The life of Ethel Healy Massey will be celebrated by family and friends in the spring of this year. Ethel passed away from congestive heart failure and kidney disease, on January 8th, 2019, in her home in Horseheads, NY.
As she passed, she had the companionship of family and kind caregivers. Among those she loved and lost were her husband, companion, and best friend of 52 years, Walter F. Massey; her sisters, Patricia Healy and Kay Kerr; and her daughter, Lorie Griffiths. She is survived by her remaining children—Patricia (and Jim) Murtaugh of Salisbury, N.C.; Lin (and Lynn Van Atta) Massey of Elmira Heights, NY; Jeanne Massey; and Walter(Chip) Massey, both of Horseheads, NY, and numerous grandchildren and great- grandchildren—all of whom (using the words of grandson Jake Massey) found her to be “a light in the dark and a haven in the swirling chaos.”
Ethel grew up in White Plains, NY during the Great Depression. Her early education was at St. Bernard’s Catholic School where her education flourished. She went on to attend White Plains High School from which she graduated early with honors. She met the love of her life, Walter, while they were both camp counselors in their teens. She moved on to work as a ticket agent in NYC’s Grand Central Station where she found adventure, met many interesting people, and was able to supplement the family income. It wasn’t long before she was courted by and subsequently married to her beloved Walter. The couple moved to Syracuse where Walter earned his degree and they expanded their family by 5 children in 7 years.
Ethel was dedicated to raising her family first and foremost. She embraced our talents and our foibles; she encouraged our pursuits and supported our decisions. She participated in her own pursuit of spiritual growth through regular church attendance and activities, bible studies, and reading all matters of meditation. One could not predict what she might try out next with such varied interests as Braille, patterning, and yoga. She managed Walden’s bookstore for a few years, earned a real estate license, and worked at both a dental office and a psychiatric office. She was a voracious reader, especially of biographies of the Civil War Era and past presidents. Ethel’s strong thirst for knowledge fueled many conversations. She was a true example of honesty, integrity, sharing, and caring for all whose lives she touched. Ever modest, she would prefer us not to sentimentalize or idolize her life, but to recall her quick, dry sense of humor, warmth, and insatiable curiosity.
At her passing, her son-in-law, Jim Murtaugh captured what we all feel with these words:
“I am truly heartbroken with the passing of your mom.
‘My Ethel,’ a quiet, unselfish and supportive woman. She was and still is one of my most admired persons.
I so much enjoyed our quiet talks. I felt like I was in the presence of my mom, my grandmother, and the elders of her generation.
Your mom and dad did not expect any accolades for their sacrifices and the support they gave so freely. That’s leading by example.
I cannot begin to explain the impact and importance of these characteristics to my life.
Once upon a time, I had heroes whom I thought were of great importance because of their feats or skills they performed. I found over time that one's ability to love, listen, and support others without questioning are measures of the true character of a person who is to be admired and followed.
That is what I experienced when I was in the presence of Ethel Massey.
I will be forever grateful for those moments that your mom and I spent together.”
The family would like to express great appreciation to Dr. Katherine Kaufenbarger, her nurse Ann, and to CareFirst for their seemingly effortless and compassionate care of our matriarch.
Because Ethel’s generosity extended to so many charities and causes, if you would like to donate in her honor, she would encourage you to choose the one that speaks to you.