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Thursday, April 8, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Albarosa Morelli, Matriarch, Chicken Farmer, Rose Fancier

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Albarosa Morelli, whose tidy white house on 148th Avenue Northeast once was the hub of one of Redmond's largest chicken farms, represented the last of a breed.

Stern and efficient, the Italian-American immigrant liked to keep busy, even over the past 28 years since retiring from selling eggs. She would visit her brothers in Italy, sit with a great-grandchild, scrub the house or make fancy arrangements from flowers she dried herself.

But she seemed happiest cooking Italian dinners and desserts, or tending her garden. Her name means "white rose" in Italian.

"She always loved roses," said her son Dante Morelli of Seattle. "She had a way with putting landscapes around the house so they looked perfect."

He said Microsoft, which bought the homestead in the early 1990s but allowed her to live there until she went into a nursing home last year, will refurbish the house and use it as a library.

Mrs. Morelli died Saturday (April 3) of the effects of diabetes. She was 84.

Born in San Gregorio, Italy, she married at 16 and moved with her husband, Silvio, to Redmond where he and his brothers bought land to farm. She lived in a cabin until their house was finished in 1936.

"She was a hard-working woman and kept busy raising her children," said her nephew Gabe Morelli of Redmond. "Back in the early days, there was an awful lot of work to be done. They had 15,000 chickens."

Hens had the run of long, elevated chicken houses, remnants of which stood on Morelli land until the early 1990s, when Microsoft was expanding. Morelli land across 148th was developed into homes in the 1970s.

"We never had a sign out for eggs," said Gabe Morelli. "We usually sold them to a middleman. But it was just something everybody knew about by word of mouth. People would come from all over Seattle."

Dante Morelli said his family had the first chicken farm on the Eastside to use electric lights in henhouses.

"That was the 1940s," he said. "We were also the first to have lights on timers, turned on automatically at 4 a.m. so the hens would lay more eggs."

However, the main thing he remembers is his mother's cooking.

"She was a very outgoing person and loved to cook," he said. "She made the best cannelloni, lasagna - you name it. She loved to have people over and cook for them. I'm still trying to duplicate her meat sauce."

Also surviving are her daughter, Elisa Kokesh of Redmond; sons Panfilo Morelli, Mercer Island; and Robert Morelli, Bellevue; brothers Ettore Morelli and Marino Morelli, both of Aquileia, Italy; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1979.

A Mass has been said. Donations may go to Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, 1001 Fourth Ave., Suite 3808, Seattle 98154; or the American Diabetes Association, Puget Sound Region, 447 Roy St., Seattle WA 98109.

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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