Cynthia Ming Simmons Pica died surrounded and embraced by her family on April 1, 2023 at the age of 76. Cynthia was loved, cherished, and will be profoundly missed by her “girls,” daughters Cinzia and Natascia Ming Pica, daughters in law, Jane Lohmann and Tanya Rubins, and beloved granddaughter, G Pica-Smith. She also leaves her loving youngest sister, Kathy Simmons Brown, her nieces and nephews, and her beloved cousin, Jesslyn Lewis and her children and grandchildren. Her Italian niece and nephews, Valeria, Fabio, and Massimiliano Pica will also miss her dearly as will her great nieces and nephews, Fabiana, Davide, Gabriele, Simone, and Francesco Pica.
Cynthia was born in Denison, TX in 1947, daughter of Clinta Kathryn Jones and James Ming Simmons. The family then moved to Vivian, LA in 1959 due to James’s work. Upon completing her bachelor’s degree at Louisiana Tech University, Cynthia traveled to Italy on a school graduation trip. There she met Raffaele Pica, who was a young tour guide at the time, and the two fell in love. Six months later they married in Naples, Italy. At the young age of 22 in 1969, Cynthia moved across the world at a time when few of her peers would ever dream of doing so. Cynthia was bold, strong, and independent and this was merely one of the many demonstrations of her character. Cynthia and Raffaele were married for 41 years until his passing in 2010 at the age of 71. Cynthia was deeply marked by Raffaele’s death and remained devoted to his memory for the remainder of her life. During their many years together, they led full lives and enjoyed camping with their children, loud, fun dinners with dear friends and family, traveling throughout Europe, and so much more.
After obtaining a master’s degree from Boston University, Cynthia had a long and prestigious career as a civilian educator and education administrator with the U.S. Navy in which she proved herself to be a formidable trailblazer in an environment where it was exceedingly rare to see a woman at her grade. Not only was Cynthia a thoughtful and powerful leader as the Northeast U.S. and European Regional Director of the Navy College Program, she is also fondly remembered by loyal and loving friends she made at work, as a steady and consistent mentor for younger women colleagues. In fact, Cynthia was a caring and dependable support for all who knew her, colleagues, friends, and family.
After Raffaele’s passing, Cynthia moved back to the United States to be with her daughters and to be a present and consistent part of her granddaughter's life. She settled in Hatfield and became a salient member of the community. She was a deacon of the First Congregational Church of Hatfield, treasurer for the Real Folks, taught exercise classes at the Hatfield Senior Center, was an active member of the Hatfield Book Club, and secretary of the Hatfield Village Association for 6 years.
Though born in the United States, Cynthia’s heart remained in Italy and she returned every spring and summer where she enjoyed visiting and traveling with her loyal and longtime friends Susie Carbone, Maureen Berardesca, Barbara Nucci, Ida Perrault and many others. Cynthia loved the home in the Abbruzzi mountains that she and Raffaele had restored and where she enjoyed quiet afternoon naps, reading, cooking, harvesting her garden bounty, canning tomato sauce, and making apricot, peach, and plum jams with her granddaughter. Cynthia was an honorary Italian and will be laid to rest next to her husband in Torricella Peligna, province of Chieti in Italy.
Cynthia will be deeply missed and mourned by her Italian and American friends, family, community, and loved ones, and she will continue to be a strong presence in all of their lives.
Cynthia's memorial service will be held at the First Congregational Church of Hatfield, 41 Main Street in Hatfield, MA on Saturday, April 22 at 10am. There will be a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that mourners donate to Compassionate Care ALS (https://ccals.org/)