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Welcome to the memorial page for

Athella Paige (Gracey) Speez

June 2, 1927 ~ January 19, 2018 (age 90)

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SERVICES

Calling Hours
Sunday
January 28, 2018

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Potter Funeral Home
456 Jackson St.
Willimantic, CT 06226

Celebration of Life
Sunday
January 28, 2018

2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Potter Funeral Home
456 Jackson St.
Willimantic, CT 06226


Athella Paige Gracey Speez, 90, passed away peacefully Friday, January 19, 2018 in Gainesville, Florida.  Athella was born June 2, 1927 in Plattsburgh, New York, the fourth child and only daughter of Dr. Frank and Ruth Gracey, who had met at the Massachusetts School of Art and Design and married 1906.  Along with her parents, she was predeceased by her brothers, Justin and Philip; her favorite aunt, Beulah Bowers of Penney Farms, Florida and her two sons-in-law, Dr. Charles N. Liebson of Ridgewood, New Jersey and Joseph W. Voboril, of Willington. 

Athella graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where she studied art and voice.  During the summers she worked as an inspector at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, and as a hostess at Willimantic’s Shell Chateau restaurant. 

Throughout the early part of her 17-year tumultuous marriage to Martin Speez, Athella taught art and special education at Herman Ridder Junior High School in the South Bronx.  Here she developed the tough exterior needed to deal with street youths.  Summers brought relief as she retreated to her cottage at the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association, where she lent her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice to many solos over decades of vesper services, and art instruction to children in Vacation Bible school. 

In the early 1980s Athella earned a Master’s Degree in Gerontology, while working as a home health aide with visiting nurses, as well as in private duty.   She later worked as a recreation director at what is now Bidwell Care Center in Manchester. 

In her 70s, Athella began wintering in various towns of Pinellas County, Florida, continuing with hosting sumptuous dinners for friends, and working part time as a companion to other elderly people. 

Shortly before returning to Connecticut, Athella wrote and illustrated P’ang Lung and the Pearl, a delightful children’s book about a wise, loving grandmother and a delinquent dragon. 

Athella leaves behind her twin daughters, Nancy Liebson of Ridgewood, NJ, Ruth Voboril of Gainesville, FL; three grandchildren; Sarah, Daniel and Benjamin Liebson; her brother, Orice Gracey of Columbia, SC; cherished friend, Jaime Gabaldà Méndez of Barcelona, Spain; several nieces and nephews, and many dear friends. 

Calling hours will be held at Potter Funeral Home Sunday January 28, 2018 from 12 to 2 pm, with a celebration of Athella’s life immediately following.  Burial will follow later at the family’s convenience. For an online memorial guestbook please visit www.potterfuneralhome.com

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