Barbara (Bobbie) Agnello (née Bell), age 79, passed away surrounded by family in her home in San Tan Valley, AZ on Monday, August 3, 2020. Born in 1941 in Bayshore, NY, Bobbie was a remarkable woman. Her childhood can best be described as horrific, yet she came through it to become a woman determined not to let the abuse and hardship she faced force her onto a path of bitterness or defeat. Her early adulthood began when, at the age of 17, she married her first husband and gave birth to the first (Deborah) of 4 children. Two more children followed in that marriage (Cynthia and Keith). Her first marriage, much like her early homelife, was full of hardship and strife, and in 1973, she left her first husband and married the love of her life, Joe Agnello, with whom she had one more child (Mickaella). She and Joe moved to California, where they raised their daughter. Bobbie became a property manager in California, which helped to bring some much needed stability to the family’s life. She and Joe lived briefly in North Carolina, where she doted on her three youngest grandchildren and finally settled in Arizona. She was a woman of strong opinions, who didn’t believe in deferring to anyone when it came to doing what she thought was right. She was exceptionally funny, exceedingly generous, and one of the strongest women to ever have graced this planet. Her life is one that’s difficult to encapsulate. So, perhaps the best way to share who she was is to share some memories from those who loved her.
Her daughter, Mickaella, recalls an incident that sums up her love of her grandchildren (the youngest of whom refer to her as MeMe) and her mischievous sense of humor: “One day, we were in the dollar section at Target. Mom saw these huge, ugly bug toys and pointed them out to her grandson, Nico, who immediately fell in love. I was not enamored and told him I wouldn’t be buying one because they gave me the heebeejeebies. Mom got that familiar look of mischief on her face. We continued our shopping, but she had to bring us back to the dollar section at the end of the shopping trip so that MeMe could buy Nico his beloved bug — and poke at me at the same time. We’ve had this huge ugly bug for years. It shows up in the most inconvenient times and places in our house. Now every time I see it, I think of my mom and her sense of humor. Leave it to my mother to make something ugly like a giant beetle into something that we’ll treasure forever.”
Her son-in-law, Dave Parent, remembers a time at Walmart when Bobbie committed petty theft of a grape (ha!): “She handed me a grape and said, ‘Try this! It is so sweet!’ So I did, and my face did all sorts of things. It was SOUR, SOUR, SOUR. She laughed and laughed. She told me she’d already tried one before she handed it to me.”
Bobbie’s penchant for small pranks didn’t end with her family. A good friend (Davi) of her youngest daughter spent every Christmas with the family. Christmas also happened to be that friend’s birthday. Every year Bobbie made sure that there were both Christmas *and* birthday presents, along with a birthday cake for Davi so that she didn’t feel forgotten. But since Davi was considered a part of the family, she wasn’t immune from the pranks. One Christmas, Bobbie wrapped up all of the gifts she’d bought for Davi in Christmas wrapping paper and just one . . . a pair of socks . . . in birthday paper. From that moment on, it was remembered as the birthday on which all Davi received was a pair of socks.
Bobbie’s daughter-in-law, Gretchen Snyder, recalls that she was also able to take a good-natured joke: “One Christmas Eve, I was eating chips and salsa, Bobbie asked me, ‘Is this very hot?’ We all know my spice level (10), so without thinking I told her no. Well, we know Mom’s spice level (-1) . . . She was gasping and drinking anything she could… She learned that day not to ask my opinion on the spice level of ANYTHING! But she laughed and laughed.”
Bobbie’s daughter, Cyndi, recalls a time when they were sitting by the pool at the apartment building Bobbie managed, and her young son, Chris, rode his tricycle into the deep end of the pool. After pulling him and his trike out of the pool, rather than try to keep him from riding his tricycle around the pool, they tied a rope to the trike so he couldn’t go too far. How’s that for grandmotherly ingenuity?
Her son, Keith, recalls, simply, spending time with his mother one-on-one when his youngest sibling was away at school. She always made time for him – whether on the phone or in person. He was her “favorite son.”
There are so many stories of Bobbie’s fun-loving spirit. But more than just fun-loving, she was truly loving of everyone in her life. It’s often said that someone was so generous s/he’d have given you the shirt of his/her back. Those who knew Bobbie know that this would not be hyperbole for her. She was generous of spirit and love. Her friends and family are distraught that she’s gone, but she was ready to be with her love, Joe. We hope that they’re laughing together somewhere in the great beyond. The love Bobbie gave is truly a gift that lives on.
Bobbie is preceded in death by her brother, George Bell; her sister, Carol Ann Bell Anderson; and her loving husband and soulmate, Joseph Agnello. She is survived by some of the luckiest people on the planet because they had the good fortune to have had her in their lives, including her children, Deborah Parent (husband Dave), Keith Snyder (wife Gretchen), Cyndi Tanabe (husband Lee), Mickaella Guarascio (husband Joe), and her brother John Bell, as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Due to the pandemic, a memorial service is still being planned.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Hospice Foundation of America (https://hospicefoundation.org/Donate), as the care and compassion of hospice workers made Barbara’s (and her husband, Joe’s) final days comfortable.