Josie Mother Cavellucci – Stefani Moore
Mother Cavellucci is famous for trying to get out of the World War II draft by showing up at her draft board in drag. They took her anyway. As the story goes, she settled in New Hope in the 1950s after her Catholic South Philly family wanted nothing to do with her for being gay. During the AIDS crisis, Mother was famous for raising more money selling raffle tickets for charity benefits than anyone else in town. At the benefit shows, the beauty queens would all be a bit miffed when Mother walked off the stage with more tips than they. Everyone would line up to pay her tribute.
Mother made the New Hope gay community feel like a family. She considered us all her children. She either called you her son or daughter, and she would tell stories about how each of us were born. At The Raven one night, while sipping Miller Lite from a wine glass, Mother told me, “Years ago I was attacked and gang-raped. They took advantage of me all night long. Twelve months later, Ricky Paris was born.”
Mother went to church every Sunday. When she died in 2000, we held a memorial service at Saint John’s in Lambertville. We asked the priest if we could sing Mother’s favorite number, Hello Dolly, during the service, but he said it wasn’t appropriate. He did let us sing God Bless America.
Mother is buried in Thompson Memorial Cemetery. Though the grave stone lists her birthdate as 1925, her age was always a bone of contention among locals and remains a mystery to this day.