Ellen Peoples in 2018. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Ellen Peoples, a retired secretary at the former St. Joseph’s Manor who devoted her life to her family, died May 21 after suffering a heart attack. She was 99.

Mrs. Peoples was remembered by her family Wednesday as a typical Italian mother who made sure everyone was fed and taken care of.

“She loved to make sure people ate,” said her son, Alan Peoples of Scarborough. He laughed. “I’d come in. ‘Are you hungry?’ No ma, I’m not hungry. ‘Have you eaten?’ No mom, No. ‘Well how about a sandwich or some pasta.’ She was very good mom. She really devoted herself to family.”

Mrs. Peoples was born the daughter of Pietro and Anna Oddi and lived in Portland nearly her whole life. She graduated from Portland High School, and in 1943 she married Arnold “Jack” Peoples, her husband for 30 years. He died in 1973.

Alan Peoples, the youngest of their four sons, said he was about 14 years old when his father died. He reminisced about his childhood Wednesday, saying he and his brothers were very fortunate.

“She had to be kind of tough to raise four boys,” he said. “She ran the household. She would kick us kids out of the house and tell us to go out and play. We were never in the house. She only wanted us to come back when it was time to eat. We would come home and have dinner together every night as a family.”

Mrs. Peoples went to work after her oldest son graduated from high school. She held several jobs including deli manager at the former Martins Foods.

She also worked as a receptionist at what is now St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence on Washington Avenue, retiring in 2001 at age 80.

“She loved it because she got to see everyone,” her son said. “She would visit the residents. Of course, she knew a lot of the residents.”

Mrs. Peoples lived in Portland’s North Deering neighborhood for much of her life. She was remembered by her son as a strong and independent woman, who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She loved her dog, Casey; and two parakeets named Andy 1 and Andy 2.

She was a passionate New England sports fan who faithfully supported the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. A highlight of her life was going to a Celtics game with her nephew in her 80s.

“She knew all the players,” Alan Peoples said. “She knew who she liked and didn’t like. She would tell me when she was displeased with a trade or the coach. She was actually quite up on it. She wasn’t a weekend warrior.”

Mrs. Peoples hung the American flag and Marine Corps flags outside her Allen Avenue home in honor of her late husband, a World War II combat veteran.

In June 2018, the rope on her 20-foot flagpole gave out. So she called the Portland Fire Department’s North Deering Fire Station for help. Firefighters Ron Giroux Jr. and Jesse Peters repaired the flagpole.

“Any of our guys would have done the same thing,” Giroux said told the Press Herald. “I just happened to be on duty.”

Her son said the experience was a thrill for her.

“She actually framed the article,” her son said. “She was very patriotic. She loved America.”

In recent years, Mrs. Peoples spent winters with son Michael Peoples of Reidsville, North Carolina. Alan Peoples said she was scheduled to return to Maine in May, but it was too risky due to COVID-19. Recently, she tripped and fell on her knee. A few days later, doctors did an X-ray and it showed that she had broken her femur. She suffered a heart attack while she was in the hospital.

Alan Peoples choked up sharing one of his last memories of his mother. Just as she always asked her son if he wanted something to eat, he asked his mother if she was ready for some macaroni.

“I leaned into her … now that’s out,” he said, referring to her breathing tube. “Are you ready for a big bowl of macaroni? She gave me the biggest smile. Her eyes brightened up. It was a real moment for me … for both of us really.”

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