Rita Anne Corasaniti Ayd, the matriarch of a family of 102 direct descendants, died of heart failure April 23 at a daughter's northern Baltimore County home. She was 92 and had lived in the Lake Falls area.
Rita Anne Corasaniti was the daughter of Virginia Lavezza, a homemaker whose parents were from Genoa, Italy, and Joseph M. Corasaniti, an executive at Arundel Construction Co. She was born in Baltimore and lived on Eastern Avenue in Little Italy and on Traymore Road in Hamilton. She was a 1938 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame and then earned a degree at the old Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington.
"My mother was a brilliant student, and her father encouraged his children to pursue their educations," said daughter Maggi Ayd Reid of Baltimore County.
In 1942, she was accepted into the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "My mother was one of the first Italian-American female students at the school," said her daughter. "One day she was on Greene Street and met my father."
Mrs. Aye completed three years of medical school. She married fellow student Dr. Frank J. Ayd, who became a psychiatrist working with schizophrenics and was a pioneer with the use of the drug Thorazine. The couple had 12 children.
Family members said that Mrs. Ayd was proud of her Italian heritage and often visited her family's ancestral home.
"She nourished strong and loving ties with her Italian family," her daughter said. "It had been a dream of ours to go to Italy."
In 1962, the Ayd family left Baltimore for nearly three years while Dr. Ayd lectured throughout Europe and was a lay professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
The family of 14 traveled on Pan American Airlines. They were told by airline officials they set a record for the size of a family flying at one time.
Mrs. Ayd supervised her family as they resided on a floor of the Casa Pallotti, a pension run by the Pallottine order. They later lived in a home on the Gianicolo Hill.
"My mother sent us to an Italian school and later to a French school," her daughter said. "She spoke fluent Italian and became our tour guide. If we had a day off, she made sure we were looking at some antiquity. ... She was also an artist and painted beautifully."
She said her mother established contacts with her extended family members in Davoli, a town in the Catanzaro region, where she made trips after her stay in the 1960s.
"She instilled a love of art, history and the church in us," her daughter said.
After she returned to Baltimore, she continued to raise her family and established the family tradition of Sunday afternoon visits to her parents' farm in northern Baltimore County. Mrs. Ayd played a role in these multi-generational family gatherings, where the more senior members recounted memories of Italy as their children and grandchildren listened. There were often more than 100 family members present.
"She was an excellent cook," her daughter said. "She also was very much the mother of 12. For our school lunches, she would line up 12 bags and lay out 24 pieces of bread for sandwiches. She would then go down the line and finish each one."
Mrs. Ayd had been a longtime communicant of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mount Washington. In 2003, she was received as a dame of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Roman Catholic order.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier Church, 13717 Cuba Road in Cockeysville, where she was a parish member.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include five sons, Frank Ayd III, Joseph Ayd Sr., Vincent Ayd and John Ayd, all of the Baltimore area, and Thomas Ayd of Salisbury; six other daughters, Loretta Simpson, Christina Lears and Rita O'Brennan, all of the Baltimore area, Teresa Knott of Easton, Martha Teitelbaum of Troutdale, Va., and Ginda Simpson of Umbria, Italy; 35 grandchildren; and 55 great-grandchildren. Her husband of 63 years died in 2008.