Asked in 2011 how she felt about turning 100, Elsie Garretson of East Hampton told The East Hampton Star, “I really don’t feel any different. You just go with the years, you keep breathing and living until God says, ‘Come on Elsie, you’ve spent enough time on earth.’ ”
She had been “a great worrier,” she said. “Then I realized one day, why do you worry? Nothing comes from it. Try to take things in stride. Ride with the waves.”
A people person with the gift of gab, Mrs. Garretson loved music and dancing, enjoyed reading, was skilled at most any game of cards, and kept her mind sharp doing crossword puzzles and watching “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.” She had been a member of the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society since 1969, volunteering for decades at the desk of the society’s Bargain Books store, and she sang in the choir at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church for many years.
Mrs. Garretson died at home near Three Mile Harbor last Thursday with her children by her side. A service was held on Monday at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Dr. Thomas Schacher officiated. She was buried at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton.
She was born in Brooklyn on July 22, 1911, to Gustav Ferdinand Seaburg (Sjoberg) and the former Mimmie Cecilia Larson, Swedish immigrants who met in New York. She grew up and went to school in Brooklyn, part of a vibrant Swedish-American community there. She sang and played violin from a young age, and as a teenager traveled with a Swedish youth group to her parents’ native country, where she performed for the king. When she was 20, she told The Star, she returned to Sweden for a month to play violin while a friend accompanied her on the piano.
She skipped two grades in grammar school and graduated early from high school, then went on to college to become a teacher. When the college closed, she went to work instead in personnel at the Con Edison Company in Brooklyn. The company had a full orchestra and Mrs. Garretson became the first woman to play violin with the company. She had a “strong alto voice,” Mr. Schacher said in the service Monday, and belonged to several choruses. She also taught herself to play piano.
On Sept. 12, 1936, she married Herbert Schenk Garretson in Brooklyn. The couple raised their three children in Malverne, with summers and weekends spent in various rented cottages near Three Mile Harbor starting in 1942. They bought their own place and became year-round residents around 1975.
In addition to singing with the Presbyterian Church choir, Mrs. Garretson was a deacon and member of the church’s women’s association. She was a member of the Springs chapter of AARP, and served first as its secretary and later as its president, a position she held for four years. With the L.V.I.S., which honored her at a special party in 2011, she also was co-chairwoman of the Country Store at the 1969 fair. She volunteered at the society’s bookstore until she was 96 and drove and lived on her own until she was 97.
Mrs. Garretson is survived by her children, John Garretson and Jane G. Kiembock of East Hampton and Susan Winkler of Springs. She also leaves seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Her husband died before her, as did her sisters, Mildred Garretson and Elna Mae Garretson.