Stella DeMayo, born Stella Karacoliff, died peacefully at home on the morning of Aug. 17, 2020, with family by her side. She was 97 years old.
Stella was born November 8, 1922 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and was the second of four children born to Macedonian immigrants, Anna and Trifon Karacoliff. Stella and her siblings enjoyed Seaside Park, skiing, socializing in the neighborhood, helping at their parents’ small restaurant and later dancing to the era’s big band music on the weekends.
Stella was a Certified Registered Nurse after attending the University of Vermont and completing her residency at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport Connecticut.
She married her best friend, William Samuel DeMayo on June 18, 1956. They remained in Connecticut until 2003, at which time Bill and Stella left their native state to join their two daughters in California. There, in the Jalama Valley, a 300 acre ranch outside of Lompoc became their home where their eldest daughter Neda founded Return to Freedom (RTF), a national non-profit wild horse conservation organization. They both enjoyed spending time with family and friends and being part of the growth of RTF, which operated a sanctuary and educational programs. Stella and her husband also enjoyed the performing arts and attended many theatrical productions with their daughter Diana DeMayo-Brown and her husband Thomas Brown. Stella was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 58 years when Bill passed in May of 2014.
She was passionate about history and enjoyed reading, organic gardening, herbs, the arts and spirituality. Remaining close to her Macedonian heritage she was a fantastic cook and loved creating Mediterranean dishes. In the 1970s Stella was one of the very first students of the Course in Miracles and continued her spiritual journey throughout her life. Stella touched so many people with her compassion and kindness.
She is survived by her older sister Phyllis Crocker in Santa Barbara, her daughters Neda DeMayo (Jalama Valley, Lompoc CA) and Diana DeMayo-Brown, son-in-law Thomas Brown and grandson Thomas William Elijah Brown of Van Nuys, California, Nephews James D. Rickman and Paul Hrabovsky, grandnephews Scott Rickman and James Dean Rickman, Jr., Alexander Hrabovsky and grandniece Arianna Hrabovsky.
Due to the pandemic, a private graveside gathering and celebration of her life will be held at Return to Freedom’s Wild Horse Sanctuary.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Stella’s memory to benefit the lifesaving work of Return to Freedom on behalf of America’s wild horses and burros.