Evelyn Fargnoli, Providence’s first female council president, dead at 93

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Evelyn V. Fargnoli, the first female president of the Providence City Council, died Thursday. She was 93.

Her death was announced in an online obituary.

“Council President Fargnoli was a remarkable woman and a great leader,” Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, who currently holds the Ward 5 council seat Fargnoli held for 16 years, said in a statement. “She was a true public servant who always put the interest of the people and Providence first. I was honored to call her a friend and welcomed her regular calls. My thoughts and prayers are with her beautiful and loving family. It is a big loss for Providence and the mighty Fifth Ward.”

“Councilwoman Fargnoli was a true pioneer in Providence politics and leaves behind a remarkable legacy of public service,” read a statement issued Saturday morning by the City Council.

A lifelong Democrat, Fargnoli was first elected to the City Council in 1981 following the death of her husband, Council President Ralph Fargnoli. She cruised to victory in a three-way Democratic primary and ran unopposed in a special general election, becoming just the second woman to serve as a member of the council.

By 1995, Fargnoli had become chairperson of the powerful City Council Finance Committee and was elected council president pro tempore. When Council President James Petrosinelli died following a long illness in 1996, Fargnoli became the first female president of the council.

“From what I’m told, I’m the first, but I have not checked into that,” Fargnoli told The Providence Journal in 1996. “Actually, I feel right at home with most of the council people, because they’re a very good council, diversified in every way, interested in everything that we do, with a total interest in every project. It’s a good council.”

Fargnoli retired from the City Council in January 1999, but remained a member of the Ward 5 Committee until her death. In a resolution recognizing her retirement, the City Council called her an “extraordinary woman” who “considered her responsibilities seriously in her home, church, community and business.”

A mother of two and grandmother of three, Fargnoli was also the owner of Specialty Cleansing Co. on Smith Street. She could often be found sitting inside the dry cleaning business, talking with former constituents.

“Throughout her life, Evelyn Fargnoli woke up every morning determined to be the best person that she could be with kindness, fairness and forgiving,” her obituary states. “She loved her family very much.” A park on Smith Street is named after her husband.

Fargnoli’s funeral will be June 14 at 9 a.m. from the Maceroni Funeral Home in North Providence. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Augustine Church at 10 a.m. on the same day.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan