Florence Thene Weeumph Crippen of Southampton died on Easter Sunday, April 20. She was 89.
Born on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation, the youngest girl of 10 children born to Harriett (Lee) and Emmett Arthur Crippen, she lived there until her family bought a home in Southampton Village. She was known also by the names Laughing Eyes, Frenchie, Aunt Florence and Aunt Flo, the last of which she hated being called.
She graduated from Southampton High School and went on to study at City College and New York University in Manhattan, which was a monumental achievement at that time. She majored in physical education, and after college she worked at several different places before landing a job with the National Council of Churches main headquarters on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. She was employed there for more than 35 years, working her way up to senior administrator/executive assistant to the president of the National Council of Churches until her retirement in the early 1990s.
She resided in New York City for much of her life, but always managed to return home to visit her family every weekend to take care of her mother and brothers. Upon her retirement, she settled at the family homestead in Southampton with her brothers, Frank (a World War II veteran) and Lawrence Crippen. Survivors said the three of them were like the Three Amigos, if one was around, the others were not far behind. The consummate caregiver, Ms. Crippen took on the responsibility of caring for both of her brothers until they died.
A member of the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church since her youth, Ms. Crippen served on The Nation’s powwow committee for many years and never missed a Shinnecock Powwow, setting up her stand, right up to this last year, with one leg and sitting in a wheelchair. When the family homestead was destroyed by fire in 2007, she returned to Shinnecock to live, which was a lifelong dream finally come true. Returning to Shinnecock allowed her the fellowship of her peers, hanging out in the deli and the enjoyment of the younger generation, who all came to know her as Aunt Florence.
Ms. Crippen was a determined and independent woman who loved a seat in any car that was going anywhere, at any time, day or night, survivors said. She kept a “go bag” ready for any unexpected overnight trips, most of which were with her sister Harriett. Survivors said she was a road warrior who loved a good powwow and helping her nephew, Lance, with his stand at various powwows up and along the East Coast. She could sell a blanket on a sweltering day. Ms. Crippen and her sister Harriett never missed the opportunity to stop at a flea market to buy some old chair or at a good farm stand for fresh vegetables.
Ms. Crippen endured and overcame many obstacles in her life, and did not mince words, survivors said: you always knew where you stood with her in no uncertain terms. An avid golfer and tennis player, she became physically disabled after a serious automobile accident, which ultimately prevented her from pursuing these physical activities. However, she still enjoyed traveling whenever possible, including annual trips to Florida with her nephew Lance and family. She traveled as far as California and into Mexico, and survivors said her fondest memories of traveling were when she and her siblings Harriett, Mary, Frank and Lawrence would venture across Indian country to anywhere there was a powwow. Survivors said she loved her family and loved her people of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
She was predeceased by her mother, Harriett Lee Crippen, and father, Emmett Arthur Crippen; six brothers, Arthur, Edward, Alfred, Earl, Frank and Lawrence Crippen; and two sisters, Anita Hearn and Mary Anderson.
She is survived by a sister, Harriett Crippen Brown Gumbs of the Shinnecock Reservation, the last remaining member of the 10 Crippen children; nephews, Mike, Wayne and Charlie Crippen, Philip D. Brown IV, Lance A. Gumbs and Edward A. Gumbs; nieces, Joan Williams, Roma Niles, Laurie Sanders, Beverly Jenson, Sheila Taylor, Nancy Crippen and Wilehmina E. Crippen; and a host of grandnieces and grandnephews and great-grand-nieces and great-grand-nephews.
Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton. A funeral service was held on April 26 at the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church; Reverend Michael F. Smith and Reverend Curtis Terry officiated.