IN MEMORIAM: Millie Del Grosso, a VBHS Fighting Indian until the end

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Millie Del Grosso spent her life joyfully, prayerfully and lovingly touching the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people young and old, reaching out to offer whatever assistance was required to meet a need or solve a problem.

A widely known and a  beloved  teacher at Vero Beach High School for more than two decades, and a cherished presence in the community, Del Grosso died Aug. 18 at Hospice House, surrounded by the love of family, friends, and fellow St. Helen parishioners who sat round-the-clock vigil in her final days.

The Boston native settled in Vero Beach and  began her teaching career, quickly winning the hearts and stimulating the minds of co-workers and students alike. She painted her little house a bright, sunny yellow, and welcomed friends and neighbors, providing a home not only for visiting students,  but also stray dogs and cats, nurturing all who crossed her threshold. 

Throughout the school district, Del Grosso was known for her love of school sports, and was a familiar presence at  home games, rooting at the top of her lungs for the Fighting Indians.

Peggy Poysell, Indian River School District administrative assistant, said. “I’ve  known Millie for over 30 years.  I first met her when working at VBHS.  Millie became a friend, confidante, role model, not just for me, but for many, many other people – students and peers,” Poysell said. “She was always there to mentor or console anyone in distress.  She was fun loving and full of life.  I treasure the memories of Millie and view her as one of the true angels on earth.  I will miss her greatly, but I know where she is:  singing in the heavenly choir, as we speak.

Former Vero Beach High School student Cathy Pereira-Sanders, credited Del Grosso with being “the reason I am the mother and professional I am today. She invested in a 16-year-old  who knew nothing about herself, but Millie saw all the potential and nourished that.”

Hard-wired as she always was to help others, Del Grosso soon developed  more than a few interests outside the classroom, as reflected in her social media bio where she introduced herself as “an entrepreneur with a huge heart for God, family, kids, cooking, helping people and worldwide travel.” She enjoyed the joys of travel almost to the end, adding Jamaica to her list of visited places in June.

About a month after that trip in late July, Del Grosso suffered a heart attack, from which she never recovered. In the days prior, Del Grosso was so full of energy and enthusiasm –always busy, but never too busy to help a friend. Among her many outreach projects, she was especially proud of being a founding member of The  Young Entrepreneur Project and “chief cook and bottle washer at Millie’s Meals and Handy Hands of Vero Beach, created  “to enable people to live independent lives.”

Del Grosso was an active, devoted parishioner at her beloved St. Helen Catholic Church, serving wherever needed, (including the annual Harvest  Festival soup kitchen). Sanchez shared that her Mom, at one time, had been a nun, but early on realized her true calling was to service in the world outside the order. 

As word of Del Grosso’s hospitalization spread, many hundreds of phone calls, emails and social media posts began flooding in from people whose lives Millie had touched: a multitude of loving, touching, heartfelt, often funny  recollections of a woman who, as her daughter Traci Sanchez succinctly put it, “gave all she had to others daily.” 

Sanchez, along with Del Grosso’s daughter Tricia Prince, and her sister Judy Montiero, had flown in from Tennessee and, says Sanchez, “we’ve been overwhelmed by the whole community reaching out to us. On my Facebook page alone there were more than 800 comments, and hundreds more on mom’s page.  To see all the lives she touched makes us very proud of our mom. She was a blessing, a vessel. She had a servant’s heart. 

Adam Faust, principal Rosewood Magnet School and neighbor said “Millie was a pillar in the school community, always willing to help others: she touched the lives of so many students, coworkers, neighbors. The first week we were in our house she showed up with her famous trifle dessert, and she often  surprised us with extra banana bread, pasta or other dishes she’d made. 

Faust’s wife Cat remembered Millie the cheerleader. “She would come to our daughter’s softball game and be one of the loudest fans in the stands, cheering her on. And she’d always say ‘I’ll see ya back in the hood.’ She was always looking out for us and our neighbors,” she said. 

Attorney, former Vero Beach City Councilman and fellow St. Helen parishioner Joe Graves said “I’ll always remember Millie as someone who gave selflessly. I admired her for taking in countless foreign exchange kids. Her life is an inspiration.”

Former City of Vero Beach Recreation Director Pat Callahan met Del Grosso in the 1908s and stayed in contact for decades, “A couple I know were struggling to find the vaccine, in the early days of COVID. I tried to help, but Millie made it happen. Such a mighty force working quietly for others,” Callahan said.

Bernie Grall Jr., Vero Beach attorney,  fellow St. Helen parishioner looks forward to seeing Del Grosso again. “If I’m fortunate enough to make it to Heaven, I know Millie will be the greeter at Heaven’s gate. She was a true saint.  She was everywhere.”

A Funeral Mass is scheduled for noon Sept. 11 at St. Helen Catholic Church in Vero Beach. There will definitely be a casual, outdoor celebration of life for Millie as well, Sanchez said, on Sept. 11 or 12 but, but no details on that immediately available.

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