Sue Bruno, widow of mob boss, dies at 94

The late mob boss Angelo Bruno and his wife, Sue, had a lifelong love affair, flirting with each other until the day he died.

On the morning of March 21, 1980, before the crime boss was shotgunned to death in a car in front of their South Philadelphia home, his wife told him: "You look so, so handsome in that blue business suit," Jean Bruno Puppo recalled her mother telling her.

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Sue Maranca Bruno and her husband Angelo, in a 1971 family photo. When Angelo Bruno was sent to prison, Sue Bruno brought her children every week to visit him.

"I'm so glad I said that," Sue Bruno confided to her daughter. "It was the last time I saw him."

Yesterday was the last time that members of the Bruno family saw Sue Bruno, described by attorney and family friend Carmen Nasuti as a "very, very strong personality and strong matriarch."

Early yesterday, Sue Bruno died of natural causes. She was 94.

Born Assunta "Sue" Maranca, in Lanciana, in the Italian province of Abruzzo, she was 5 when she and her family came to America in 1918 and settled in South Philadelphia.

The Maranca and Bruno families operated corner grocery stores about a block apart. Angelo Bruno became best friends - and later bootleggers - with Sue's older brother, Ralph Maranca, said Puppo, 66.

But Angelo secretly had his eyes on Sue. At 18, she married the 21-year-old charmer inside St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church on Christian Street near 10th. They had two children, Michael and Jean.

"She was gorgeous," as well as an excellent cook who was devoted to family, said her daughter.

Sue became particularly close to her son's two daughters, Maria and Sue, who was named after her.

In the early years of their marriage, Puppo recalled, her father was a numbers writer and banker, working out of their four-room house at 1905 S. Broad St., now a "real" bank. "She painted the windowpanes black, so people couldn't see in," she recalled.

"No matter how old she got, she would make herself up," said Puppo, recalling her mother's "perfect ruby-red lips." Her song to her daughter was: "Stay young and make yourself beautiful."

Sue would fix her 5-year-old daughter's hair in plaits on one side and curls on the other, then the two would "dress like each other," said Puppo.

"Whenever she would get angry, she would go to the hairdresser and to an expensive dress shop and run up the bill," her daughter recalled. Often she had her clothes made, her shoes and outfits beaded.

"My mother was very sexy, a head-turner," she said.

During Puppo's childhood, her father would invite friends over, play the piano or any string instrument, and they would sing songs such as "Baby, you done me wrong."

"She used to love to dance with him," she added. "She made his favorite dish, pasta potato, with potatoes, marinara sauce, macaroni and red wine, not sweet."

By then, Sue had become the quintessential South Philadelphia housewife, exchanging dishes with neighbors, and inviting a young Jerry Blavat - before he became a top DJ, "the Geater with the Heater" - to try one of her meatballs.

"She'd insist I had to eat, even if I wasn't hungry. She'd give me them right out of the frying pan," he said. "After eating one or two meatballs, she'd say, 'See, I told you you were hungry.' "

"They were almost like my second family," said Blavat, whose mother, Lucille, became close friends with Sue, since they both came from Abruzzo.

"Ange treated her like a princess," Blavat said of Angelo Bruno.

Attorney Nasuti said, "She was a very intelligent lady who enjoyed the arts - music, Italian opera, great opera singers. As long as she was able, she was very independent, almost stubborn. She wasn't school-educated, but very smart, worldly smart."

Sue Bruno told Puppo: "Whoever shares the pillow shares the crown."

After Joe Valachi mentioned Angelo Bruno during his 1963 congressional testimony about the existence of the Mafia - the first mobster to do so - Angelo and Sue fled the area, Puppo said. Bruno came back first, before his reluctant wife.

In 1970, Bruno was jailed for nearly three years for refusing to answer questions before the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.

Sue marched her two adult children, Michael, then 39, and Jean, then 30 and pregnant with her third child, to the Yardville State Correctional Facility every week to see him.

"There were times she was sad and lonely, and she was afraid to answer the door," said Puppo. But Sue kept two diaries, one a draft for the other.

The day her husband was killed, she was horrified that police left him slack-jawed in the car for hours.

She was heart-broken, but quickly became incensed when a would-be suitor showed up, pledging his undying love. Sue called Puppo to have her husband get him to leave.

By then, Sue did not want to live in a house of memories on Snyder Avenue near 9th. She moved to a mansion in Ventnor, N.J., where her son, Michael, visited frequently. As her health deteriorated and she developed dementia, caregivers tended to her, said Nasuti.

After Michael died in 2000, his wife, Zaria, took care of Sue in their home in Girard Estate, he added. In recent weeks, Sue received hospice care.

Besides her daughter and two granddaughters, Bruno is survived by four other grandchildren, Marieangela, Jeanangela, Marcangelo and Sueangela.

Services: Viewing from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Pennsylvania Burial, 1327 S. Broad St.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Monica Roman Catholic Church, 17th and Ritner streets, followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery, in Yeadon, Delaware County. *