Emmy Lou Papagni

Emmy Lou Papagni died May 8, 2022 in Palo Alto. She was 99 years old.

In death she joins her beloved husband, John Papagni, who passed in 1986.

Emmy Lou was born in Barstow, California, and she grew up in Fresno, California. She was the daughter of Mabel Lou Guinn and John Neal Sinclair.

As a young woman, she was an elementary school teacher, with second grade being her favorite grade to teach. An adventurous spirit, she traveled through Europe with a few other teachers during the summer of 1953. They visited 14 countries in 10 weeks: England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France and Monaco.

Returning from Europe, Emmy Lou passed through New York City and her then-boyfriend, John Papagni, arranged to meet her there. Their summer day together consisted of a movie matinee, The Moon is Blue, a trip to the Empire State Building, and a Central Park carriage ride. During the carriage ride, John shyly pulled a ring from his pocket, saying “I better give this to you…before I lose it!” They married one year later in 1954 and settled into a home in Palo Alto where Emmy Lou lived for most of the rest of her life.

An exceptional student, Emmy Lou graduated from high school at the age of 16. At the age of 20, she received her undergraduate teaching degree from California State University, Fresno. She later received her Masters in Education from Stanford University. During WWII, in between earning each degree, she served in the Marines. Her two brothers, John and Guinn, were serving in the military, and she said that she “wanted to do what she could to help them.”

In life Emmy Lou was a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend. A lover of books, Emmy Lou was a devoted patron of the Palo Alto City Library. Her favorite books were Kristin Lavransdatter, War and Peace, and The Forsyte Saga. She read War and Peace a few times and was known to comment that it got better each time.

Regarding her love of reading, she said that she was born with a book in one hand. A lover of poetry, her favorite poem was “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth. Her favorite poet was Billy Collins.

Her taste in music was eclectic, including everything from opera to country and western. She especially loved Mozart’s Alleluia because it was “so joyous.”

Emmy Lou is survived by her sister Mimi, daughter Emily, son John; and other beloved family, including nieces Susan, Betsy, Christine, and Katia. She will be remembered for her dedication to teaching, her sense of humor, her appreciation of the arts, and for being kind and generous.

In lieu of flowers or donations, do something that Emmy Lou would appreciate. She would love for you to read a poem.