Thursday, 28 May 2009 07:55
Esther Hoffmire Fontanella passed away peacefully at home in Sterling House of Ithaca on May 20, 2009, at the age of 89. Born Feb. 9, 1920 in Perry City, NY, Esther was the daughter of the late Owen H. and Catharine (Reynolds) Hoffmire. She grew up on the Hoffmire dairy farm, a place she loved and returned to many times during her life.
A 1937 graduate of Trumansburg High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Russell Sage College in 1942. It was there that she was introduced to the love of her life, Edmund Fontanella. They were married in the First Presbyterian Church of Trumansburg in 1942. During WWII they lived in Saulte Ste. Marie, MI, where Ed was stationed guarding the locks. Later, when he was sent overseas to Africa and Italy, Esther returned to Ithaca, where she was a nurse at the old Ithaca Hospital.
After the war Esther and Ed bought their first home together in Montgomery, NY, where Ed was teaching math at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School. It was there in 1947 that they had a daughter, Susan, and a son, David, in 1950. By 1956, they had moved to Long Island, where Ed accepted a teaching position at Great Neck North High School. They raised their two children there and Esther worked part time as a nurse. Every Christmas and every summer she returned with her family to the Hoffmire farm and Cayuga Lake.
A stalwart of the Community Church of Great Neck, Esther was a member of the board of elders and chair of the church House Committee, and helped organize activities in the Couples Club. She was on the board of the Visiting Nurse Association of Great Neck, an active supporter of the Open Door Parent Child Caring Center, a member of the Women’s Club of Great Neck and a life member of the Sierra Club. She was an avid gardener and bridge player and traveled with her husband to many countries in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. After Ed died in 1990, Esther continued an active life in Great Neck until 2003 when she returned to Ithaca to reside at Sterling House.
Esther was preceded in death by her husband, Edmund; her parents; her brother Dr. James Hoffmire, a longtime Trumansburg veterinarian; and her daughter, Susan Levitan. She is survived by her son David and daughter-in-law Alanna Downey Fontanella, of Trumansburg, NY; and her granddaughter Kristen Catharine Levitan and son-in-law, Michael Levitan, both of Oceanside.
The family wishes to express heartfelt appreciation to the staff at Sterling House, and especially to Rebekah Davenport and Bonalee’s angels, all of whom loved Esther and contributed to the quality of her life over the past years. The family will be present to receive friends on Thursday, May 28, 2009 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ness-Sibley Funeral Home, 23 South St., Trumansburg. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in Esther’s memory to Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County, 172 E. King Road, Ithaca, NY 14850; Ulysses Philomathic Library, 74 E. Main St., Trumansburg, NY 14886; or Ulysses Historical Society, 39 South St., Trumansburg, NY 14886.