rosa DeLauro said. “She understood that politics was an avenue for change—a way to help people who were struggling. It is truly the blessing of a lifetime to have been able to follow in her footsteps, to serve the people of New Haven and Connecticut.”