February 05, 2014

Barbara J. Lester

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Matriarch of Round Swamp Farm

Barbara Jean Grace Lester died of pneumonia on Wednesday, January 22, at her home on Three Mile Harbor Road. She was 89 years old.

Barbara was born on July 28, 1924 to Dominick J. Grace and Clara Vaitkus Grace at their home on Cross Highway in East Hampton. Both of her parents immigrated from Plunge, Lithuania to the United States through Ellis Island.

On September 21, 1938, at age 14, Barbara returned home from school to find her father, Dominick Grace, dying from injuries sustained when the garage collapsed on him during the 1938 Hurricane. This left her mother, Clara, a widow with six children. In her senior year at East Hampton High School, Barbara had to leave school and go to work to help support her family.

In the early 1940's while working as a chambermaid at the Murphy Estate, Barbara met her future husband, Albert C. Lester of Round Swamp who was working there as a gardener. Albert, who was very shy, asked Barbara to go on a date; which resulted in them being married. Albert adored Barbara and had always told his children, "Your mother is the most beautiful woman around."

In October 1948, Albert and Barbara moved into their new home on the Round Swamp Farm property, which now has been recognized by New York State as a National Bicentennial Farm. There they raised their four children: Carolyn Snyder, Albert F. Lester, Dianna Catozzi and Claire Olszewski. They had had another child, Harold, who was stillborn. Barbara was a mother and a housewife until the death of her husband on September 14, 1968. She then went to work for William and Emmeline Heppenheimer on the Chauncey Estate.

Barbara was the matriarch of the Round Swamp Farm family. For years she could be found behind the scenes at the market. She worked there until 2004.

Barbara loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "Grammy Lester," as she was fondly called, took care of several generations of the Lester family for many years.

Besides her children, Barbara leaves behind nine grandchildren: Lisa Niggles, Shelly Schaffer, Scott, Jonathan and Erin Lester, Christine Hawkins, Jeanne Maya, Katie and Tricia Olszewski; and nine great-grandchildren: Steven, Brian, Tom and Jimmy Niggles, Kyle, Nolan, Nicholas and Alexa Schaffer and Joseph Hawkins. All of her siblings, Beatrice Deleski, Clara Talmage, Dominick V. Grace, Stella Reney and Eva Gretty predeceased her.

A funeral service was held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Saturday, January 25, with the Rev. Denis C. Brunelle officiating. Carolyn Snyder gave the eulogy and readings were done by Jonathan Lester and Brian Niggles. Steven, Brian and Charlie Niggles, Al Shaffer, Scott and Jonathan Lester and Joseph Hawkins served as Pall Bearers. Albert J. Catozzi, Christine Hawkins, Jimmy Niggles and Ernest Leatherwood were Ushers. Interment followed at the family cemetery at Round Swamp on Three Mile Harbor Road.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the:

St. Luke's Parish Hall Fund

18 James Lane

East Hampton, NY 11937

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