Barbara Jean Grace Lester, the matriarch of the East Hampton Round Swamp Farm Lester family, died at her house on the farm, on Three Mile Harbor Road, on Jan. 22. She was 89 and had pneumonia.
Mrs. Lester and her husband, Albert C. Lester, moved into a new house at the farm in October 1948. They had met in the early 1940s while she was working as a chambermaid at Sarah and Gerald Murphy’s estate in East Hampton, where he was a gardener. Her family said that although Mr. Lester was very shy, he asked her for a date, which resulted in their marriage. Mr. Lester adored his wife and would often tell them, they said, “Your mother is the most beautiful woman around.”
The Lesters raised four children at the Round Swamp property, which has now been recognized by New York State as a National Bicentennial Farm. They are Carolyn Snyder, Albert F. Lester, Dianna Catozzi, and Claire Olszewski. All live in East Hampton. A second son, Harold, was stillborn.
A native of East Hampton, Mrs. Lester was born at home on Cross Highway on July 28, 1924, to Dominick J. Grace and Clara Vaitkus Grace. Her parents had emigrated from Plunge, Lithuania, to the United States through Ellis Island. When she was 14, she returned home from school to find her father dying from injuries sustained when the garage collapsed on him during the 1938 Hurricane. In her senior year at East Hampton High School, and with five siblings, she left school to go to work and help her mother support the family. Her siblings all died before her. They were Beatrice Deleski, Clara Talmage, Dominick V. Grace, Stella Reney, and Eva Gretty.
Mrs. Lester stayed home to care for her family until the death of her husband on Sept. 14, 1968. After her husband’s death, she went to work for William and Emmeline Heppenheimer on the former Chauncey Farm in East Hampton. Over the years, Grammy Lester, as she was known, also took care of several generations of children in the family. She loved them all, her family said. Nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren survive in addition to her children.
A funeral service was held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton on Saturday, with the Rev. Denis C. Brunelle presiding. Mrs. Lester’s daughter Carolyn Snyder gave a eulogy and other family members gave readings and served as pallbearers and ushers. Burial followed at the family cemetery at Round Swamp.
The family has suggested memorial donations to the St. Luke’s Parish Hall fund, 18 James Lane, East Hampton 11937.