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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 28, 2008

Allen J. Burton

A beloved father and husband, Allen J. Burton was a mechanic, former deputy sheriff, and a World War II veteran who loved to fly.

He died on Friday, Aug. 22, at Northwood Rehabilitation Center in Schenectady, where he had been living since July. He was 87.

“He loved talking to people,” said his wife, Mildred Burton. “He could sit and talk to people all day.”

Born on March 30, 1921, the son of Jessie and Katherine (Allen) Burton. He attended Schoharie High School.

With mechanics on both sides of the family, Mr. Burton spent a lot of his time doing handiwork, his wife said. For decades, he owned and operated Burton’s Garage in Gallupville, where he sold Aston Martins and Austin-Healeys.

“He was always puttering down to the garage, building things,” said Mrs. Burton. “When he ran the garage, sometimes we would leave the mechanic there and just go riding around the countryside.”

Mr. Burton met his wife at a square dance almost 70 years ago. “He had come to the dance with a friend,” his wife said. “I made a date with the friend, and then I made a date with Allen,” she recalled with a laugh.

They were married on Jan. 1, 1942.

In addition to being a mechanic, Mr. Burton was a bit of a motorcycle enthusiast, said cousin Edna Alvara. “He had an Indian Motorcycle,” she said. “He used to ride all over Schoharie on that motorcycle.”

He was very much a family man, Mrs. Burton said. He loved his daughter, Carol Pitt; his grandson, Paul David Pitt Jr.; and his cats.

Mr. Burton was active in his community, serving as a Republican Committeeman, and on the Schoharie County Task Force.

He was also the town historian of Wright. “He was very historical minded, and very interested in local history,” his wife said. “We have a little building on our property that’s full of everything historical, considering Schoharie County.” The building, she said, houses a collection of books, powder horns, and Kentucky rifles, among other historical items.

“He used to go out and shoot with those antique muzzle-loaders,” said his cousin. “He was quite an avid guitar player, too,” she said.

Later in life, Mr. Burton also loved to fly helicopters, but he was no stranger to aviation. Mr. Burton served four years in the United States Air Force during the Second World War.


Mr. Burton is survived by his wife, Mildred (Wilber) Burton; his daughter, Carol Pitt; and his grandson, Paul David Pitt Jr. His sister, Jane Fredericks, died before him.

Funeral services will be held privately at the family’s convenience, with burial at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Berne.

Memorial contributions can be given to a charity of one’s choice. Langan Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements.

The family sends thanks to the Community Hospice of Schenectady and Northwood Rehabilitation Center staff for their “excellent care.”

— Zach Simeone

Louise W. Stevens

Louise W. Stevens, who sewed up her family with a seamstress’s care, died on Aug. 15, 2008.  She was 85.

Raising six children — four daughters and twin sons — Mrs. Stevens was domestic by necessity.  She was “a talented seamstress who developed her love of making dolls into a worldwide mail-order business called ‘The Little Doll House,’” wrote her family in a tribute.

“Of course, I think she had some dolls, as young girls do,” Frank Williams said of his younger sister’s childhood interest in her adult hobby.  It wasn’t until Mrs. Stevens had grown that she began making dolls.  “She just kind of fell into that hobby,” said her brother, who lives in Altamont.

“We were a couple of ordinary kids,” Mr. Williams said.  His sister attended St. Agnes School in Albany, where she was born, and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Peekskill.  Her parents, the late Dr. Frank J. and Mary Williams, thought that she would get a stricter education at the boarding school, Mr. Williams said. 

In 1943, Mrs. Stevens graduated from Centenary College in Hackettstown, N. J., and in April of that year, married Dr. Richard M. Stevens, DMD.

The couple met at an Albany hospital during the war, when she was a volunteer and he was a young dentist in the Army, Mr. Williams said.  After the war, the pair settled in Stockbridge, Mass., where Mr. Stevens was the town dentist and his wife was a homemaker, with a “gracious and gentle spirit,” wrote her family.

A religious woman, Mrs. Stevens was active in the Episcopal Church in Sheffield, where she and her husband finally settled in 1974.  Serving on the altar guild, the vestry, and singing in the choir, “She was quite a religious girl,” Mr. Williams said.

Mrs. Stevens would make crafts for the church fair every year, her family wrote, and she “became a recognized doll maker by having her doll listed in Harrad’s Price Guide for American Made Dolls.”  She was also a longtime member of the Shaker Doll Club, they wrote, and a member of the Thursday Morning Club.


Mrs. Stevens is survived by her son, Richard W. Stevens, of Great Barrington, Mass., and four daughters: Mary Agnes Allen and her husband, Warren, of Irvine, Calif.; Katherine Stevens of Santa Rosa, Calif.; Eleanor Neumuth of Jacksonville, Fla.; and Rebecca Batacchi and her husband, Arthur Jr., of Sheffield, Mass. 

She is also survived by six grandchildren: Lucien Allen; Genevieve, Amy, and Otto Neumuth; Alexis Batacchi; and Rachele Bonhotel and her husband, Jason; one great-grandson, Jesse Bonhotel; one brother, Frank J. Williams Jr. and his wife, Marjorie, of Altamont, and their children, Frank, Frederick and Carrie Williams; and two grandnieces.

Her husband, Richard Stevens, died before her, in 1997, as did her son, John W. Stevens, in 1993.

Funeral services were held on Aug. 18 at Christ Church Episcopal in Sheffield, Mass., with burial in Sheffield Center Cemetery.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

Nida E. Thomas

GUILDERLAND — Nida E. Thomas, a civil rights activist, was known for her grace — in dealing with people, in making important changes, and in her personal style.

