‘Every neighborhood should have a Mrs. Nohra,’ one
neighbor told her family.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
LIBERTY — Joseph S. Nohra was overwhelmed when he learned that Anthony and Phyllis Cafaro had donated $100,000 to Youngstown State University in memory of his late wife, Betty C. Nohra.
Just to know that someone was sharing in his loss meant a lot to him, he said.
Nohra was overwhelmed again when he learned that YSU would name a new resource center in the university’s nursing program the Betty C. Nohra Student Resource Center. The university’s board of trustees approved the name in June.
The Cafaros and the university were showing respect for him and his family and his many years with the Cafaro Corp. and the university, he said.
Nohra, who retired as chief financial officer of the Cafaro Corp. at the end of 2000 with more than 44 years of service, was also a YSU trustee for nine years, leaving that position in 2004.
His wife, who died in August 2006, was unaware that the Cafaros intended to make a gift to YSU in her name, he said.
A Cafaro connection
Betty Nohra had her own connection with the Cafaro family.
She graduated from the Youngstown Hospital School of Nursing in 1957 as a registered nurse and then went to work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for two years.
She returned to Youngstown in 1959 as a private-duty nurse.
She was a special person to the Cafaro family, Nohra said, noting that she served as a private-duty nurse to Flora Cafaro and remained close to Flora’s son, Bill, and his wife, Alyce, until their deaths in the late 1990s.
Nohra said he met the love of his life when she came to work for his late father, Simon, as a private-duty nurse, and they were married in October 1960.
Although Betty officially retired from nursing in 1963 to concentrate on rearing a family, she never really gave it up, Nohra said, explaining that she continued to provide expert nursing services for her family, friends and neighbors.
Focus on family
“We had a wonderful life together,” he said, noting that she died shortly before their 46th wedding anniversary. “She was a great support to me. She was the most wonderful woman.”
The couple raised eight children — Mary Ann, Tabby, Jacquelyn, Rebecca, Jude, Joanne, Joseph and Elizabeth — all of whom still live in the Mahoning Valley.
All eight attended YSU at some point, and six graduated from the university, two of them attaining master’s degrees there. Those eight children gave their parents 20 grandchildren.
The donation by the Cafaros was “an incredibly generous gift,” said Rebecca. Her mother wasn’t one to seek the limelight but would be proud of the honor because of her husband and what YSU means to him, she said.
“She was the most unselfish person, first a wife, then a mom. She was the ultimate everything,” said daughter Joanne, pointing out that her ill mother was insistent on attending her wedding and walking down the aisle just two and a half weeks before her death.
Betty loved the university, Nohra said, noting she was an avid Penguin football fan and insisted on buying the appropriate red and white Penguin attire to attend the games.
“Her cooking was legendary,” said daughter Elizabeth, adding that there was always additional food available at mealtimes to feed anyone who might be around.
“Our friends wanted to be part of our family,” she said, recalling, “My mom and dad had a way of adopting children.”
She was loved by everyone, Joanne said, noting that a neighbor recently commented that, “Every neighborhood should have a Mrs. Nohra.”
Her children are planning to create a cookbook of their mother’s recipes and intend to give the money it raises to cancer research, said Jacquelyn.
“She never, ever once complained of anything,” Nohra said, adding that she instituted a policy when they first married that they would never go to bed angry with each other. It was a good policy, he said, noting that they never had a serious argument.
“She was, indeed, my best friend,” he said.