Vera Lens Holden, a Montauk resident for over 40 years and one of the first occupants of a Leisurama house in Culloden Shores, died on Aug. 13 in Farmington, Conn. She was 96 years old and had been in an assisted living home in Farmington in recent years.
Jane E. Holden, her stepdaughter, talked about her this week. She was born to Norman and Ellen Williams in the rural town of Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, Canada, on Sept. 5, 1917, and grew up poor on a farm that had no running water until she was about 15. In the 1940s, she moved to Alaska, then an American territory, to work for the United States government. When she saw an ad for women to work as models in Manhattan, she left Alaska for the big city, where she found work as a hat model, and later with Pan American Airlines.
In the 1950s, she met and married Albert R. Holden. They lived first in Bayside, then in New Jersey, before making the move to Montauk. They bought their Leisurama directly from Macy’s, which was selling the line of inexpensive prefabricated houses in the mid-’60s. With two children of their own and four of Mr. Holden’s from a previous marriage, the couple became full-time residents of the easternmost hamlet.
Eventually Mrs. Holden went into the real-estate business, working for Pospisil. The Holdens became fixtures of the Montauk community. Mr. Holden, who once appeared on the cover of this newspaper as Santa Claus, was the author of “A Pictorial History of Montauk.” His wife became a member of the Montauk Community Church.
“She loved her gardens,” her stepdaughter said. She grew vegetables and flowers, and nursed African violet plants in the basement under lights.
After their children were grown the couple spent winters in Sanibel Island, Fla., famous for its exotic seashells. Mrs. Holden loved to walk the beaches collecting shells.
Her stepdaughter said she encouraged her to go into real estate. “She kept pushing me, telling me I’d be good.” Ms. Holden is now an associate broker.
Mr. Holden died in 2002. A few years later, Mrs. Holden moved to Farmington to be near her son, Jeff F. Holden of Barkhamstead, Conn., who survives.
Another son, Bert N. Holden, lives in Hobe Sound, Fla. She leaves four stepchildren, Ms. Holden, of Sag Harbor, Charles Holden of Kings Park, Clair Holden of Sag Harbor, and Albert Holden Jr. of Tampa, and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A sister, Lorine MacRae of Carlyle, Saskatchewan, also survives.
A service was held at Valley Community Baptist Church in Avon, Conn., on Aug. 23. Memorial donations have been suggested for the Salvation Army, P.O. Box 628, Hartford, Conn., 06103, or the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201.