She died of natural causes on Aug. 26, 2008 at St. Peter’s Nursing Center in Albany. She was 94.

“She was very cultured, very elegant,” said her daughter, Rosemary Thomas of Guilderland Center. “She had a wardrobe that just wouldn’t quit. She knew how to wear a hat.”

As her daughter, Ms. Thomas went on, “You knew when she was upset by the tone in her voice. She never spanked us. She never swore.”

As a trailblazer for the education of African Americans, Mrs. Thomas was tenacious, but not combative. “She was very outgoing and people oriented,” said her daughter. “She was extremely intuitive about communication. She was a problem-solver and a peacemaker.  If there was strife, she was very creative in solving it.”

Born on June 19, 1914, Nida Mae Edwards grew up on a farm in Goldsboro, N.C., the daughter of the late Thomas and Mary Edwards. “My grandfather ran the farm and my grandmother was an expert in tobacco,” said Ms. Thomas. “My mother didn’t like the farm. She was definitely not a farm girl…when she was 10 or so, they packed up and came north.”

The Thomases moved to New Jersey where they ran a cleaning business.

“She always pursued equity and excellence while attending Battin High School in Elizabeth, N.J.,” wrote her family in a tribute.

“She was not going to wash someone else’s floor,” said her daughter. “As a child, she noticed the educational difference between whites and blacks. She wanted to make sure every child could get an education that wanted one.”

 “Her family supported her post-secondary educational ambitions to become a social worker,” said the tribute. In 1942, Mrs. Thomas received a bachelor of science degree in sociology from New York University’s School of Education, and in 1944 she received a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University.

She met her husband, the late Edward Thomas, during the war at a USO show, said Ms. Thomas. She told him she wanted to pursue a master’s degree and when she came back from doing that, they could marry. She went to Atlanta thinking she had a scholarship, but arrived to find out she did not, said her daughter. “She had no money. The woman in line behind her lent her tuition. She worked as a maid to pay for her schooling…She came back and they got married.”

Ms. Thomas’s father, a tailor who also worked cleaning buses, died of lung cancer when she was 9 but she recalls conversations her mother had with him about the education of their two daughters. “She told him we needed education so we could be independent and not have to rely on a man,” said Ms. Thomas.

“She saved enough for me to go to school without paying,” said Ms. Thomas, a licensed physical therapist who works as an actor. Her sister, the late Lutrica Edwards, was a nurse.

Mrs. Thomas worked for 16 years for the New Jersey State Department of Education as the director and assistant deputy commissioner of Equal Educational Opportunity. “Prior to 1968 when she returned to her New Jersey roots, Nida helped break down racial barriers as chief of the Bureau of Education Integration, Division of Intercultural Relations” for the New York State Education Department, her family wrote.

She received “countless honors,” they said, including over 30 major citations and awards. She was listed in Who’s Who among American Black Educators and in the Academy of American Educators as one of the “Outstanding Educators in America.” In 1983, she was awarded the President of the United States Private Sector Initiative Commendation, recognizing “exemplary community service in the finest American tradition.”

Her daughter described Mrs. Thomas as “a meticulous person.” As a mother, she said, “She made sure your bed was made and you kept things neat and clean.  We spoke properly. We knew how to interact and be with people.

“Both of us went to Guilderland High School,” Ms. Thomas said of herself and her sister. “We were accountable for what we did in school. She was very proud of us.”

When Mrs. Thomas went away to attend conferences for her work with the State Education Department, she’d bring her daughters along with her. Ms. Thomas remembers learning to use chopsticks while visiting in California and learning to swim in hotel pools.

After she retired in 1984, Mrs. Thomas kept up her involvement in civic and religious organizations both locally and in New Jersey. Here, she was involved in the Helderberg Reformed Church in Guilderland Center and the Hamilton Hill Black Dimensions in Art Center in Schenectady.

Some of the many other organizations in which she was involved are: the United Way of Greater Union County, the New Jersey Alliance of Black School Educators, City of Elizabeth Mayor’s Block Grant committee, Union County Occupational Center, Black Council Reformed Churches of America, Urban League of Union County, the New Jersey Association of Federal Programs Administrators, the Delta Kappa Gamma Society — Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (Golden Soror), National Council of Negro Women, Feminist Press of City University, National Urban League, New York and Atlanta university alumni associations, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“She was very independent,” said Patti Percoski of Altamont, who worked in recent years as a companion for Mrs. Thomas. “I took her to all her different functions. My nickname for her was ‘My Energizer Bunny.’ She just kept going.”


Nida E. Thomas is survived by her daughter, Rosemary Thomas, of Guilderland Center; her brother, Nathaniel Edwards, of Washington, D.C.; a cousin, Pearline Edwards; nephews, Jesse Lee, Thomas, and Donald Edwards; nieces, Carolyn Hatcher and Tenna Dorsey; two grandchildren, Sana and Omar McConney; and many great cousins and great nephews.

Her husband, Edward Thomas, died before her as did her elder daughter, Lutrica Thomas in 2004; a brother, Jesse Edwards; and a niece, Arminta Pittman.

A celebration memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. at the Helderberg Reformed Church on Route 146 in Guilderland Center. The family will greet friends and relatives from 5 to 5:30 p.m. at the church. There will also be a celebration memorial service in Newark N.J. at the Bethany Baptist Church.

Arrangements are by the Fredendall Funeral Home of Altamont.

Memorial contributions may be made to Hamilton Hill Arts Center, 409 Schenectady Street, Schenectady, NY  12307, or to the Helderberg Reformed Church Youth Fund, Post Office box 196, Main Street, Guilderland Center, NY  12085.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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