'Recipes of an Angel' offers heavenly dishes

By Sean Barron

Special to The Vindicator


A short glance through Sheila Popio’s cookbook is all that’s needed to savor hundreds of tasty cooking ideas.

But for Popio, the book is a lot more than a smorgasbord of favored soups, salads and entrees: It’s a tribute to a lost loved one.

“She made everybody laugh,” Popio said, referring to her daughter, Melissa Sue Hanna, who was killed June 4, 2010, in a car accident at age 20 and who left her son, Cameron McCracken, now 3. “She’d do anything for anybody; she just had a heart of gold.”

In an effort to keep her daughter’s memory alive — and work on her own healing — Popio compiled “Recipes of an Angel: Remembering Melissa Sue” (Morris Press Cookbooks, $20).

The project, published earlier this year, contains about 330 recipes for soups, salads, breads, vegetables, desserts and a variety of dishes — many of which mother and daughter prepared together. It’s also in keeping with her daughter’s love of cooking, Popio explained recently from her Price Road home on the West Side.

“We’ve cooked since she was real little,” Popio said of Melissa Sue, a 2009 Austintown Fitch High School graduate who was planning to attend Youngstown State University and become a veterinarian or an attorney.

Among her daughter’s favorites were potato-cheese soup, fried chicken, barbecued ribs and homemade macaroni and cheese, recalled Popio, a homemaker.

In addition to recipes friends, relatives, acquaintances and others submitted, the cookbook contains a sampling of Melissa Sue’s writings and drawings that show some of her artistic talents, Popio explained. Also in the book is a tribute to Melissa Sue that reads in part: “She loved her family and friends so much and would do anything for anybody.”

But for Popio, perhaps the sweetest aspect of the project lies in its therapeutic value.

“The day I opened them, I was ecstatic,” she said about having received her first set of copies. “It’s helped me channel my grief, and people’s participation meant a lot. Being able to share with the community how [Melissa Sue] really was makes me happy.”

The cookbook effort, along with his grandson’s love, has helped Popio’s husband, Joe Popio, deal with his loss.

“It’s a tough thing to go through,” said Joe, a pipefitter for Boardman-based Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 396. “Having Cameron around helps take the blow off losing her.”

To obtain a copy, call Popio at 330-531-2230 or go to http://sites.google.com/site/recipes-ofanangel.

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