TANNERSVILLE, N.Y. — It was 54 years ago when a family of immigrants from Trieste, Italy brought their brand of comfort food and hospitality to the Catskill Mountains, opening a resort called Villa Vosilla.
Natalina and John Vosilla, Junior eventually moved their two daughters, Doria and Susan, to the resort full time—after they’d spent their early years in Brooklyn.
“When we were here, we had to work,” Doria Vosilla McGunnigle said recently. “I started with the housekeepers, making beds.”
Now, Vosilla McGunnigle is fighting to keep the resort open, because of a battle over the will left by her younger sister, Susan.
Susan Vosilla was only 55 years old, when she died in September 2011.
Doria claims a long-time Tannersville attorney saw an opportunity with Susan, who was diabetic, had suffered multiple strokes, and battled drug and alcohol abuse at various times in her life.
The trust and will that Susan ultimately signed in 2010 cut Doria out of Susan’s portion of the Villa Vosilla estate—giving that half to six other people, including a 17.5 percent to the lawyer’s wife.
“He writes his wife in the will, Harriet Bucca,” Doria’s husband, Lee McGunnigle, said of veteran lawyer, Anthony Bucca.
“I never knew an attorney’s wife could be written into a will.”
PIX11 met Anthony Bucca near his old law office in Tannersville, and he gave his version of what happened.
“She hated her sister,” Bucca said of Susan Vosilla. “She hired me the day her mother died.”
Bucca initially filed papers to be Susan’s guardian, and $430,000 in cash assets were supposed to be allocated toward Susan’s care.
Within three months, though, Susan Vosilla was signing a “Last Will and Testament” that named Anthony Bucca as trustee and executor of her portion of the estate.
The legal language attributed to Susan said, “I have deliberately made no provision herein for the benefit of my sister Doria McGunnigle or her issue, and I direct that they shall not share in my estate as a distributee or otherwise.”
“She was mistreated by her sister,” Bucca said to PIX11. “They didn’t include her in events; she was persona non grata at the hotel. She suffered a lot, because of the lack of love and affection.”
The McGunnigles told PIX11 this is not an accurate portrayal of the family dynamic. Susan was godmother to their second son. They said when Susan suffered the strokes in her early 30’s, she embraced sobriety for 15 years and family life was much better.
“For 15 years, during her sobriety, it was a loving family,” said Lee McGunnigle, who’s helped run Villa Vosilla for 35 years and also serves as the long-time Mayor of Tannersville, New York.
Doria McGunnigle claimed she helped to save her sister’s foot from amputation by tending to Susan’s wounds when the foot got infected due to complications from diabetes.
McGunnigle said the people named in Susan’s will weren’t taking such good care of her when she died.
The McGunnigles videotaped the 5,000 square foot home where Susan was discovered dead in September 2011.
“There was dog feces everywhere. Her recliner was eaten up by the dogs,” Doria Vosilla McGunnigle said.
Leigh McGunnigle is the oldest of Doria and Lee’s four children. He’s now serving as general manager at the resort, part of the 4th generation to carry on the family tradition.
“There’s a couple of employees that have worked here over 30 years,” Leigh McGunnigle said, noting a closure of Villa Vosilla would have a “trickle down” effect on the Tannersville and Hunter Mountain community.
“I met my wife here,” Leigh McGunnigle said. “This is my home.”
“When Susan died, all of a sudden he presents an elaborate will and trust,” Lee McGunnigle said of the lawyer, Anthony Bucca. “He wants to sell it!” McGunnigle said of Bucca’s intentions.
Bucca denies this and said he “pledged his cooperation to preserve the hotel.”
Doria Vosilla McGunnigle said Bucca turned down an offer for beneficiaries to take $750,000 and walk away.
Doria’s battle with Anthony Bucca has captured the interest of Kerri Kasem, daughter of the late radio legend, Casey Kasem. Kerri Kasem battled with her step-mother, Jean Kasem, during her father’s dying days.
The McGunnigles say the Villa Vosilla battle is a text book case of lawyers looking for an opportunity to exploit a vulnerable person.
“The making of the will was Susan’s decision; she did it voluntarily,” said Bucca.
He has won every legal challenge to the will. When PIX11 asked if he may have benefitted from having his son in the Green County District Attorney’s office at one point, Bucca said, “No.”
For now, Villa Vosilla is still operational, and it’s getting ready for the winter season.