Josephine Pista

Obituary of Josephine Pista



March 15, 1924 - September 4, 2023


Josephine Pista passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her family on September 4 at the age of 99. Josephine was born on March 15, 1924 in Santa Cruz, CA to Guilio and Annita Borelli. She grew up on a ranch with her family up the coast, and loved to tell all her stories about growing up on the ranch and everything she learned from watching her mom and dad. She attended Santa Cruz High School and graduated in 1942, the first in her family of what would become four generations of SCHS graduates.


Josephine married Paul Pappas on May 24, 1944 in Santa Cruz. They shared three wonderful children and 22 years of marriage before Paul’s passing in 1966. They would open and run an old Santa Cruz staple, Paul’s Bar, in 1949, and run it together for 17 years, with Josephine keeping the business open until 1979. Paul and Josephine would spend time together at both San Francisco Giants and 49ers games with family and friends, lounging at Cowell Beach with their kids, and creating the foundation for the big family that was to come. In 1974, she married Lou Pista, and they shared 31 years of marriage together before Lou’s passing in 2005. With Lou out back grilling on the barbecue he built, Josephine could always be found in the kitchen, making her famous hot pasta with homemade sauce, tossing the fresh salad in the biggest bowl anyone has ever seen, and chatting up whoever was lucky enough to be their guests that day. They spent many of their days eating and drinking with family and friends, spending time with the growing number of grandkids and great-grandkids, and of course taking trips to Lou’s apple orchard in Watsonville.


Josephine lived a wonderful and full life surrounded by her ever-growing, fun-loving family and friends. All of the joys and challenges of being the matriarch of a large Italian family made her extremely open-minded, forgiving, and ensuring the family was always present and enjoying each other’s company. She enjoyed playing poker and Pinochle, baking and cooking, a stiff Old Fashioned, traveling to Italy and New Orleans, tending to her flourishing garden of fruits and vegetables, listening to her beloved San Francisco Giants and 49ers on the radio, and spending every moment she could with her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. If she wasn’t at home, you could always find her at Shopper’s Corner getting groceries or enjoying a good breakfast at DeLaveaga Golf Course. She hosted and cooked for all of the big holidays, usually feeding over thirty of her immediate and extended family members at a time. She loved to gather with those she loved, and was the most loving and nurturing person we’ve ever known. She was also generous to a fault. Josephine would always be seen with a fresh perm and a fresh manicure, always looking her best. She remained active and healthy, continuing to eat at all her favorite restaurants and cooking for others until the last couple months of her life.


Josephine’s legacy and love spread beyond her family, reaching some people who had never even met her. She shared stories with her family, who then shared them with those who wanted to know more about the life and love of the infamous Josephine. She was known as Mom, Grandma Jo, and Nona. So many thought of her as their own mom or grandma, as she welcomed everyone into her home with an open heart. Her kitchen always smelled of fresh biscotti or whatever else she was cooking up that day, and no matter if she was sitting in her chair or at the kitchen table playing solitaire, you would find her in one of her handmade aprons with a big smile on her face, always so happy you came to visit. No one will ever replace her, and she is truly leaving behind a legacy that will be carried on for decades to come.


Josephine is preceded in death by her parents, her brother Reno Borelli, her husband Paul Pappas, her husband Lou Pista, her grandson Gino Panelli, and her great-granddaughter Mia Pappas. She is survived by her sister Lydia Clarke, her three children, Paula (Corky) Panelli, Peter (Kathy) Pappas, George (Laurie) Pappas, nine grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren, and extended family members.


A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, September 23, 2023 at 10:00 am at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 210 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.


The family requests in lieu of flowers that donations be made to Hospice of Santa Cruz County, 940 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley, CA 95066, or to the Gino Panelli Foundation, PO Box 1145, Santa Cruz, CA 95061.


Funeral Mass

10:00 am - 11:30 am
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Holy Cross Catholic Church
126 High Street
Santa Cruz, California, United States
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