Willamena "Willie" Adams Paretti, the longtime chairwoman of Lakeview Regional Medical Center's board of trustees, died Tuesday in New Orleans after a lengthy illness. She was 69.
Born in Pineville, Paretti served on many boards and commissions in St. Tammany Parish, her home for 40 years. She was a tireless volunteer, civic leader and philanthropist, according to friends and local officials.
"Many people know that there is a need and wait for someone else to start addressing it and then are willing to help," said Parish President Pat Brister. Paretti, by contrast, was a leader, she said.
"She never backed away from a challenge," Brister said.
The Paretti family owns car dealerships in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Brister said the business was started by Paretti's father-in-law.
Paretti chaired the Covington hospital's board for 35 years.
She also served on the local Emergency Preparedness Executive Committee, the STARC advisory board, the Children's Advocacy Center-Hope House board and the boards of the St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs, the Causeway Police Charitable Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and the Southeastern Louisiana University Development Foundation.
Former Mandeville City Councilman Rick Danielson, who knew Paretti since childhood, said she was a philanthropist in every sense of the word, giving her time and talent as well as financial support to many causes.
"She always had a tremendous desire to give back, and she was in a position in life where she could do so. Her gift to the community was a deep caring about the people who live here," he said.
Paretti was especially committed to helping children and young adults in crisis. She was instrumental in the creation of Hope House, the Children's Advocacy Center's sanctuary for abused children, and Homeless Outreach for Youth in St. Tammany, which provides shelter and transitional housing and supportive services to young people aiming for self-sufficiency.
Brister, who first met Paretti when their children were in school together, said she was deeply involved in their school activities, serving on PTA boards, coaching soccer and directing high school dance teams. But Paretti's civic involvement continued to grow, Brister said.
A member of Christ Episcopal Church in Covington, she also was a sustaining member of the Greater Covington Junior League and a charter officer of the Krewe of Eve. She served on the boards of the Northshore Community Foundation, the Alliance for Good Government and the Maritime Museum. She was the chair of the Madisonville Wood Boat Festival.
Paretti received the St. Tammany West Chamber's 2013 Community Leadership Award and the YMCA Hero Award.
Survivors include a son, Craig A. Paretti Jr.; a daughter, Stacey P. Rase; a sister, Sheila Adams Berry; a brother, Reginald Trent Adams; and seven grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at Christ Episcopal Church, 120 S. New Hampshire St., in Covington. Visitation will begin at noon. Interment will be at Pinecrest Memorial Gardens in Covington.