Funeral Mass will be held March 10, 10 a.m., at St. Joseph Church in Hawthorne for Grace Marie Rinaldi, 95, who died March 1 following a legacy of service to the Catholic Church that included leadership roles in the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas.Her service earned her numerous honors, including the 1994 Cardinal’s Award and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal from Pope John Paul II.

Born in Lorain, Ohio, the second of four children to devout Catholic Sicilian immigrants, Fred and Frances Montalto, Grace was the first woman in her family to earn a college diploma, graduating from Kent University with a degree in Upper Elementary Education. 

At Kent, she met “the love of her life,” Arthur “Archie” Rinaldi. The couple married in 1940 and began building a family while Grace taught in public and parochial schools throughout Kent.

In 1953, the couple’s fourth child, Cathy, was born with cerebral palsy --- a circumstance that would shape Grace’s future, and that of the entire family for the rest of her life. In order to provide Cathy with the highest level of special education and therapy available at the time, Archie and Grace made the difficult decision to leave Ohio and move the family to California, settling in Hawthorne in 1955.

In Hawthorne, Grace began her lifetime “labor of love” serving the Catholic Church as a loyal parishioner at St. Joseph Church for more than 50 years, serving as liturgy coordinator, lector and Eucharistic Minister among other duties.

Many in the archdiocese will most remember Grace for her four decades of service to both the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. She served in all capacities for both organizations, including ACCW president and CDA national regent, the highest ranking offices within these organizations.

In 1970, Grace faced yet another challenge that would characterize the rest of her life when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. For the next 12 years, until his death in 1982, Grace would not only provide care and support to her ailing husband, but, in efforts to meet increasing financial demands, also embark on a new job as a travel agent organizing and leading trips to the Holy Land.

Affectionately known as “Amazing Grace” for the dedication and service she displayed to family, friends and the Church throughout her lifetime, she received a variety of honors. In addition to the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal and the Cardinal’s Award, she received the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for work with youth, and the ACCW Moderator’s Award for her ongoing dedication to Church and community.

She cherished several “unforgettable” experiences, including a private audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, meetings with Mother Teresa and President George Bush, and traveling to Beijing where she was a U.S. representative at the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum on Women.

According to her family and friends, Grace always displayed humility, giving credit to others. “In honoring a person, you also honor others, as no person functions alone,” she said. “You get more fulfillment from serving others, through the lasting friendships you form that sustain you through life.”

Surviving family members include her four children: Patricia Edie of Playa Del Rey; Charles Rinaldi of Huntington Beach; Arthur “Fred” Rinaldi of Manhattan Beach and Cathy Swart of Hawthorne; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A rosary will be celebrated March 9, 7 p.m., at St. Joseph Church, 11901 Acacia Ave., Hawthorne. Memorial donations may be sent for the benefit of Cathy and Karl Swart, payable to Fred Rinaldi, 1772 Voorhees Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266.

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