STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, the “Mob Wives” star and beloved though controversial community member, died early Thursday, according to family members. She was 55.
Ang, a Ward Hill resident, lost her battle with stage four cancer of the lungs. After failed chemotherapy and radiation treatments, her health took a turn from the worse Wednesday night.
She was taken off life support and died surrounded by her family at 3 a.m. Thursday, her brother-in-law said.
“She was surrounded by nothing but love from her immediate family and closest friends,” a statement from her friend, local singer Vinnie Medugno, read. “Her fans were some of the most special people in her world and she loved you immensely.”
For the past five years, Ang was the face of VH1’s “Mob Wives.” To a casual observer, she was a larger-than-life personality with a larger-than-life figure. To those who watched the show or knew her personally, she was a kind-hearted giver and a voice of reason.
To her family — her two children and six grandchildren, her two sisters and four brothers — she was the matriarch, and the glue that held them together.
“Mob Wives” started in 2011 and ran for six seasons, featuring Ang starting in the second season as the beloved bartender at the “Drunken Monkey.” She quickly became an audience favorite and appeared in two spinoffs, one centered around the former bar she worked at, and another on her life running another “Drunken Monkey” in Miami.
At the base of all three shows was Ang’s connections to alleged mafia members. She’s the niece of Salvatore “Sally Dogs” Lombardi, a deceased captain of the Genovese crime family. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, but later moved to Staten Island, where she lives in West Brighton. Lombardi died in prison in 2009.
Raiola had two children: Raquel Donofrio and Anthony “A.J.” Donofrio. More than anything she adored her six grandbabies. She said during the “Mob Wives” premiere
“I look at my kids and my grandchildren and I know how much they need me,” she said on Tuesday during a conversation with Dr. Oz. “My kids, my daughter lives with me with her kids and her husband so I’m very close to my grandchildren. My son’s kids always sleep over.”
In 2001, Raiola was arrested and convicted for selling cocaine in a New York City drug ring. She wrote in her book that, as a single mother raising her kids, it was a way for her to make money, but that she would never do it again.
In 2009, she married Neil Murphy, a sanitation worker also from Staten Island. The two went on to appear together in two reality television shows: ABC’s “Wife Swap” and VH1’s “Couple’s Therapy,” both of which painted the picture of a rocky but largely appreciative marriage. Neil said he liked that the shows shined a different light on his wife.
“We’re all seeing a little more of the real Ang, and I think people see that and they like her,” Murphy said at the time. “She’s more than just a mob wife.”
As sickness took hold of Ang in late 2015 and early 2016, Ang stayed in the spotlight, even appearing at a Mob Wives premiere party days after her first chemotherapy treatment. She wanted to see her fans, she said at the party. But when the party was over, she just wanted to spend time with her grandchildren — perhaps her greatest love.
Much of this season of “Mob Wives” has focused on Ang’s cancer journey. The show’s producer, and Ang’s long-time friend Jenn Graziano, said showing audiences what the experience was like was important to Ang.
“She wanted to do whatever she could do to shed light on it and get people to understand it better. There’s nothing fake about it. Those are real emotions.”
[SOURCE: Staten Island Advance]