Mabel Brocchini was many things to Manteca and to the countless people whose lives she touched.
Indeed, to many, she was Manteca personified.
She was “a valuable resource in the fabric of the Manteca community.”
She was “one of the hardest-working women” in The Family City.
She was “one-of-a-kind.”
She has been “a backbone for the (Manteca Historical) Society and the community.”
The woman who was the object of their high commendations died suddenly on Thursday following a fall the day before at the home of her younger daughter, Lori Mackey, in Manteca. She was 86 years old.
“Our society needs more people like her, that’s for sure,” said Ken Summers whose family from four generations back knew the Brocchinis as neighbors and as fellow business owners in Manteca.
Ken Hafer, whose friendship and professional association with Brocchini and her late husband Aldo date back to the early days of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce, has a veritable silo of memories about one of the city’s power couples.
“She has always been active in the community, but particularly with the Chamber of Commerce. She worked with the Chamber for many years on many committees. She was always so very active,” Hafer said.
Brocchini’s energy did not stop there. She became a founding member of the Manteca Historical Society when it was established more than two decades ago.
“She was elected to the very first board and is still a member to this day. That’s 23 years roughly,” Hafer noted.
She was also the first person to chair the historical society’s memorial program which allows members of the community to make a donation in memory of a loved one who has passed away.
“She handled that for all these years until about four months ago. She just couldn’t handle it anymore, so she turned it over to (fellow historical society board member) Claudia Machado. She has been a backbone for the Society and the community,” Hafer said.
The historical society “was just really important to her. She was always working for our fund-raisers. We’re going to miss her. In fact, we’ve already missed her the last few months,” he added.
Glenn Kahl, former owner and operator of the long-running photography studio that bore his name in Manteca’s downtown business district, was also active in the Manteca Chamber of Commerce for many years and knew Brocchini very well.
“Mabel was a valuable resource in the fabric of the Manteca community, especially being a faithful member of the Chamber of Commerce and its Special Events Committee – a group of people who moved mountains to bring the business community together,” said Kahl who is now a reporter for the Manteca Bulletin.
“Mabel was always there at the Brocchini’s Hardware Mart at Christmastime wrapping gifts for their customers – mostly for the men who couldn’t match her abilities in holiday wrappings. She was a quiet and wonderful woman who left her mark on every one of us she touched and called her friends. I will miss her greatly – even at the Saturday night Masses where she slipped out before the crowds exited the front and side doors,” added Kahl.
The woman who held a Key to the City of Manteca was just as popular, if not more so, for the numerous personal vignettes that have become precious memories to the countless individuals whose lives she touched.
“I’ve known her since I was just a kid. She’s always been so gracious. Their home was always open for Easter egg hunts,” recalled Summers who served as Manteca Historical Society board member along with Brocchini.
“I’ll never forget her for being such an inspiration,” especially when it comes to giving back to the community, said Summers who was born and raised in Manteca and is now the general manager of the P.L. Fry Funeral Home that was founded by his grandparents who lived down the road from the Brocchinis, and which is making the arrangements for Brocchini’s services.
In fact, said Summers, “up until she passed away, she was still giving back to the community in some ways. She’s an inspiration to all of us.”
She showed, by example, never to stop giving back to the community, added Summers. “That’s what she gave us – love and encouragement, and that we shouldn’t complain. She was one of the hardest-working women I’ve ever met. She was one-of-a-kind.”
Brocchini’s famous Easter Egg hunts were among the many things that her youngest daughter fondly shared in the “priceless” speech she gave last year when the historical society honored her mother.
“I could talk about the annual Easter Egg hunt that Mom hosted for more than 35 years on the Saturday before Easter. Kids young and old looked forward to that day – almost as much as they looked forward to the Easter bunny coming to their house,” Mackey said.
But the “most notable title” her mother held, said Mackey, was that of Special Events Committee Chairman of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce for quarter of a century.
“That committee was a special task force that got things done. They put on community events such as the July 4th celebration, monthly industrial tours, and the Miss Manteca contest. The Manteca Christmas parade started 39 years ago (last year) by Mom and the Chamber’s secretary and manager, the late Gladys Brock. The annual parade is still the highlight of the season in our community,” she said.
During those 25 years on the Special Events committee, Mackey said, her mom “and her team put together prayer breakfasts, spearheaded efforts to widen the 120 Bypass, and implemented the Manteca Ag Tours in an effort to let people know about the agriculture in the area. Mom lived and breathed Manteca.”
Born in San Jose, the former Mabel De Marco moved to Manteca during her high school years. She and her family made the move to The Family City because her parents got jobs at the local cannery.
While attending Manteca High in 1942, Brocchini met the man of her dreams, Aldo Brocchini, who died in 2009. They had been married 61 years that year. After the wedding, they built their 1,000-square-foot “dream home” which they gradually expanded as their family grew.
In 1949, the newlyweds opened their own little hardware store called the Hardware Mart in partnership with Aldo’s brother, Albert, and sister-in-law Rina. The store was later known as Ace Hardware and was an icon in Manteca for 51 years until it closed its doors in 2000. It’s now a furniture store on East Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca across from Bank of America.
Mabel Brocchini is survived by daughters Janet (Michael) Thornton, Lori (Lloyd) Mackey, and son Marvin (Barbara) Brocchini, all of Manteca. She was also blessed with seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and many other relatives.
Rosary and Mass services for Mabel Brocchini will be held Wednesday, Dec. 7, starting at 11:30 a.m., at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 525 E. North Street in Manteca. Burial will be private.