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In Memory Alumni

Cleta Schermerhorn

leta Belle Dromgoole Schermerhorn

1910-2014 HINSDALE Cleta Belle Dromgoole Schermerhorn, 103, of Hinsdale died Monday, April 7, 2014 at home. She was born in Finchville, N.Y. on September 2, 1910, the daughter of Francis William Dromgoole and Merle Austin Writer Dromgoole. Her earliest accomplishment was receiving a gold medal as Prettiest Baby in Orange County, N.Y. Cleta's father, Francis, passed away when Cleta was eight years-old from Spanish influenza. Cleta's mother, Merle, raised her and her older sister, Gladys. Cleta attended and graduated early from Otisville High School at the age of 15 and went on to study music at Ithaca College in 1930 and taught music in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. until 1932. She regularly drove down to New York City for voice lessons to develop a beautiful, clear, resonant, mezzo-soprano voice. In 1956, Cleta received her master's degree in music education from Ithaca College. While at Ithaca College, Cleta met Marlo Keith Schermerhorn on November 11, 1928 on a rainy afternoon. She was wearing a heavy raincoat and his pants were an "embarassing" three inches too short. They were later married in June 29, 1932 in Ithaca, N.Y. in the backyard of friend, Moira Blean. The couple's month honeymoon took them by an unfinished Mount Rushmore where the sculpting of George Washington's likeness was in process and continued on to Los Angeles for the 10th Summer Olympic Games. At the time of Cleta's death, the Schermerhorns were listed at #9 on Wikipedia's site for "Longest Living Married Couples" in the world and once updated the Schermerhorns will be listed on the "100 Longest Marriages Ever" as #58. In 1933, they made their home in Lancaster, N.Y. Cleta directed three choirs at St. John's Lutheran Church and took on private voice and piano students, with each student giving her a picture of them to be placed on the piano. The entire front of the upright piano was covered by the time she stopped teaching privatedly at the age of 93. Cleta and her husband, Marlo, founded men's and women's choral groups and directed the Lancaster Community Chorus for 25 years, performing at international festivals and competitions, including Carnegie Hall. In 1934, their only son, Devon "Pete" Lee Schermerhorn was born, whom she nicknamed, "Von". Mrs. Schermerhorn began teaching at Amherst Junior High School in the fall of 1952 when Devon left for his first semester at MIT where he later graduated from in 1956 as a chemical engineer. Mrs. Schermerhorn was a strong Lancaster advocate. In 1976, she was in charge of the Lancaster Village Bicentennial Celebration for a summer with weeks devoted to different ethnic groups and was very proud to be an American. She was on the planning board with the Lancaster Civic Club. Cleta loved traveling with her husband, Marlo and son, Devon and traveled every continent, except Antartica. During summers, they would take freighters on month long trips to places like New Zealand and Fiji. They drove one year from Buffalo, N.Y. to Peru, South America and another year across Eastern Europe during the Cold War. In 1978, the enjoyed a two-and-a-half month long trip that involved a bus trip from London to Nepal. Each trip included a momento to be displayed in their Lancaster home, to which Cleta took great delight in telling a story about each keepsake and how they come across it. By 1986, Cleta and Marlo had visited over 75 countries and all of the United States. During the 60's, their traveling adventures including purchasing and living on 750 forested acres in Paraguay near the Brazilian border. They thought about growing coffee, and then sugar cane, but a planting mistake of corn made them decide it wasn't worth the effort and sold the property. Cleta enjoyed making friends on their travels, with one year involving a Thanksgiving dinner that included guests from Nigeria, Egypt and Sri Lanka. The Schermerhorns made many visits to Aruba, where Devon worked at Esso Oil Refinery and also for the birth and raising of his two daughters, Linda Michèle and Tobin Renee. Whenever she had the chance, Cleta helped raise her two granddaughters as if they were her own daughters, but was still stern and insistent on the two girls wearing skirts all the time to school, unless it was below freezing, then could wear corduroys or dress slacks, never jeans. At the age of 99, Cleta and her husband Marlo, 100, decided that it was not safe for Marlo to drive anymore and moved to Peru, Massachusetts to live with eldest granddaughter, Linda Michèle Schermerhorn. Their son, Devon, lives just a few miles away in Hinsdale, which made daily visits much easier. Marlo still enjoyed preparing meals for Cleta with the new living arrangements, but eventually decided to make residence at Sugar Hill Senior Living in Dalton, from February 2012 through March 2014. Towards the end of her life, when Cleta became bedridden, Cleta and Marlo made their home again with granddaughter, Linda Michèle Schermerhorn in Hinsdale. During her final night, Cleta's great great-granddaughter, Selena Schilling (who was born on Cleta's mother's birthday) spent the night by her side, checking her breathing every 15 minutes and comforting her by stroking her hair and rubbing her back (she "LIKED" that), while her granddaughter, Linda Michèle, took care of her medical needs while comforting her in her last hours. Survivors include her husband, Marlo Keith Schermerhorn, age 103; only son, Devon Lee Schermerhorn of Hinsdale; two granddaughters, Linda Michèle Schermerhorn and significant other, Edward Prew, both of Hinsdale and Tobin Renee Schermerhorn and husband, Robert Laschever of Frederick, Md.; three nieces, Phyllis "Chickie" Ballman Herrick and her husband, George Herrick of Alfred Station, N.Y., Janet Ballman Fletcher and her husband, Ted Fletcher of Pittsboro, Ind., and Sandra Ballman Lydahl and Gus Lydahl of Temple, Texas; four great-grandchildren, Melissa R. Schermerhorn Franco and her husband, Alan V. Franco Morales of Pittsfield, Jebadiah M. Moulton and his wife, Ashley Moulton of Acworth, Ga., Brian S. Poplaski and his significant other, Kayla Raymer of Peru, and Nicole Schernerhorn Laschever of Frederick, Md.; six great great-grandchildren, Alan V. Franco Uribe, Selena B. Schilling, Christian X. Marchbanks, Dante E. Franco Schermerhorn, Mathias I. Franco Schermerhorn and Sawyer C. Moulton. She was predeceased by her older sister, Gladys Dromgoole Ballman. FUNERAL NOTICE: Services will be announced at a later date and at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to HospiceCare in the Berkshires. The family would like to thank all of those who have helped Cleta throughout the years, especially those in the Lancaster, N,Y. area when immediate family wasn't nearby; Maxine and Steven Awner and their two daughters of Williamsville, N.Y., Karen and Jim Pauly and their three sons of Lancaster, N.Y. and other countless neighbors; CNA's and staff at Sugar Hill Assisted Living; and her personal caregivers during the last few months, Candace Lyon, Melissa Schermerhorn Franco, Alan Franco Morales, Mary Moore, Carla Marquis, Judy Rapisarda, Denise Cirullo, Angelia Alfonso, Kathryn Hurton, Inez Broner, Linda Messana, Vicki Wichmann, Tammy Poplaski-Lussier and the very helpful and caring staff at HospiceCare of the Berkshires.

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