Mary A. Steere, 85

Nov. 11, 1928-June 26, 2014
Mary A. Steere, 85, Nov. 11, 1928-June 26, 2014

Mary A. Steere loved to read, and it was almost a rule that conversation at her Beach Hampton house would not begin on the weekends until 5 p.m. had come and gone. First-time guests could be puzzled by the silence as Ms. Steere and various family members pored through their books, thinking that they had perhaps done something to offend.

The truth was just the opposite. Ms. Steere loved to cook and entertain just as much as she enjoyed her novels, though it was clear that there were distinct times when both where appropriate.

Ms. Steere died at home on June 26 after being hospitalized for a time. She was 85.

She had come to Amagansett in the early 1960s after camping with her husband and children at Hither Hills and falling in love with the area. The couple bought a parcel on Hampton Lane, where they had a house built. Later, they acquired several more properties nearby, which they would rent out to summer tenants and eventually sold.

Her husband, Ralph E. Steere, retired from his consulting work in 1974, and they moved from Oceanside to live year round on Hampton Lane. They had three daughters, the youngest of whom graduated from East Hampton High School.

Following Mr. Steere’s retirement, the couple traveled widely. Ms. Steere, who loved to cook, might from time to time try to recreate a dish they had enjoyed overseas. Her daughter Barbara Gavin of Rockport, Mass., recalled a time that her mother tried a score of recipes for a particular potato pancake, but each attempt was deemed not quite right.

Mr. Steere died in 1991, and Ms. Steere began spending winters in Sarasota, Fla., where a memorial service for her will be announced for a date in the fall.

Ms. Gavin said her mother was a kind and gracious person, with never a bad word to say about anything or anyone.

Her love of novels was broad, but did not extend to those about magic or fantasy; “she did not care for things she could not believe,” she said. The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle was another ritual, which she did in pencil out of humility, but rather quickly, Ms. Gavin said.

She was born Mary A. O’Connell on Nov. 11, 1928, to John O’Connell, who was known as Tim, and the former Ann Coyne in Merrick. She graduated from St. Agnes High School in Rockville Centre and attended St. John’s University in Queens. Before moving to Oceanside, she and Mr. Steere lived in Rockville Centre.

In addition to Ms. Gavin, she is survived by Mary Jean Kissner of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Kathryn Butterly of Wesley Chapel, Fla., and three grandchildren. Two sisters, Jean Dewberry and Bette Kelly, died before her.

Memorial donations have been suggested by her family to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978, or to Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 57 Buell Lane, East Hampton 11937.