ANTIOCH -- Carol Marchetti, known for her yearly efforts to help hundreds of homeless children in Puerto Vallarta, died early Tuesday morning at a San Diego hospital. She was 73.
Marchetti was on her annual pilgrimage to bring gifts, food and computers to the impoverished children who live in the garbage dumps outside of the Mexico town.
"I think she really was an angel," said Gary Reiman, a community volunteer who met Marchetti about a decade ago.
Reiman has made the trek on occasion to help with the program but did not go this year.
Marchetti started working at the Children of the Dump program about two decades ago after seeing the plight of the orphaned children during a vacation, said Romano Marchetti, her husband of 51 years.
Carol Marchetti coordinated with the Salvation Army to play Christmas music on her flute for area children, Romano said, noting that music was one of her passions. Seeing the impoverished children there compelled her to improve their lives, he said.
"She was probably one of the most caring, loving, giving people I've met in my life," said Emily Slatten, who met Carol when Romano brought her to a Delta-Antioch Kiwanis Club meeting nine years ago.
"She had been (volunteering in Puerto Vallarta) for years, without wanting any kind of fame or glory," Slatten said. "Romano finally got her to come to Kiwanis to get help and it morphed into a bigger thing."
"She would show us pictures
Many remember Marchetti as an accomplished cook who loved to entertain guests at home.
"If you went to the Marchetti house, you knew that she was going to feed you," Slatten said.
Carol would often bring baked treats to the recycling center attendants who helped her raise money and clerks at the Save Mart on E. 18th Street, Slatten said.
While in Puerto Vallarta, Carol often taught the needy how to make soup and other nourishing snacks, Romano said.
Sometime this past Friday, Carol was found unconscious in her room in Puerto Vallarta. She was airlifted to a San Diego hospital where she later died.
Marchetti displayed a love of children throughout her life. She worked for years in schools around the world, including Kimball Elementary in Antioch, becoming "The Story Lady" because of her penchant for teaching children to read.
She also taught etiquette lessons to Antioch's young women at a charm school for 25 years.
Memorial services are pending.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Name: Carol Marchetti
Born: March 13, 1939, Philadelphia, Pa.
Died: Dec. 18, 2012, San Diego
Survived: Husband of 51 years Romano; son Marcel. Preceded in death by son Andrew.