LIMA - Danielle Dante, aka Bernice Maria Chiboucas, passed away May 12, 2018 at Lima Convalescent Home, where she’d sung to residents in previous decades and said she’d come “full circle” when staff stopped by her room, to tell her she had been “everyone’s favorite entertainer.”
Danielle was born Bernice Maria De Croce on May 18, 1940 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the late Nick and Concetta (“Connie” Nucci) De Croce. On May 7, 1992 she married the love of her life, drummer Charles “Chick Dante” Chiboucas, who preceded her in death on May 20, 1994 and whom she met and performed alongside as a singer and dancer at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida in 1968.
Danielle loved to share her show biz stories as a professional singer and dancer when she performed as early as 1958 through the 60s, across the country with entertainers that included Bobby Darren, Sammy Davis Jr., Don Rickles and Joey Bishop (with the pictures to prove it), to name a few. She started dancing at age five and was on toe shoes at age 6 (and lamented the state of her feet ever since). She appeared “in the back just having fun dancing” on American Bandstand and was in a song-and-dance travelling club for the Philadelphia Knights of Columbus alongside crooner Frankie Avalon. At 16, she was flown around the east coast to teach advanced jazz classes and, at 18, on a whim while in New York, auditioned for her first chorus part in the off Broadway touring company for the play ‘Lil Abner. She loved to tell the story of making the final audition round, being told she had to sing. She asked how they wanted it; they said big and loud so she sung “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song and obliged. After the applause, she was asked “What’s your name?” and she called back “Zelda Schwartz, sweetie!” Which earned the response “You’ve got the job!”
She performed in Lil’ Abner with Dave Huddleston, then went on to play Zaneeta Shin in the Music Man with Darren McGavin, the Dancing Laurie in Oklahoma and serve as the dance captain for Wild Cat with Gwen Verdon (who she idolized as “in charge”). She headlined as the pint-sized-but-powerful front performer in “review” shows up and down the eastern seaboard, from Florida to New York, and also Las Vegas. She once was dropped by her dance partner and broke her rib, bound her torso, and kept on dancing 2 shows a night. She became a true “double-threat” performer when she also started singing professionally, when she was 23.
Danielle came to Lima in 1970 thanks to “Squirt” Joe Guagenti, who hired her to sing and entertain at the iconic Alpine Village restaurant. She taught dance to scores of Lima / Allen County youth in the 80s, then sang at a number of assisted living facilities, until recently. She moonlighted as a choreographer at Encore Theater, presenting the original Broadway choreographer for Lil’ Abner, and served as an over-qualified stage mom for the six Encore productions her son Nick performed in during the early 80s. She loved that Nick played Tommy Djilas at Shawnee High School, the character she had danced with professionally as Zaneeta in The Music Man, some 20 years before. She was on hand for rehearsals whenever her dance class schedule would allow, especially proud and around when Nick performed as the king in The King and I at Shawnee High School, then also as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet for the Ohio State Theater department.
She is survived by her son Nick Kellis and his significant other Melissa Elmquist, of Lima, and her daughters Samantha Gossard-Dykstra, of Kansas City, and Natalie Gossard, of Sidney; stepson Charles “Tas” Chiboucas of Tacoma, Washington and stepdaughter Vickie McDonald-Allen, of Vandalia; plus an extended Abruzzo Italian family on the east coast.
Danielle included as her “adopted” extended family scores of friends from her time as an entertainer abroad, and from decades living in Lima, specifically 25-plus years-worth of residents at the Mark Royale Apartments, where she was known as “Mrs. D”. She counted as her “adopted daughters” her neighbor Monica Davis Cowan and her beloved puppy Chi Chi; Pam Fried of Lima’s The Lion The Niche and the Wardrobe; and her “other son”, Steve Shisler, of Lima.
The family wishes to thank nurse Karen and the rest of the simply outstanding staff at Lima Convalescent Home; the truly special St. Rita’s Hospice team; and also the management and physical therapy teams at Liberty (where Danielle spent this past winter), Dr. Khalil’s office staff, the excellent physicians who treated her at St. Rita’s Mercy Health, OIO, Lima Pathology and The Vein Care Center; most notably Dr. Javier Pere, Dr. Jim O’Neill and Dr. JJ Sreenan, for going beyond what was expected and hoped for; Pam’s husband Vince Fried, Steve’s wife Shannon Shisler, Dick and Mary Lane; Chaplain Herb Wilker of St. Rita’s Hospice; and Father Kent and Sister Yvonne of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
Danielle asked for the following quote in her obituary: “You’ve got to sing, like you don’t need the money. Love, like you’ll never get hurt. You’ve got to dance, dance, dance like nobody’s watching. It’s got to come from the heart, if you want it to work. “ To which should be added “And to make your mark, you’ve got to be large and in charge!” which she was on April 4th, when she saw the sneak preview of the movie A Walk With Grace that her son directed and she partly inspired.
Coincidentally, a musical cue from the movie score sounds to its director vaguely like the old Nat King Cole standard “That's All”, which happened to be the song Danielle would sing to end every night at the Alpine... As the lyrics go “I can only give you love that lasts forever… …If you’re wondering what I’m asking in return, dear. You’ll be glad to know that my demands are small. Say it’s me that you’ll adore, for now and ever more. That’s all. That’s all.”
Visitation will begin at 2pm at Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home on Sunday, May 20, with a memorial at 3pm, an opportunity for friends and family to share brief celebration stories, and a blessing from Father Kent.
Danielle battled two forms of cancer and had loved mentoring a generation of Lima’s artists and performers. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to either St. Rita’s Hospice at 959 W. North St. Lima, OH 45805, or the 2018 Student Integrated Arts Filmmaker Bootcamp via http://heartlandimage.org/honor-danielle/. Special thanks to Maria Sanko for donating to and chairing this year’s student bootcamp in Danielle’s honor.
Online memories may be expressed to the family at https://www.chamberlainhuckeriede.com/testimonials.