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 Maria <I>Lanza</I> Cocozza

Maria Lanza Cocozza

Abruzzo, Italy
Death 6 Jul 1970 (aged 65)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Mausoleum
Memorial ID 2517 · View Source
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Mother of famed actor and singer Mario Lanza. Mario was her only son, and he took her maiden name as his stage name, masculinizing Maria into Mario. Born the family's first child in Abruzzi Region of Italy, her parents Salvatore and Ellisa Lanza moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when she was just six months old. Salvatore initially began by peddling vegetables from a horse drawn cart, but by saving his money, he soon purchased a store, and within a few years, owned a house and a summer cottage in New Jersey, living the American Dream. Young Maria dreamed of a career in the opera, but in 1920, when young Army veteran Tony Cocozza, wearing his military uniform (as did many veterans back then), entered her father's store to buy salami, it was love at first sight. Despite her young age and their age difference, they were soon married. Army Veteran Tony Cocozza moved in with his in-laws, where young Tony Jr (the future Mario Lanza) was born just 13 months after their marriage. Young Maria proved to be a talented seamstress, and the child Mario was always dressed in the latest style. For years, Maria would work as a seamstress, later hooked rugs in a factory, and for seven years, worked for the US Army making clothing. Eventually, the family moved into their own store, when her father purchased a candy store for his daughter. In later years, when son Mario Lanza became wealthy, Mario purchased a new home for his parents, and brought them from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. They settled in a new home at 622 Toyopa Drive in Pacific Palisades, California, which Mario paid for. After their death, the family home was occupied by children, Damon and Marc. During her life, it was said that she competed with wife, Betty, for Mario's affections and attention. In 1959, when her only son died, her husband received the news about 6:00 am from a telephone call from Rome. Unbelieving, he turned on the radio, and Mario's voice came on, singing "Be My Love." With the song's end, the DJ informed the public that Mario had died just hours before in Rome. She became hysterical, and the neighbors came in to comfort the couple. In the next three weeks, viewings were held in Rome, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, each time more than 20,000 persons came by to pay their respects, and Maria stayed with her dead son all the way. Following Mario's death, his wife, Betty, took the four children back to Los Angeles, California, and five months after Mario's death, she committed suicide at the age of 36. The four children, the oldest 11 and the youngest 5, were taken to their paternal grandparents, where they were raised. Maria and Tony were given custody after a short legal battle between Mario's parents and Betty's mother. When Mario and Betty's estate was settled, Mario's parents received a total of only $858,600 out of the millions that were originally in the estate, including the royalties from Mario's records, but it was enough to make them comfortable for the rest of their lives (lawyers got most of the estate). Maria spent the rest of her life caring for her grandchildren. She pursued the idea of a film about Mario's life, but it did not come to pass. She died on July 6, 1970, of a stroke, at the age of 65. A month later, family friend Terry Robinson was appointed guardian for Ellisa, Damon, and Marc (daughter Colleen was married at this point). Her husband, Tony, retreated into his private world of his vegetable garden and his dog, dying on May 22, 1975, at the age of 81.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

Family Members


  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2517
  • Cav. David Middleton Gratta
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Maria Lanza Cocozza (1 Jun 1905–6 Jul 1970), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2517, citing Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .