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Saturday, May 22, 1999

My father called today about my Aunt Elsie who died last night. She was 89 years old. I always admired her. I don't know much of the details of her life but I know her huband left her with a child who she raised herself, which was quite difficult for her. She was born north of NYC in Port Chester, but lived her entire adult life in New York City.

She lived in an apartment in the upper west side and was in the same apartment for 30-40 years. I remember visiting her there in 1966 when I worked the summer in Connecticut. She was still there up to about a year ago when she broke her hip and her son moved her to Alabama to live with them. She just seemed to go down hill from there. I have wondered if it was just because she had no friends around and missed her beloved NYC.

In 1966 she took me around Greenwich Village to see an art fair and she knew most of the artists. I was impressed at the impressionable age of 19 years old. Elsie was a commercial artist and her apartment reflected this. She was involved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She also took me to a meeting of the Friends of some jail in NYC. I was quite frankly scared as this was a prison from women and they looked mean. My mother said she showed some slides of Mexico there once and was shaking. After the meeting we had coffee in the warden's dining room. I asked Aunt Elsie why they all wore such short, tight dresses (this was 1966 and short skirts were not something that would have been considered a way to rehabilitate bad girls), and she said so the guards could tell if they had weapons. They were especially careful with the ones that worked in the kitchen as they could smuggle out knives.

On that visit we also had lunch with Joe and Beth Cosnow. Beth was my mother's cousisn. Aunt Elsie is my father's sister, so it was interesting that they met each other. Beth was a Democrat precinctperson and Elsie was a Republican precinctperson. Joe and Beth had a business in the garment district and my mother always came back from visiting them with new clothes.

I remember them pointing out important people to me, who, unfortunately, I knew few of. I wasn't very into public affairs at that point in my life. We were in a really nice restaurant on the top of some building.

Aunt Elsie worked for a greeting card company for years and when they moved out of NYC she went to work for a scarf company. She was upset that she had to go to New Jersey to work each day. She didn't really consider anywhere outside of NYC to be really worth much. She never learned to drive and could tell which stop we were at on the subway by how it sounded. I was again impressed.

After she retired she kept busy in the art community and doing volunteer work at Riverside Church. She developed a degeneration of the vocal cords about 10-15 years ago and in the end you couldn't understand her at all, but she still kept busy.

I know her son was worried about her being alone in her apartment (she had 6 locks on the door when I was there in 1966), especially since she couldn't phone for help, and did what he thought best, but it's sad that she died so far from NYC. They aren't even going to have a funeral as she has no friends in Alabama. They are going to bring her ashes back to our family plot in the cemetery in Rye, NY so at least she will be back in New York and near NYC.

I'll miss her even though I only saw her few times. I was always glad that she was such an involved, independent woman and admired her very much.

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Walked - 2 miles

Biked - 1 miles

Rachel Aschmann 1999.
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