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Maria Sobrepena Falgiani
November 18, 1943 ~ November 6, 2023 (age 79) 79 Years Old
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Maria Falgiani, Merly as she was known to many, was born Maria Luisa Sobrepena on November 18, 1943, in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija Philippines during the Japanese occupation. Her father was Maurino Sobrepena, an attorney and businessman, and her mother was Leonor Mangahas.
Merly attended St. Joseph’s School in San Jose before moving to her beloved St. Theresa’s in Manila where she studied from the second grade through college. After graduating, she earned her CPA, before working as a journalist for a business periodical. In August 1967, she traveled the United States on a student visa and enrolled as a graduate student at the New School for Social Research in New York where she completed her degree. Within days of her arrival in the U.S, she met Joe Falgiani, her husband to-be, on a blind date arranged by her friend Josie Opena, who was Joe’s classmate in the graduate psychology program at Fordham University.
In September 1971 Merly and Joe were married, and Merly began working as an analyst in Newark City Hall with the old Model Cities Program. After three years, she moved to the Newark Department of Health working as the assistant to the Director. Finally, she became Director of Staff Operations for the Newark Housing Authority, where she spearheaded the overhaul of administrative functions to a computer-based system, coordinated relations with the federal HUD program, developed a maintenance training program, oversaw upgrades to the public housing units, and was instrumental in planning the removal of Newark’s high-rise public housing buidlings and replacement with smaller models.
In 1981, Merly left public service and purchased a residential health care facility in Budd Lake, New Jersey, and later started a medical transportation business. She continued working until 2016 when she suffered a severe brain injury in a fall. Following a week in the ICU, she was transferred to Kessler Institute for extensive speech and mobility rehabilitation for several months followed by months of outpatient rehab. By sheer determination, she made a full recovery.
Although trained in business, she was far more interested in the arts. As a child she studied piano for eight years, took ballet lessons, and was a voracious reader, often finishing novels in one sitting. She enjoyed the opera and bought seasons ticket to the Met in the 1990’s, but after Joe fell asleep at a performance, she decided to forego a renewal for the following season. Merly became a sports fan as well. She cheered on the Mets during their classic 1969 World Series run, and after our son matriculated to Notre Dame, she rarely missed a football game on Saturdays in the fall.
Her passion in life, above all, was family. As the eldest of eight children, Merly embraced her role as “Ate” (pronounced “ah-tay,” in Filipino, a sign of respect in Filipino for older women). When her sisters moved to the States, she made sure they stayed with her family until they were settled or married. After her brother went to the Philippines for medical school, she invited his teenage son to live with her family for a year, and when her brother completed medical school, she invited his whole family to stay with her family. Merly was devoted to her parents, and idolized her father, often fondly recalling how he brought her to the movies as a child before her other siblings were born. She formed a life-long bond with her Auntie Perla, who nurtured her throughout her years at St. Theresa in Manila while the rest of the family was in San Jose, and continued to remain close with her son Alex and his family. Her devotion to family carried over to her own husband and two sons, always their advocate, protector, and advisor.
Merly is survived by her husband, Joe Falgiani, sons Joey and his wife Che and Jeremy and his wife Caroline, sister Alicia Ferina and her husband, Frank, brother Dr. Senecio Sobrepena and his wife, Tintin, brother, Hon. Aniceto Sobrepena and his wife, Anna, Dr. Leorino Sobrepena, and sister Aurelia Joslin and her husband, Dan.
Visitation will be on November 10, 2023, Friday at Zuasola Funeral Homes of New Jersey, LLC, 44 Bay Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Additional funeral service will take place in San Jose City, Nuevo Ecija under the professional care of La Funeraria Paz -Sucat. Interment will be at a later date.