Ida Mungai

Obituary of Ida Meschi Mungai

Ida Meschi Mungai passed away peacefully in her home of 53 years in Santa Cruz on November 28, 2020, leaving a legacy of love and faith for her family and many friends.

Ida was born and raised in Santa Cruz. She was the only child of Italo and Bianca Meschi, immigrants from Lucca, Italy, who entered the United States through Ellis Island and came to Santa Cruz to work in agriculture. Ida and her loving husband, Don Mungai, both graduated from Santa Cruz High School in 1950, along with many of their lifelong friends. In an interview printed in the school paper The Trident, Ida shared two goals for her life: to graduate from San Jose State as an elementary school teacher and to get married. In 1954, she graduated with her teaching credential, then the following weekend married the love of her life and childhood friend at Holy Cross Church. She was the first generation to attend college, and her parents couldn’t have been more proud of their very special daughter.

Ida accompanied Don as he fulfilled his ROTC service obligations as an Air Force officer, stationed first in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and then in Tachikawa, Japan, where she worked as an on-base elementary school teacher.  After two and half years in Japan, Don and Ida returned to Santa Cruz. Ida began teaching at Grant School, where she met her dear friend Mary Jo May. Mary Jo and Ida raised their families together and maintained a close, supportive friendship through the ups and downs of life’s journey. Ida was beloved by her students, who would gather around her like Mother Goose during her shifts on the playground.

Ida left the teaching profession to dedicate herself to raising her three daughters. She was always piling kids into the family station wagon to bring them to field trips, Brownie meetings, sporting events, and cheerleading practices. She loved to “turn tags” in search of bargains with her daughters, lining up in the dressing rooms to swap outfits and share a good laugh. Ida stayed active in her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the Omega Nu service organization, and the Santa Cruz High School Alumni Association, which she helped establish with Doc Fehliman. Ida and Don have been lifelong parishioners at Holy Cross Church and members of the Italian Catholic Federation. After the girls were grown, Ida rejoined the workforce as the office manager at Don’s business, John Battistini Insurance, where she welcomed all callers and visitors with a warm greeting.

Ida loved to be with people, and everyone who met her was quickly drawn to her generous and caring spirit. She and Don enjoyed cooking for and entertaining their family and friends. Whether in their tiny mobile home on an Air Force base in Japan or in their home in Santa Cruz that they designed specially to accommodate large parties, Don and Ida loved bringing people together to eat, drink, and enjoy companionship. The highlight of their years of hospitality was hosting three large Italian weddings for their daughters and their husbands: Annette and Dennis Sullivan of Mill Valley, Janette and Joseph Cullinan of San Mateo, and Lynette and Paul Curthoys of Half Moon Bay.

Ida was a dedicated and doting Nonni who loved spending time with her five grandchildren: Luca Sullivan, Sophia and Joya Cullinan, and Natalie and Jake Curthoys. Family trips to Disneyland, summers at Lake Tahoe, winters in Palm Springs, and pool-side fun at Mary Jo May’s house in Santa Cruz were some of her favorite times.

Ida and Don shared a loving 66-year marriage built upon their shared Catholic faith—dedicated to each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health. Ida’s faith shaped her generous heart and provided her unending spiritual strength to endure the hardship of the paralyzing stroke she suffered 13 years ago.  She is forever a blessing in the lives of Don, her family, and friends. All who knew and loved Ida can take comfort knowing that Ida saw all of us as blessings in her own life.

Don and the family will forever be grateful to Ida’s dedicated and loving caregivers, Rosa Valdez, Maria Alvarez, and Esperanza Alvarez.

While the best way to honor Ida would be to gather together with family and friends, we will defer a memorial Mass and celebration of her wonderful life to a time when we can do so safely. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in memory of Ida be made to:

Public Schools Foundation of Santa Cruz County, 1840 41st Avenue, Suite 102 PMB 244, Capitola, CA 95010. Or schoolsplus.us  

or

Cabrillo College Foundation, Angelina Battistini Nursing Scholarship, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA  95003. Or foundation.cabrillo.edu and enter “In memory of Ida Mungai” in the special notes. Or call 831-479-6338. 

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