Matushka Margarita Romanovna Gisetti, wife of late Very Rev. Dimitri Gisetti, fell asleep in the Lord peacefully at home on Thursday, April 6, 2006, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Born in Viborg, Finland on May 28, 1923, the younger of two children and the only daughter of Roman [Robert] Bang and Catherine Bang, nee Knyazhna Ourousoff, Matushka Margarita and her family moved to Talinn, Estonia a few years later, where she finished her education at the Russian Gymnasium in 1940. In 1939, she went on a group pilgrimage to Valaam Monastery, organized and chaperoned by Father Alexander and Matushka Kiselev, fondly remembered by His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow, who spent time with the group as a young boy. She briefly attended University at Yuriev, Estonia, during World War II.
After her brother was killed in action in the war, Matushka Margarita and her family fled the advancing Soviet armies to Munich, Germany, where they resided at the Good Samaritan House organized by Father Kiselev. She undertook the nursing courses offered there and formed a lifeling bond with the other nursing students.
On November 16, 1947, she married Dimitri Gisetti, an acquaintance from Talinn, who was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood the following year.
Fr. Dimitri and Matushka Margarita’s relationship extended beyond simple support of his ministry and was truly a partnership in service to God.
Following the birth of their only child, Seraphim, in 1949, the Gisetti’s, together with Matushka’s parents and a great aunt, immigrated to the US in January 1950. Father Dimitri was soon assigned to assist Fr. Kiselev in Astoria, NY, while Matushka Margarita, like so many other newly arrived Russians in New York, went to work in a match factory in Manhattan. She continued to work there until the family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1953, where Father Dimitri became pastor of Saint Nicholas Church and Matushka taught in the Saturday school. She also pursued studies at Portland State University.
In 1957, the Gisettis were reassigned to Holy Virgin Mary Church [later cathedral], Los Angeles, CA. Except for short trips, Matushka Margarita would remain here for the rest of her life. In 1960, she earned her Bachelor’s degree and in 1962, her Master’s in the Russian Language at UCLA.
For the next 20 years she would teach Russian, first at UCLA, then at USC during the week. She also devoted a great deal of time teaching Russian grammar, history, and literature to the children of the parish. Summers meant Church summer camps and short vacations, either in the mountains or at the beach, which she loved.
When Father Dimitri became ill in 1973, Matushka Margarita was his sole caretaker for 14 years. She continued to serve her church, teaching in the Saturday school, baking prosphora, and doing most of the Church Slavonic reading for the services. She was widowed in 1989, but continued doing all she could for her church, adding in later years purchasing produce and supplies for the cathedral Sisterhood.
Matushka Margarita was diagnosed with cancer in January 2006, which had already metastasized throughout her body. Treatment would not have helped much. and she decided that she did not want to go through a painful process with little or no hope of cure. Her daughter-in-law, Matushka Maria Gisetti, came to live with her so that she could remain in her home until the end. She was able to go to church until the last month of her life.
Her repose came much in the way she wished it—she went to Confession and received Communion the weekend before her death. The Canon for the Departure of the Soul was read with her on Monday, April 3, 2006, and the regular evening prayers were offered the next day.
Funeral services were celebrated at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral on Tuesday, April 11 with His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the West presiding.
Matushka Margarita is survived by one son, the Very Rev. Seraphim Gisetti, pastor of Saint Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, Arvada, CO, and his wife Masha; and three grandchildren: Andrei and wife Jacque, Anna and her husband Jonathan, and Alexandra.
May Matushka Margarita’s memory be eternal!