Barbara J. Lester of East Hampton died at her home on January 22. She was 89 and the beloved matriarch of the Lester family that includes her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Survivors said “Grammy Lester,” as they called her, was a loving mother who took care of many generations of Lester family members for many years. Her parents had emigrated from Lithuania to the United States through Ellis Island.
On September 21, 1938, at age 14, she 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, the young woman had to leave school and go to work to help support her family.
In the early 1940s, while working as a chambermaid at the Murphy Estate, she met her future husband, Albert C. Lester of Round Swamp, who was working there as a gardener. Mr. Lester, who was very shy, asked her to go on a date. Survivors said Mr. Lester adored his wife and had always told his children, “Your mother is the most beautiful woman around.”
In October 1948, the Lesters 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, all of whom survive her. They had another child, Harold, who was stillborn. Ms. Lester 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.
For years she could be found behind the scenes at the Round Swamp Market. She worked there until 2004.
In addition to her children, she is survived by 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 in East Hampton on Saturday, January 25, with the Rev. Denis C. Brunelle officiating. Carolyn Snyder gave the eulogy and readings were presented by Jonathan Lester and Brian Niggles. Steven, Brian and Charlie Niggles, Al Shaffer, Scott and Jonathan Lester and Joseph Hawkins served as pallbearers. 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.
Memorial donations may be made to the St. Luke’s Parish Hall Fund at 18 James Lane, East Hampton, NY 11937.