DULUTH – Gloria Lott loved music and her family, and a Zoom call brought both to the 88-year-old’s hospital room at Essentia Health last week.
A son called in from Alaska, and a grandson joined in Arizona. On Good Friday, three Lott women harmonized to virtually serenade their Italian-American matriarch, a lifelong Catholic who raised five kids on Minnesota’s Iron Range.
Lott died early Saturday morning of COVID-19. She was one of the first victims of the novel coronavirus in St. Louis County, along with a handful of others residing in a Duluth assisted-living facility that became an unfortunate epicenter of the region’s outbreak.
Lott was born in Waukegan, Ill., and moved to Keewatin (about 9 miles west of Hibbing) as a teenager. There she met her husband, John, whom she married in 1950.
The couple and their children eventually moved to Babbitt, another mining town in northeastern Minnesota, where Lott spent hours volunteering at her parish and running a pizza business from their home.
Her cooking was revered by family and strangers alike, and Lott could whip up delicious meals for the masses on a moment’s notice. There were countless Sunday spaghetti dinners and church reception spreads, as well as each year’s crowning glory — the Christmas Eve feast, with homemade ravioli, calamari with marinara, baccalà (Italian cod), pizzelle and biscotti.
Family crowded into Lott’s kitchen for those merry meals every holiday. Kevin Lott, her youngest son, compared them to a movie scene showing a stereotypical Italian family.
“And she,” he said of his quiet, compassionate mother, “was the driving force behind all of it.”
“You knew you were in the family when you got your personalized Christmas stocking,” chimed in Laura Lott, Kevin’s wife, who hangs the hand-knit gift from her mother-in-law in her Duluth home each December.
Lott is survived by her brother, Julian Bertogliat, of Esko; her children, Kevin, John and Craig Lott, Linda Asleson and Beth Godwin; 12 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
Lott’s family hopes to hold a mass in her memory at a later date because, in light of the pandemic, only 10 people were allowed to attend the burial Monday. It was hard not being able to hug one another as they laid to rest “the most loving person I’ve ever known in my life,” said Nicole Larson, Lott’s granddaughter who lives in Proctor, Minn.
The sun shone and a cold wind blew as they stood far apart in an Iron Range field and sang “Ave Maria,” one of Lott’s favorite songs.