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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 13, 2007

Julia Ricci Fields

VOORHEESVILLE — Julia Ricci Fields, a Voorheesville native who liked things just so, died on Sept. 6, 2007. She was 92.

Mrs. Fields didn’t need to go far from her parents’ home on South Main Street; she would build her life around it.

Daughter of the late Michael and Incoronato Valente Ricci, she grew up in her parents’ grocery store, Ricci’s Market, which is where her husband found her as a young woman.

When he moved from Kentucky to Albany, Charles Fields delivered mail to Voorheesville, where, he discovered, there was no barber shop. He then opened one across the street from Ricci’s Market.

"He still had a little bit of a drawl," said their son, Michael Fields. The two soon got to know each other, although Julia’s parents disapproved since he wasn’t Italian. "They used to pass notes to each other," he said.

The couple soon eloped on Christmas and settled back in Voorheesville. After two years of silence from the Riccis, Mrs. Fields had her first son. "It broke the ice," said Mr. Fields.

"My father became one of the favorite sons-in-law," he said.

His father was the barber in the village for 29 years, Mr. Fields said, and his mother also owned a beauty parlor.

"They shared a shop," said Mr. Fields.

Mrs. Fields had a group of regulars who came to the shop to gossip, he remembered. "She was always busy," Mr. Fields said of his mother. "She just liked talking to people."

"It was a small town then," he said of when his mother was growing up and raising a family of her own. She was, herself, part of the fabric of the community, serving as a civil volunteer during World War II, being a communicant of St. Matthew’s Church where she had been president of its Altar-Rosary Society, and being a member of the village’s fire department auxiliary and the auxiliary of the American Legion Post.

Mrs. Fields and her husband were once named Voorheesville Citizens of the Year.

"She was a very hard worker," said Mr. Fields of his mother. It was nice for her to be recognized, he added.

"She was very strict," he said of growing up with her. "She’d dress me in white and stand me in the corner."

"She was very particular about those things," he concluded. "She always cared for us and made sure we had everything we needed."


Mrs. Fields is survived by her sons, Charles Fields and his wife, Mary Ellen, of Florida, and Michael Fields and his wife, Kathleen, of Voorheesville. She is also survived by her grandchildren: John Fields, Michael Fields Jr., C. Matthew Fields, Denise Boivin, Shawn Fields, Terry Snyder and Charles Fields; and 13 great-grandchildren.

Her siblings — Charles Ricci, Concetta Cocca, Margaret Michele, Helen DiStefano, and Josephine DiCarlo — died before her, as did her husband, Charles Fields.

A funeral will be held today (Thursday) at 8:45 a.m. at the Applebee Funeral Home, 403 Kenwood Ave., Delmar. A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. at St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville with interment in Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont. Arrangements are by McNulty Funeral Home in Green Island.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Voorheesville Volunteer Fire Department, 12 Altamont Rd., Voorheesville NY, 12186, or Resurrection Rest Home, 90 North Main St., Castleton-on-Hudson NY, 12033.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

Rita Murphy

GUILDERLAND — Rita Murphy had a ready smile and effervescent spirit that made friends of strangers.

She died unexpectedly on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007. She was 16.

"It was amazing how many people knew her and said hello to her, wherever we went," said her mother, Paula Murphy. "She was energized by being around people."

"She had a lot of friends," said her father, Robert Murphy. "She wasn’t shy. She talked to people she didn’t know."

Rita especially loved animals and children.

She took care of her pet guinea pigs and her dog, Pal. Rita was very close to her dog, said her mother. "We adopted Pal about a year after we adopted Rita," said Mrs. Murphy of the golden retriever-Chou mix the Murphys got from the pound.

"He’s just been lost"these last few days," she said of the dog.

The Murphys adopted Rita from an orphanage in Lithuania, said her father. "She came to the United States with us when she was 5," he said. "She had a heart defect. She had heart surgery when she was 6 at Children’s Hospital in Boston."

Rita, who lived on Palma Boulevard, attended special-education programs in the Guilderland School District and, although she was never able to really read, she enjoyed the social aspects of school, her parents said.

She was also an active communicant of Christ the King Church in Guilderland and was involved in the children’s liturgy there.

"At the start of every mass," her father said, "the little kids get religious education".Rita used to lead the little kids out and help the teachers with them," he said, adding, "She loved little kids and animals."

Rita worked for several summers as a counselor-in-training at Guilderland Summer Camp at Tawasentha Park.

She was also active in a wide variety of sports through the Sports Are For Everyone program, for kids with special needs. Rita played baseball, basketball, and soccer.

She also went horseback riding in a therapeutic program in Berne. And she enjoyed swimming and bowling as well.

She was also a Brownie and then a Girl Scout. "We tried to find a lot of things to develop her interests," said her father. "She was an outgoing girl"She was very much in tune with animals and nature. She was a lot of fun."

When people asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would tell them, "I want to be a seeing-eye dog," said her mother. "What she meant was she wanted to work with seeing-eye dogs and help train them.

