Maria was born in a charming hilltop town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The eldest of four children, she took on management of the household when she was about 12, as her father was a prisoner-of-war in North Africa and her mother was in hospital.
This early experience looking after the home and farm, including buying fertilizer for grapes and seeds for vegetables, gave Maria life-long skills in ensuring money was put away for a "rainy day."
Her childhood was full of hard work on the land and in the kitchen. Each day, she carried water home from the community fountain in a bucket on her head.
Maria was proud to say she never spilled any. She was conscientious about all tasks she took on throughout her life.
She had to leave school at an early age, but because of her exceptional intelligence and life-long commitment to learning, she acquired broad and deep knowledge on society, ethics and politics.
Maria married Giuseppe Santilli, the love of her life, in 1942. He was away from home for much of the Second World War, making only occasional trips to Pratola. Maria lived with her in-laws during those difficult years. Two girls were born, Egizia and Felicia.
Maria's strength of personality as well as her physical strength were critical assets as she looked after two infants, the in-laws, the household and the farm.
After the war, finances were tough, and in 1949 Giuseppe immigrated to Sydney, N.S., hoping to improve educational opportunities for his girls.
It was several years before he was established enough to buy a home and bring his family to Halifax. Their arrival at Pier 21 in 1953 was a cold and windy occasion, but the welcoming community quickly warmed Maria's heart.
She worked initially at the Moirs chocolate factory, which provided a daily opportunity to learn English, and Canadian culture.
Four more children were born: Giovanna, Anna, Venanzio and Elena. As soon as the children were in school, Maria returned to the work force - as a seamstress at Tip Top Tailors until she retired at 65.
She was active in the Catholic Church, the Italian community and, especially, in managing the family affairs.
All six children received a good education - much of it generated at home. Maria's kitchen was a special place, and all visitors were welcome. She saw the best in everyone.
She passed away gracefully with many of her family at her bedside. The day before, she'd been working in the garden, getting the soil ready for planting.
She was happy to know the seeds she planted in North America - six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren - are in good soil and in full bloom.
Mike Sinclair is Maria's son-in-law.