Marie "Maemoe" Faragalli, 86, owner of the venerable Faragalli's Bakery in South Philadelphia, which lays claim to the only wood-fired open-hearth oven in Philadelphia, died of breast cancer Sunday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Marie Carrozza was born in 1921 in a rowhouse a few blocks away from the bakery at 13th and Reed Streets. She met Anthony Faragalli Sr. at South Philadelphia High School, from which she graduated in 1938.

"My father liked the way Maemoe looked and fell for her after one date," said son Phillip. After a proper courtship and a traditional serenade, the couple married in 1943 on Valentine's Day.

Mrs. Faragalli moved to Mississippi to be with her husband when he was drafted into the Army during World War II. Her first son, Joseph, was born there. He couldn't say "Mama," so he called her "Maemoe," and it stuck.

"Maybe it was those accents down in Mississippi, he said Maemoe instead," Mrs. Faragalli said in a 1989 Inquirer story. "Everybody I know calls me Maemoe. And after all those years - I like it." She told the reporter: "Don't call me Marie in your article."

The couple opened Faragalli's Bakery in 1948. Her husband was the baker, and Mrs. Faragalli raised seven children above the shop. Their three sons started working in the bakery as youngsters.

"Our home was warm and toasty," said Phillip Faragalli. "It smelled like fresh-baked bread."

When Anthony Faragalli Sr. died in 1980, Mrs. Faragalli ran the bakery with sons Phillip and Anthony Jr., the bakers. "I just take care of the front of the store, and clean, and sweep, and mop, and make fried dough, which is my own invention - big pieces of dough, a foot long or so, done in the deep fryer so they blow up nice and crisp," she said in 1989. She handled all the orders and bookkeeping in the bakery until last week.

The Faragallis make bread the old way - no preservatives - with flour, water, yeast and a little salt. The bread has a wood-fired crust - chewy but not leathery - and the delicious wheat taste of hearth-baked bread. It has become a staple at more than 20 Italian restaurants in Philadelphia.

Mrs. Faragalli, who lived above the bakery until her death, said the rosary daily while watching Mass on television. About 8:30 a.m., she went downstairs to work. Her sons took turns on the early baking shift that started about 1 a.m.

The only thing Mrs. Faragalli's sons disagreed on was who made the prettiest bread. Other than that, they all got along. "Which is better than money," she said.

Anthony Faragalli Jr. died in 2005. Phillip Faragalli and his son are the bakers now.

In addition to her son Phillip, Mrs. Faragalli is survived by daughters Nina Murray, Rosemarie Bonavitacola and Bernadette Faragalli; 15 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and a brother. Her son Joseph and daughter Maria preceded her in death.

Friends may visit at 7 tonight and at 8:30 tomorrow at the Pennsylvania Burial Co., 1327 S. Broad St. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. at Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, 10th and Dickinson Streets. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, 1600 S. Sproul Rd., Springfield, Delaware County. Donations may be made to Annunciation Catholic Church, 1511 S. 10th St., Philadelphia 19147.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or