Constance Mae Teator

Constance Mae Teator

WESTERLO — In regular correspondence with her mother in New Jersey, Constance Teator included and received excerpted Bible verses that she pinned on her kitchen wall in Freehold, tucked into her Bible, and left out for her family to read.

The slips of paper yellowed with age until she moved from her home of 57 years, a farmhouse on Big Woods Road that — she took pride in — was funded by her grandfather, Henry Williams.

Mrs. Teator adapted to life on the farm after spending her youth in suburban West Orange, N.J. and “made the most of what was dealt to her,” her oldest son, Donald Teator, said. He described his mother as practical. She was focused by her Christian faith and her lessons to her three children about their values.

“I always saw her as an optimistic person, as a person who wanted to see the good in things,” said Mr. Teator. “Many times, I think her religious beliefs I think reinforced that — that there was good in everybody.”

Constance Mae Teator died at Albany Medical Center on Friday, March 28, 2014. She was 84.

She had spent the past four years at Good Samaritan Village in Delmar.

She was born on May 23, 1929 in West Orange, N. J., the oldest of four children of the late Ninian and Ruth (née Williams) Murray.

In 1936, when Mrs. Teator was 7 years old, her father’s auto-parts business was bankrupted and the family moved out of a newly built house to live with her Aunt Lena. Mrs. Teator recounted that his business partner had been embezzling money, her son said.

Despite growing up during the Great Depression, Mrs. Teator described her childhood as a “golden glow,” Mr. Teator said. Her mother was a hairdresser and her grandparents doted over her. They had a summer house at Green Pond in northern New Jersey.

“Grandpa and granddaughter would go down by the lake front, boating, sitting around the lake house,” said Mr. Teator. “Grandpa’s dog, Muffy, was entertaining...She had aunts and uncles close by and I think, in many ways, she had a kind of very happy childhood.”

Mrs. Teator attended Butler High School, but she graduated from Pompton Lakes High School in 1949, a year late, after she had contracted rheumatic fever that left her with a heart murmur for the rest of her life, said her daughter, Phyllis Richardson.

She worked as a dental hygienist in a local dental office before she met Donald O. Teator, originally from Greene County, while he was serving in the United States Army during the Korean War and stationed at Camp Kilmer in central New Jersey. They married six weeks later, on June 1, 1951, at the Preakness Bible Church.

The young couple moved to a large, Colonial clapboard farmhouse on a two-mile dirt road in 1953.

“My mother took great pride in knowing her grandfather paid for it and the house became sort of her castle,” said her son, Donald Teator, who was born at Camp Kilmer.

The property was 75 acres and always had at least 10 head of cattle and crops for the home. The family snapped loads of string beans around a 10-gallon tub once they were picked, which Mrs. Teator would then blanch and keep in a chest freezer. Her son remembered hiking on the expansive property, chasing cows, and playing along a stream, drawn in by Mrs. Teator’s far-off call for lunch.

“My mother, being the classic 1950s mother, I think, the kind of mother who saw her place as the homemaker and making sure her kids had what they wanted, she knew every acre of that very well and knew where we were,” said Mr. Teator.

The farmhouse, expanded with a second story in the 1920s in order to open the farm to guests, was heated weakly with kerosene when the Teators first lived there, Mr. Teator said. Mrs. Teator worked then at the Far Hills Nursing Home in Greenville Center, and later on an assembly line, making audio speakers at the Becker Electronics manufacturing plant in East Durham.

When her husband decided to heat with a woodstove, he used a two-man cross cut saw, with his oldest son, who was not yet 10. The income from the farm didn’t cover its costs, their son said, and was supplemented by Mr. Teator working for other farms, like cleaning stables, baling hay, as a carpenter, and trucking milk cans. The younger Donald Teator remembered, when he worked in the hay fields on long days with his father, Mrs. Teator drove her Plymouth to the field where they worked with a tray of warm food for lunch.

Baking about two cakes from scratch each week, Mrs. Teator had to hide them for risk of their being eaten prematurely.

“When I heard the Mixmaster going, my ears perked up and I’d make sure I was in the right place at the right time,” said Mr. Teator, who helped prepare the baking supplies as a child.

She made chocolate cakes and orange cakes, and cakes with vanilla icing and a border of bittersweet chocolate. She baked bread and tins of cookies for her children to take to class and give to their teachers.

Mrs. Teator kept aware of the people in the community, helping at church dinners and school events. She was cheerful and curious, chatting freely with the staff at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home.

“I think she was a joiner,” said Mr. Teator. “She liked to meet other people. Usually a gentle person, she went out of her way to help people, to help everybody. Privately she might voice her displeasure or suspicions or regrets, but out in the open I think many people respected her cheerfulness.”

As she entered her sixties, Mrs. Teator was a senior companion with the Greene County Senior Service Program, taking care of elderly people for 15 years. She attended meetings of the Greenville historical group. She joined her son, Donald Teator, the town historian, to visit local cemeteries.

Mrs. Teator retained a closeness with her family in New Jersey, where they lived in denser suburbs, and visited there a couple times each year.

Her church was the center of her community and a source of many friendships.

When her husband started attending church, the family traveled out of Freehold to go to several different churches over time, until their son, David, became a member of the First Baptist Church of Westerlo and Mrs. Teator and Mrs. Richardson joined, as well. Mrs. Teator was a member at First Baptist for more than 26 years.

Mrs. Richardson remembered moments of gut-weakening laughter with Mrs. Teator leaning on her daughter.

“The odd things will tickle our funny bone,” said Mrs. Richardson.

****

Constance Mae Teator is survived by her four children, Donald B. Teator and his wife, Debra, Ronald Teator and his wife, Leona, David Teator and his wife, Connie, and Phyllis Richardson and her husband, Cliff; her five grandchildren, Nathaniel Teator, Brett Teator, Tiffany Nishefci, Jared Richardson, and Rebekah Richardson; and her sister, Grace Winans.

In addition to her parents, Ninian and Ruth (née Williams) Murray, and her husband, Donald Teator, her brother, Bruce, and a sister, Margaret, died before her.

Arrangements were made by A. J. Cunningham Funeral Home in Greenville. A memorial service will be held Friday, April 4, at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Westerlo, 618 State Route 143, Westerlo. Burial will be later in the spring, in Freehold Cemetery. Mourners may go online at ajcunninghamfh.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church of Westerlo, Post Office Box 130, Westerlo, NY 12193, the Capital City Rescue Mission, 259 South Pearl Street, Albany, NY 12202, or the Greenville Local History Group care of Don Teator, 3979 County Route 67, Freehold, NY 12431.

— Marcello Iaia

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