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Ethel Sheldon Montgomery (née Ethel Sheldon Corcoran) died peacefully at her home surrounded by family and friends on January 30, 2024 at the age of 92. She was a loving wife to Larry Montgomery Sr. to whom she was married for 64 years until his death in 2018, and a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Ethel was born in New Haven on July 13, 1931 to Alma Brown Corcoran and Earle Leon Corcoran, and grew up in the Banton Street area of North Haven, CT. She was the eldest of four children and is survived by brothers Earle (and his wife Doreen) and Thomas and predeceased by her dear friend and sister Loretta. She is also survived by sisters-in-law Ann and Eileen Montgomery and Maureen Delahunt, as well as brother-in-law Phillip Hagele.
Ethel grew up in a family of simple means, playing in the sands along the Quinnipiac River that shaped the outline of her world. After attending Lyman Hall High School, she worked as a typist at Southern New England Telephone. After accompanying her co-workers to regular novenas at St. Mary's Catholic Church in New Haven in her early 20s, she thought that she might as well just convert to Catholicism. Ethel became a Catholic. But there is a story behind that. Her friend and co-worker, Eileen Montgomery was one of seven children of Irish immigrants Nellie and Alexander. On the day Ethel was to be Baptized into the Catholic Church, she was at Eileen’s house getting ready when Nellie asked if she needed another godparent. Ethel explained that she didn’t need two godparents. But Nellie grabbed her son who was on home leave from the Navy and said, “oh Larry, Larry why don’t you go and be Ethel’s godfather!” Well, needless to say, it was settled, and he went along to be her godfather. After the ceremony, Larry returned to his Naval base. And that is how Ethel met Larry. About a year and a half later, much to Larry’s annoyance, they had to pay for a special dispensation because godparents couldn’t marry their godchildren! They married on May 8th, 1954.
Ethel raised four children keeping a clean house, making well-balanced meals and maintaining routines for her children while still socializing in bowling leagues, ceramics, and quilting groups in Wallingford. Every summer the family moved to their cottage near Lake Amston, in Lebanon, CT. At the cottage, the days were filled with the hum of insects, the songs of birds, playing games, bike riding, picking wildflowers, and afternoons spent at the end of Lollipop Beach where Ethel chatted with friends or read books while keeping a close eye on her children playing in the water and sand. She then started another career working at the Union Trust in Hamden, then Wallingford, and later at Yale University at the Office of Facilities.
Throughout her life, it was the relationships she made and the beauty she created in hand crafts that defined Ethel’s life. Ethel was an accomplished quilter, knitter, seamstress, and needleworker. She began making her own clothes from grain sacks as a girl. She later made all sorts of clothes (e.g., skirts, tops, gowns, dresses, blazers, jumpers and bags) for herself and her family. Her enthusiasm and interest in learning new techniques fueled her many projects. Ethel won numerous blue ribbons for her quilts at local festivals and fairs; those same quilts she gifted to family and friends. Most nieces and nephews have a baby quilt that Ethel made for them and she made quilts for all of her grandchildren upon their high school graduation. Her love is stitched into the fabric of her quilts and our memories of her warm smile and kind words.
Ethel’s warmth, intelligence, and kind spirit were noteworthy and she was beloved by many. She took care in her appearance making an effort to be well put together from her head to her toes. This was commented on by doctors and friends and seems to be a metric used to assess if elderly patients are managing well. She was a role model for many, and she had a way of making people feel comfortable. She was unflappable. She knew the realities of the world but she was not quick to judge. She blithely saw the good in people and got on with life. So friendly and open was she that she was adopted by many as a surrogate mother and so strong was her mothering instinct that she became a foster co-parent to 12 infants through Catholic Family Services. Later she knit caps for babies born prematurely at local hospitals.
Our matriarch, Ethel, was a social butterfly who maintained a busy calendar and made friends wherever she went. She was curious about the world, reading the newspaper daily and doing the crossword puzzle. How vexing it was when her Hartford Courant did not arrive on time! Ethel loved her weekly Thursday afternoon Mexican Train Dominoes group at the senior center. She enjoyed taking bus trips and cruises with the local senior center and church groups. She was the life of trips and sometimes even took her daughters as travel companions. She was held dear by friends and neighbors Gina and Ed Wetzel who regularly checked in on her.
Ethel is survived by her son-in-law Victor Abel (Tracy, CA), Amy Nowlan (North Adams, MA), Lauren Montgomery-Rinehart (Niels Rinehart, Jericho, VT), Lawrence Montgomery Jr. (Lebanon, CT); as well as nine surviving grandchildren (Jennifer Abel Pabst (John Pabst), Alexandra Nowlan (Craig Jones), Thomas Nowlan (Kimberly Nowlan), John, and Catherine Nowlan, Liam and Abraham Rinehart, Kiera and Logan Montgomery, and two great-grandsons Tanner and Tyler Arujo. She was predeceased by her husband Larry, daughter Ellen Abel and granddaughter Emily Abel.
In lieu of flowers, consider a donation in Ethel’s name to the Colchester Senior Center, Colchester, CT. Calling hours are on Thursday, February 8, 2024 from 5-7pm at Potter Funeral Home, 456 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT. A funeral Mass will be held on Friday, February 9, 2024 at 10:00 am at Church of the Holy Family, 185 Church Street, Amston, CT and followed by a burial at 2:00 pm at State Veterans Cemetery, 317 Bow Lane, Middletown, CT. For an online memorial guest book please visit www.potterfuneralhome.com.