Claire York, a teacher at the Sag Harbor Elementary School for 20 years, died on Nov. 11 at Southampton Hospital after a prolonged illness. She was 79.
Ms. York was born on April 18, 1932, to Ella and David Fisher in Manhattan. She attended Hunter University High School, and was the first student to enroll at Southampton College of Long Island University, and the first to receive summa cum laude honors. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1968.
She met her husband, Dr. Alan York, in speech class at New York University. Dr. York had completed a degree in optometry at N.Y.U., and was waiting for his exam results to practice medicine from New York State. He decided to take the three-credit class to earn a B.S. degree. “I walked in the room and saw this great looking girl,” Dr. York said. “I sat next to her.” The professor told him to move to the other side of the room. Dr. York replied, “I’ll sit anywhere I want.”
A romance ensued and the two were married on June 22, 1952, in Manhattan. Shortly after, they moved to Sag Harbor, and then lived in East Hampton.
Ms. York worked as a fashion model from 1949 to 1952. She then became a remedial reading teacher in Mattituck Public Schools, before moving to the Sag Harbor Elementary School, where she taught all different grades.
According to her husband, Ms. York was a highly motivated teacher who helped a lot of students who were “condemned to remedial classes. She was a good teacher, and by the end of the school year they left those classes, they all loved her.”
Ms. York created a Renaissance festival at the school where venison was served by student’s fathers, who had shot the deer. The next year, she taught her students “Henry V,” and often played Mozart while teaching math.
Ms. York was the president of Hampton’s Chapter of Hadassah, and a founding member of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, where she was the first female executive officer. She also taught religious school at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons and Temple Adas Israel. She was a member of the Friends of Guild Hall, the League of Women Voters, the Lions Club Women’s Auxiliary, and the Rotary Club Women’s Auxiliary.
“She was a very gentle woman and a good soul,” her husband said. “I’m not the only one who is going to miss her. Some of her students called up and were crying. She got a lot of kids into college,” he added.
In addition to her husband, Ms. York is survived by their two children, Barbara York of East Hampton and Dr. Steven York of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and a grandson.
A service was held at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons on Nov. 13. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman and Cantor Debra Stein officiated. The burial was held at the Independent Jewish Cemetery in Sag Harbor.
The family has suggested donations to the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, 44 Woods Lane, East Hampton 11937, or a charity of choice.