CORTLAND - Alberta D. "Berti" Mele-White, January 16, 1944 to May 12, 2019. Most people called her “Berti.” She was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, the first-born child of Albert J. DePerro and Sophia (Rydeszki) DePerro.
At the age of four, her family moved to Youngstown. Early in life, she liked ice skating, art, and writing.
Summertime was spent in Montrose, Pa. with her Grandma and Grandpa on their farm, with 1,300 head of milking cows. She learned how to cook with her grandma, feeding the many farmhands.
During the school years, Berti excelled and graduated at the age of 16. She worked three jobs and went to Youngstown State College, majoring in business. She married Phillip Mele, Sr., and had two sons, Phillip, Jr. and Christopher Dean Mele.
In this same time frame, she began her working career at Packard Electric, where she was a line worker, progressed to an x-tra, and then wanted to apply for a company position as foreman in production. She was told that the company wouldn’t even take the application, and they laughed at her. At the time, she was a single working mother with two sons. She was a prime mover to have females in production foreman positions, by changing State and Federal laws while working with civil rights workers. She also brought equal pay for women doing the same work as men in the same position.
At one point, she was offered first to be general foreman, but refused because bargaining time wasn’t allowed. Thus, without that protection, she could possibly be let go, so she returned to hourly employment, where she became, in no particular order: part-time cafeteria worker, first female truck driver, first female expense crib attendant, female swat-team member, female certified coal-plie breakdown person, satellite crib attendant.
And with that being said, she met the love of her life, Thomas E. White. She was always punctual, a coffee-drinker, and drenched from pouring-down rain with no umbrella. That day, she opened the gate for business. Having had three years of perfect inventory, without the aid of computers, two men stood before her. The larger man ordered tooling for the second one. When he ordered a size 20 finger guard, she politely responded that they only come up to size 12s. He demanded size 20s. She went off on him, handing his head back to him on a platter. When he stepped aside, she looked at a red-headed man, who she said “had a purple and white aura surrounding him.” She hurriedly shut the gate and asked her friend Brady what the red-headed man's name was, that she was going to marry him. From that day forward, for the next 37 years, they were separated only three days in their time together.
During their time together, she went back to YSU and received a four-year degree in two years, three months, and as a tag-along sweetheart, Tom was three hours short of being a non-traditional junior. Her degree was Bachelor of Fine Arts with a minor in museology, which led to two offers as curator in two different museums.
Her own fulfillment was being recognized as a fine artist; for years, she had been considered an outsider artist. She became acquainted with Mitch Lyons, the first American to develop a new type of art form since the Amory Show of the 1890s. He was a ceramicist working with soft clays, and when he saw her applied artistic works, they became good friends forever.
He later invited her to teach while he went to the Galapagos Islands to teach the European fine arts community. Berti was committed to do, not to teach, and she turned the offer down.
The highlight of her monoclay moments came between Thanksgiving and Christmas of that year, when a fellow flew in from St. Louis, Missouri and purchased the entire collection off the walls of Borders Book Store near the Eastwood Mall. She hung many show pieces in museums, and had private collectors and followers throughout the country.
While retired from GM-Packard, she golfed and bowled, but then became interested in the sport of steel-tip darts. Her excitement with the game and people was a wonder to behold. Later, she was inducted into the American Darters Hall of Fame, along with her green jacket. But win or lose, she always liked the idea of beginning with a handshake and ending with the same honored handshake. That, too, was the sport.
As age reduced her skill set, she designed and crocheted on her knitting machines (seven at last count). She had met wonderful people with that group.
Later, she began learning to make quilts, and belonged to two quilt guilds, the Western Reserve Quilters and Columbiana Quilting Guild.
Precious memories of Berti live on with her husband; two sons; five grandchildren; and other family and friends who loved her dearly.
Services were conducted privately, followed by interment at Crown Hill Burial Park.
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