A picture-perfect love

Published February 22, 2007

PORT RICHEY - It wasn't so much that she flirted with men. They were just drawn to her. Pauline Neri was a listener; a genuinely nice, kind person who cared about others. She looked those men in the eyes and they fell in love. Not that it took much to fall in love with Pauline. She probably could have kicked 'em in the shins and they still would've said, "Thanks! So, uh, you wanna go out some time?"

She was that beautiful.

One hundred percent Sicilian. Flawless, ivory skin. Dark, luscious hair. Classic features. Dark, red lips. A figure given to her by the gods - one she never really had to work all that hard to maintain. She was born in the Bronx in 1928, so she was a young woman in the '40s, when styles were tailored for a woman with a pin-up figure like hers; elegant, not skin baring, but showcasing feminine curves.

She met her husband, Lou Neri, at Roosevelt High School. She was a knockout - but he was something else, himself. Lou also was Sicilian - but blond and blue-eyed. He was captain of the gymnastics team and had 12-pack abs.

He also boxed a bit, which came in handy over the years when he had to fight off men trying to steal his wife.

"There were a lot of broken hearts," said their son, Bill Neri, "and broken rib cages."

But, according to family members, Lou and Pauline had a great marriage. They were always together. They weren't real affectionate in front of others, but "you could tell they had a tremendous love for each other," Pauline's cousin, Rita Norvez, said. "People envied it."

Lou and Pauline ran their own businesses. Their hardware store - named Lu Po Hardware Co. Inc., an abbreviation of their names - was their longest running business at 30 years.

Lou was a whiz with his hands and did all the plumbing, electrical and mechanic stuff. Pauline handled some hardware, but more interior decorating - wallpapers and paints.

As gorgeous as Pauline was, she was equally as smart; second in her high school graduating class. She did their personal and business finances. And she wasn't a prissy, what-if-I-break-my-nails type of lady. She worked hard, shoveled dirt, refinished floors, sewed, scrubbed, recovered vintage furniture.

Lou wasn't as book smart as his wife, who loved reading and antiques and occasionally dressing up and going dancing. When Lou wasn't working, he liked to sit in his comfy recliner.

"A simple man with simple tastes," his son Bill said. He loved good food - and he loved his wife's cooking. Lasagna with the ricotta baked first, to dry it out a bit before going in the dish. Gravy Sicilian for pasta sauce with meat cooked all day, served over rigatoni. Liver and onions. Peas and macaroni.

Pauline was a Depression-era girl who could look at a seemingly bare pantry and whip up something wonderful. She also had a mistrust of banks and a fondness for squirreling away wads of cash in old cans and hiding them in the house.

In 1998, Lou and Pauline sold their store and moved to Port Richey to retire. Soon after they moved, Lou was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2000 and Pauline never really recovered. Her cousin Norvez said Pauline became more withdrawn. "She missed him," Norvez said.

Pauline moved in with Bill in his Port Richey home and he did what he could to keep her going. He took her to thrift stores and flea markets, so she could go antiquing. Pauline had overcome ovarian cancer in the '80s. She felt a lump in her breast after Lou died. It was cancerous.

Pauline died on Jan. 29. She was buried in East Elfers Cemetery, next to Lou. In addition to their son Bill, they also have a daughter, Barbara, of New Port Richey; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Today, Bill is dealing with boxes of his mother's antiques and possessions. Family albums preserve her radiant youth. There aren't many recent pictures.

Her room is as she left it, bathrobe neatly over the back of her chair, a 60-year-old bottle of Chanel No. 5 on her table.

A delicate scent for a beautiful woman.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

About the story

Life Stories is a feature about Pasco County residents who have recently passed away. Subjects are randomly selected from the obituaries.