Angela "Lee" LaBella, 89, longtime owner of Mademoiselle Bridal Shop in downtown Utica, NY, passed away peacefully in North Hollywood, CA, on May 3 with her loving family at her side. Standing only 4’11” tall, her diminutive stature belied her presence as a giant on the Utica bridal scene, where she dressed thousands of Central New York’s brides for four decades before retiring and closing the popular store in 1994.
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Born in Utica on May 13, 1929 to Joseph and Lucy Trisolino, Italian immigrants who started the bridal shop and taught her fashion and business, Lee married Moses LaBella in a glorious Italian wedding ceremony on Oct. 11, 1952. They had four children together in 55 years of marriage before Moe, who owned LaBella's Pancake House in Sylvan Beach for five decades, passed away in 2008. A few years later, Lee moved to California to live with daughter Lucinda, who along with her husband Peter Jessop and three sons, provided her with a beautiful home and loving care.
Lee herself was an incredible devoted caretaker for many, first with both of her parents, then with her husband and younger sister Lucille, who lived next door and needed years of care before her passing in 2009. Lee also spent a lifetime looking out for her youngest son Brian of Las Vegas, who has had the misfortune of lifelong health problems. Lee had a heart of gold and always put others first, even as she aged and fought her own health issues.
Besides her bridal career and family caretaker responsibilities, Lee was an outstanding cook, homemaker and mother. She was very proud of all of her children as well as her longtime home on Sunset Ave, which she decorated with a professional's touch and used to host hundreds of beautiful family gatherings on special occasions and holidays. She was equally proud of Mademoiselle, a grand shop with huge display windows brightening the downtown Utica scene with ever-changing wedding fashions. It was a business she shared with siblings and was a landmark during downtown Utica's most vibrant days. Brides would come from far and wide to buy from Mademoiselle, and Lee would often go help dress them on their wedding days.
At age 79, Lee took up painting as a hobby, and one of her paintings of the Trisolino family's original home and bridal store on Bleecker Street was chosen for inclusion in the annual Munson-Williams summer sidewalk show, resulting in the Utica Observer-Dispatch doing a front page feature on her. Another of her hobbies was following TV and movie stars and the Hollywood life; she read many books and magazines and was a bit of a celebrity expert. It's never been lost on her friends and family that she spent her later years in Hollywood among the stars, even as she missed her beloved Utica.
Lee leaves behind her four children -- Gary (and Jeanne) of Arlington, Va., Stephen (and Kathi) of Los Angeles, Brian of Las Vegas and Lucinda (and Peter), plus 9 grandchildren (Lindsey and husband Carmin Ruggiero, Carsen and husband Darren Willner, Jordan, Christian, Devyn, Dakota, Noah, Aidan and Graham, and one great-grandchild, Hudson.
She also leaves behind sisters Gina Esposito of Utica, Elaine (and husband David) Seeley of Carlsbad, Ca, and Julie (and Mike) Houghton of Alexandria, Va., a sister-in-law Carmella Mallozzi of Utica, and many cousins, nephews and nieces. Her siblings who predeceased her were Jay (and Rosemary) Trisolino, Celeste Surace, Sebastian Trisolino, Marie Johnson and Lucille Trisolino.
When Lee was a senior at Proctor High School in 1947, the Observer-Dispatch featured her as "senior of the week." The opening paragraph of the story proclaimed that "Angeline" offered undeniable proof that "good things come in small packages." Lee proved that her whole life, and the people in her life were the lucky beneficiaries.
Burial will be in Utica. At Lee's request, there will be no public service.
Here is a YouTube link to the Angela LaBella video;