When Saundra DiPetrillo Mahoney was 8 years old, she moved into a duplex in Providence. The other family living there had young kids, and she became fast friends with then 12-year-old Kathleen Danti.
Now in their 70s, that friendship is as strong as ever. They have memories and mementos to prove it: photos of their weddings, where they served as each other’s maid of honor, phone cards racked up with minutes from near-daily phone calls, and an unusual birthday card. Taped together at the seam, the card is covered on all sides with notes, are some birthday messages listing the year for clarification.
Mahoney and Danti have been sending this same card back and forth for 25 years.
“I just thought it was something cute to do,” Danti said. “I said, ‘let’s see how long we can do it.’ It turned out very long.”
Mahoney keeps the card at her North Kingstown home for only a short time. Not long after her May 28th birthday, the tattered card is back in the mail, headed for Danti in Johnston. The inside and back of the card are covered now, and the women have resorted to writing on the front. When Danti sends the card to Mahoney, she gets a chuckle out of filling the envelope with confetti, knowing it will irritate her best friend.
Danti lost the card for a short time but was relieved when it turned up, and now stores it in a lock box for safekeeping.
When the women look at the card, memories from their 60-plus years of friendship come flooding back. Mahoney says it didn’t take long for them to become inseparable as children.
“I was downstairs all the time with them,” she said.
When Danti was 18 years old, her family moved. They were still living in Rhode Island, so the women remained close. It was an adjustment, though.
“We missed each other,” Danti said. “When we moved it was hard, but we always kept in touch.”
As adults, they stood up for each other at their weddings, and Danti is godmother to Mahoney’s son.
“I thought I was a big deal then, being in her wedding,” Mahoney said.
Danti has four siblings and Mahoney has a brother, but they consider each other family. They call each other “sissy,” and talk almost every day. They took a vacation together to Missouri when their kids were younger, and make a point of celebrating birthdays together. Once they moved to different ends of the state after getting married, Mahoney would make the trip up to see “Auntie” often.
“There was never a problem,” she said.
If possible, the pair became closer when Danti fell ill. Living in Johnston at this point, she came down with a staph infection in 1987and “was very close to the other side.” Mahoney practically moved in, setting up Danti’s IVs, running errands and cooking for her.
“Her and her daughter were just outstanding. They were willing to do anything that had to be done for me,” Danti said, calling Mahoney “my angel.”
Knowing her best friend, her sissy, was there for her, helped Danti overcome her illness.
“I fought it. Through it all I had a support system,” she said.
Danti pulls out a phone card that she uses to call up Mahoney in North Kingstown. In the past three weeks, she has used more than 300 minutes talking to her friend. They never seem to run out of things to say.
“We can tell each other anything,” Danti said. “She was very special to me – she still is. She’s a great person.”
Admittedly, Danti does a lot of the talking.
“Opposites attract. I’m quiet, she’s not,” Mahoney says.
Danti concedes, “I have a strong personality.”
Despite their differences, the women say there is nothing but love and respect between them.
“We never argued or anything. We always got along well, which is unusual,” Danti said.
Nearby, Danti’s husband Bill can attest to their closeness.
“I didn’t have to break up no fights,” he said, smiling.