Sylvia Gentili
Sylvia Gentili

Obituary of Sylvia Anne Gentili

Sylvia will be remembered for inspiring, engaging, and empowering people to become involved in supporting the needs of others. She was the chair of the Hunger Walk in North Tacoma for many years, helped develop People for Positive Parenting, was a deacon at Fircrest Presbyterian Church, and created a video on water safety for children. She loved children, classical music, flower arrangement, and contemporary furnishings. She was also an avid walker, clocking 1,862 miles with her walker during Covid in Tacoma parks where she always stopped, along with her cherished family dog Obruni, to talk to people. Sylvia was soft spoken but always voiced what mattered.

Sylvia’s passion for service and care developed at a young age. She lived in Greece for two years as a young girl when her father, Dr. Leslie Knott, worked to reconstruct the Greek public health system after WWII. Seeing the poverty people were experiencing led to her vocation as a nurse. Another influence was her mother Gertrude Knott, who developed a public school program for children with disabilities, in part to support Sylvia’s brother Leslie who had a cognitive disability.

Her first nursing job was at a hospital in Charleston, SC, where her first husband, Bob Stivers, was stationed as a naval officer. Subsequently she served as a public health nurse in Harlem, NY while her husband was in graduate school. They moved to Tacoma, WA, where she worked for Bates Technical College developing early intervention strategies to identify health issues of preschool children, offering parental education related to health issues, and in later years, supporting the development of co-op preschools. Sylvia was a relationship builder and connected people to resources. She had many close friends from work who celebrated her career with a fun-loving retirement party in 2001.

Sylvia married Ken Gentili in 1995. The two of them continued to follow their passions in retirement by serving as volunteers in Malawi through the Presbyterian Church. Between 2007 and 2019, Sylvia visited Malawi regularly to work with Malawians who were establishing new preschools. She provided resources for schools and trained teachers in “learning through play” methods. She also connected Girl Guides in Malawi with Girl Scout troops in Washington, and supported healthy living using safe, potable water. Malawians called her Mama Sisya, which means “Of the People.”

Sylvia is survived by her two children, Laura Stivers and Mark Stivers, and Ken’s three daughters, Julie Kub (husband Ed Kub), Gina Gentili, and Joanna Gentili (wife Kristina Wallender), her twelve grandchildren include Sophie, Quincy, Aidan, Marijke, Annelies, Cali, Brendan, Cienna, Alexie, Dulce, Lupita, and Hector Marc (and mom Judith), and many lifelong friends.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Emergency Food Network, 3318 92nd St. S, Lakewood, WA 98499 (

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We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Edwards Memorial | University Place
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