Winifred Caponigri (Farquhar) died peacefully on July 28, 2022, at the age of 98.
She was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to Franklin A. Franco and Catherine Lione Franco.
In 1945, as a young New Yorker who had recently arrived on the campus of the University of Iowa, she met a fellow first-generation Italian who was her Humanities Professor, A. Robert Caponigri. Mesmerized by his astounding intellect and devotion to the Roman Catholic Church Wini married Dr. Caponigri in October of 1946. Little did Wini know, upon leaving her studies to follow him to the University of Notre Dame, where Robert had accepted a position in the Department of Philosophy, that she would begin with him an adventure of nearly 40 years spanning the globe.
Residing in Europe with Robert, on more than one occasion, she accompanied him to private audiences with various Popes. At the express request of Father Hesburgh, who relied on her social graces and flair for entertaining, she and Robert would host dinners for visiting scholars and dignitaries at Notre Dame. One of these visiting scholars would happen to be a Cardinal from Milan who enjoyed a lovely pasta dinner and great conversation at the Caponigri table. A few years later, this same Cardinal became Pope and continued a lifelong friendship with the Caponigris.
As Robert’s career skyrocketed, leading him to become the world’s pre-eminent authority on Giambattista Vico and Benedetto Croce, Wini, with her characteristic vigor and enthusiasm, dove into the role of consummate hostess for her husband’s dinners, conferences, colloquia, and chaired Professorial Positions in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and of course Notre Dame. Still today, former graduate students in Philosophy who are now Professors share their fond memories of the abundant receptions with plentiful food at the Caponigri’s.
Wini was actively involved in the South Bend Community, serving on a number of local boards and in many organizations. A board member of the St. Joseph County Scholarship Foundation since 1975, she was the longest living member of The Ladies of Notre Dame and the longest living member of The Christ Child Society, each of which she served as President. She also served on the women’s board of the South Bend Symphony and as Madame President of the Parish Council of Sacred Heart Parish, The Crypt at The University of Notre Dame.
Wini, dedicated to education, continued her studies at the graduate level, earning her Masters in Earth Science from The University of Notre Dame. After teaching at Saint Mary’s Academy, Wini was appointed the first lay and female faculty member at Holy Cross College. At Holy Cross College Wini founded the Science Department teaching Chemistry and Geology for over thirty years. In 1969, when she began teaching at Holy Cross College, she also forged a lifelong friendship with the Brothers of the Holy Cross Order.
After Robert’s death Wini continued to pursue her career with her characteristic vim and vigor, not only as head of the Science Department at Holy Cross College, but also by teaching at IUSB for over 30 years. In addition to her teaching, Wini became active in People to People and led delegations of academics to locales such as Cuba, China, Russia, Japan, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Egypt. Addressing issues such as Women in Science, Wini constantly strove to discover the world and its interconnectedness on her own in these years, as she had at Robert’s side for so many years before. Wini was an active member of numerous professional associations, including the Mineralogical Society of America with which she visited Iceland, and Delta Kappa Gamma, from which she received numerous grants.
After fifteen years of widowhood, Wini found happiness again with John Farquhar. Embracing her newfound free time after her retirement from teaching in 2002, Wini traveled even more. After John’s death in 2009, Wini became active in the senior community of South Bend. As a member of the Michiana Gerontological Board, she provided an excellent example of how to stay active and involved in the community and was awarded the Changing Aging award in the Fall of 2016. Wini helped to promote Comfort Keepers, as a way for seniors to stay in their homes and helped to raise awareness of TRIAD’s activities to protect seniors in our community. Wini was also an excellent bridge player, playing in so many bridge clubs and marathons they are too numerous to mention.
Wini is survived by her three children, Victoria, Robert and Lisa, as well as her five grandchildren, Matthias, Isaiah, Felicia, Bobby and Guido and four great-grandchildren. She is also survived by two sisters, Vivian and Catherine. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew and loved her. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, August 5, 2022 at 9:30 am. Interment will follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery. Kaniewski Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.