Virginia R. Erario, a homemaker who was a foster mother to some 25 babies awaiting adoption even as she was raising her own children, died of congestive heart failure at home in Montauk on May 17. She was 91.
Mrs. Erario worked for Catholic Charities in South Ozone Park, Queens, where the family then lived, caring for the children of unwed mothers. She took care of about two dozen infants until they were 6 months old, sometimes until they were 2, said her daughter Virginia Sayers of Montauk. “She gave a lot of love,” Ms. Sayers said. “She treated them like her own kids.”
Born Virginia Rose Yacobellis in Brooklyn on Dec. 18, 1922, to Anthony Yacobellis and the former Maria Acerenza, Mrs. Erario grew up in Richmond Hill and graduated from John Adams High School in Queens. In 1938, when she was 16, her family began visiting Montauk, eventually buying property and building a house on Arthur Drive in the Mirror Development.
When she was 18 and working for her father’s import-export company, she would put money away with the help of her mother, said Ms. Sayers. She managed eventually to save enough to buy a piece of property of her own, on Grant Drive, where she and her husband would later build a house.
She married Vincent J. Erario in 1942, the same year he was drafted. They moved to South Ozone Park after the war. In 1956 they began spending summers in Montauk, and Mrs. Erario helped her sister, Lucille Jarmain, run the Wavecrest Resort Motel there.
After Mr. Erario retired in 1980, the couple split their time between Montauk and Jensen Beach, Fla. He died in Montauk of a heart attack four years later. They had been married just shy of 42 years.
Mrs. Erario continued to spend winters in Florida, where, said her daughter, she was active in the Nettles Island recreational community, where she enjoyed playing tennis and boccie. Affectionately called the “Queen of Mah-jongg,” she taught many to play the game, both in Florida and at the Montauk Community Senior Center, where she spent a lot of time.
In addition to Ms. Sayers, she leaves another daughter and two sons. They are Marian F. Price of Yaphank, Anthony J. Erario of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., and Vincent J. Erario Jr. of Atlanta. Ms. Sayers said she was very close to her son-in-law John J. Sayers Jr. of Montauk, whom she considered “a fifth child,” and to her daughter-in-law Pamela L. Erario of Port Saint Lucie, whom she taught to make the apple pie that is served in Lily’s Cafe, her restaurant there.
Five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren also survive. A brother, Daniel Yacobellis, died before her.
A memorial service will be held at St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church in Montauk on June 14 at 11 a.m. The family has suggested memorial contributions for the Montauk Community Senior Citizens Center, 240 Edgemere Road, Montauk 11954, or to St. Therese of Lisieux, P.O. Box 5027, Montauk 11954.