Doris S. Leese

Music Educator, Singer

    Doris S. Leese, a music teacher and vocal coach who served as executive director of the Choral Society of the Hamptons for 20 years and who was an active member of the East Hampton Presbyterian Church among other organizations, died at Southampton Hospital last Thursday. She was 88 and had been in declining health for some time.
    Ms. Leese, who lived in East Hampton on Toilsome Lane, came here with her husband, William T. Leese, and their family in 1968 when he took a job with the First National Bank of the Hamptons. Mr. Leese, who died in 2007, had been in World War II and they met at a church youth group in New Jersey that welcomed returning veterans. They were married in 1949.
    The couple had a wide circle of friends here, becoming well known through community activities. Ms. Leese was a past president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Ladies Village Improvement Society, and the Ramblers, a women’s educational group. She was on the session of the Presbyterian Church for six years and served on its pastoral nominating and building committees.
    As executive director of the Choral Society, she oversaw its growth from a small, informal organization to one with some 100 members and established, professional procedures. She sang alto in the chorus, and in 1987 and again in 1990, arranged for its members to go on a European singing tour. She retired as executive director 12 years ago.
    One of Ms. Leese’s special Choral Society interests was a scholarship program for high school students to receive professional training. The society dedicated its holiday performance of Handel’s “Messiah” to her last year and added a scholarship in her and her husband’s name.
    In addition to the Choral Society, Ms. Leese was a member of the Presbyterian Church choir for 44 years and a frequent soloist there and at other churches. She also sang with the Sweet Adelines, a women’s barbershop group. 
    Her daughter Wendy Mott of East Hampton said her mother also taught music for the Board of Cooperative Educational Services throughout the East End and was a substitute teacher at East Hampton schools. She was the Sagaponack School’s music teacher in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
    Doris Skirrow was born in Newark, N.J., on March 4, 1924, the daughter of Sinclair T. Skirrow and the former Ethel Kelsey. She attended Clifford J. Scott High School in East Orange, N.J., and earned a degree in vocal performance and music education at Queens College in Charlotte, N.C. She also studied at the Juilliard School in New York City.
    In addition to Ms. Mott, Ms. Leese is survived by another daughter, Karen Lutz of Merrick, and by two sons, W. Gordon Leese of Duxbury, Mass., and Steven Leese of Newton, Mass. She leaves six grandchidren and one great-granddaughter.
    Visiting hours will take place at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton tomorrow between 2 and 4 p.m. and between 7 and 9 p.m. A funeral service will be held at the Presbyterian Church on Saturday at 11 a.m., the Rev. Dr. Thomas Schacher officiating. Burial will follow at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton.
    Memorial contributions were suggested for the Choral Society of the Hamptons, P.O. Box 1031, Bridgehampton 11932 or the East Hampton Presbyterian Church, 120 Main Street, East Hampton 11937.