"Rita touched so many lives," said her mother. "We’re so grateful for all the support from the town, the school, and the community."

"She was a happy girl," concluded her father, "and she made a lot of people happy."


Rita Murphy is survived by her parents, Robert A. Murphy Jr. and Paula Follett Murphy of Guilderland; and her brothers, Peter and Gregory Murphy of Guilderland; her grandmothers, Mary Lou Flanagan of Slingerlands and Camille Follett of Latham; and several aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Her sister, Elena Murphy, died before her as did her grandfathers, Richard Flanagan and Eugene Follett.

A funeral was held Monday at Christ the King Church in Guilderland. Arrangements were by the W. J. Lyons Jr. Funeral Home in Rensselaer. Condolences may be expressed on-line at www.wjlyonsfuneralhome.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Center for Disability Services, 314 South Manning Blvd., Albany, NY 12208.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Gertrude E. Smith

VOORHEESVILLE — Gertrude Smith, a thoroughly practical woman, died on Sept. 7, 2007. She was 97.

Born in Voorheesville to the late Bessie Van Auken Houck and Charles Houck, Mrs. Smith never left the village.

As a child, she would hook a rope from a sleigh to a horse and ride up Crow Ridge Road, near her grandparents’ farm, said her daughter, Linda Rubin.

Her ride to school, too, was a testament to a bygone time. Mrs. Smith was a student before the village had its own school, so she rode the train from Voorheesville to Altamont for class every day, Mrs. Rubin said.

Although organized women’s sports were before her time, Mrs. Smith was an accomplished swimmer, her daughter said. She once swam across Warner’s Lake, which is where she met her husband, the late Donald Smith.

The couple danced to the Big Bands while they were dating, said Mrs. Rubin.

"She really wanted to be a dress designer or a phys. ed. teacher," Mrs. Rubin said of her mother.

But, being practical, she became a nurse. An uncle of hers who was a doctor said that she would always have a job if she took up nursing, so, that’s what Mrs. Smith went to school for.

"She never quite liked it," her daughter said.

Orphaned at the age of 11, Mrs. Smith was raised largely by her extended family, said Mrs. Rubin, and she learned to make do.

For years, as a teenager, she taught dance in her grandfather’s barn, said Mrs. Rubin. She also played the piano for the silent films that were shown at the American Legion Hall in Voorheesville. Mrs. Smith was also a Girl Scout leader for years and enjoyed many adventures with her troop.

She was a wonderful mother, said Mrs. Rubin. But most of all, she said, "She was very practical" She grew up during the Depression."


Mrs. Smith is survived by her daughters, Linda Rubin; Sandra Preston and her husband, Bill; Gayle Smith and her husband, Dr. Matthew Friedman.

She is also survived by her grandchildren, Michael Marinello and his wife, Michelle; Brian Rubin and his wife, Kerry; Wendy Mapstone and her husband, Jon; Suzanne Sicard and her husband, Eric; Beth Preston; Jessica Friedman and her husband, Tony Hanberg; and Rebecca Friedman; and her three great-grandchildren, Connor and Jared Rubin and Elijah Sicard.

Her husband, Donald W. Smith, died on Sept. 5, 2005.

Funeral services were held on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the First United Methodist Church in Voorheesville. Arrangements were by Reilly & Son Funeral Home in Voorheesville.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Community Hospice of Albany, 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205 or the First United Methodist Church, 68 Maple Ave., Voorheesville, NY 12186.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

Laura Ratka Urba

GUILDERLAND — Laura Ratka Urba, a homemaker and the wife of the late Frank Urba, died Friday, Sept. 7, 2007 at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland.

She was 88.

Born in Amsterdam, she had lived on Windy Ponds Lane since 1944.

She is survived by her sister, Marion Wojeski of Amsterdam, her brother, Frank Ratka of Dunwoodie, Ga.; dear friends, Walter and Martha Cieszynski and several nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, great-grandnieces, and great-grandnephews.

Her sisters, Blanche DeNice and Isabelle Dravs, died before her.

Funeral services were held at noon on Monday at the Reilly & Son Funeral Home in Voorheesville. Burial followed in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Rotterdam.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Our Lady of Mercy Life Center, 2 Mercycare Lane, Guilderland, NY 12084; American Heart Association, 440 New Karner Rd., Albany NY 12205; or the Community Hospice of Albany, 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205.

Ludmilla Wohland

Ludmilla Wohland, died unexpectedly at Albany Memorial Hospital on Monday, Sept. 10, 2007. She was 78.

Born in Slovakia on Nov. 10, 1928, she was the daughter of Karl and Hermine Rizek. She came to the United States in 1950 with her husband and family.

She is survived by her daughter, Annette Primiano and her husband, Joseph, of Berne; her sons, William Wohland and his wife, Cathy, of New Jersey and Tim Wohland of Berne; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007 at 3 p.m. at the Fredendall Funeral Home in Altamont. Calling hours are prior to the service from 1 to 3 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of choice.

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