ONEONTA – Patricia Curtis Hamilton Pantaleoni, 88, who with her daughter, City Judge Lucy Bernier, formed what may have been the first mother-daughter law firm in the state, died peacefully at home on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
She was born Feb. 19, 1930, in St. Johnsbury, Vt., and grew up in the neighboring village of Passumpsic. Patricia studied piano from an early age, playing for the services of the Baptist Church of Passumpsic and for the weekly dances at the Grange Hall.
After graduating from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1948, she attended Smith College on a full scholarship, studying music and piano performance. After graduating from Smith College in 1952, she pursued and received a master’s degree in music education at Radcliffe College on a Ford Foundation Fellowship.
She met her future husband, Hewitt Pantaleoni, a Harvard graduate student, in the fall of 1952, when they were both taking the same graduate-level music course. Hewitt proposed after taking her on his bicycle to a symphony orchestra concert, and they married in June 1953. For their honeymoon, they biked from Vermont to the Catskill Mountains, camping out under the stars.
Patricia and Hewitt raised five children, Lucy, Mary/Mer, Alice, Maud and Timothy.
In 1960, Hewitt accepted a teaching position on the SUNY Oneonta music faculty, and the family moved to Oneonta.
In the 1970s, Patricia undertook accounting and paralegal studies and began working for the law firm of Rowley & Gourlay. With their encouragement and with the loving support of her husband, Patricia decided to pursue a career in law. She graduated from the Stetson University College of Law in 1978 and opened her law practice in Oneonta in 1979.
Her daughter Lucy joined her in 1981, and they practiced law together until Patricia retired at the end of 2017.
Throughout her life, Patricia loved playing the piano, whether in chamber groups working up classical pieces for public performance, at services and other events at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Oneonta, or assisting the students and faculty of both local colleges in musical performances and educational programs. Patricia was an extremely musical and sensitive accompanist. She particularly loved accompanying her family and friends as they sang, and was the center of every family gathering (as they invariably turned into singalongs).
It goes without saying that she was an accomplished sight-reader, but she often astonished listeners with her ability to play thousands of hymns, show tunes, jazz standards and oldies from memory, to transpose them into any key on demand, or to learn a new melody and improvise an accompaniment on the spot. Friends noted that she always had a tune in her mind and would often be moving her fingers as she mentally played it through while doing other tasks. Even towards the end of her life, she continued playing her favorites this way.
An accomplished cook, Patricia enjoyed exploring many savory dishes, pastries and candies, much to her family’s delight and she was always happy to prepare anyone’s favorite dishes. She and Hewitt enjoyed entertaining and hosted many parties, bridge games and dances in their house. Thanksgiving was a major event and became famous among family and friends for the record number of pie varieties she would make.
She is survived by daughters, Lucy (Joe Bernier), Mary/Mer (Bear Boel) and Alice (Mark Lubell); granddaughters, Genevieve Smith (Steve Smith) and Emily Bernier; grandson, Joshua Kiwiet-Pantaleoni; many dear brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
She was predeceased by her husband, Hewitt; son, Timothy; daughter, Maud; and sisters, Joanne Vinik and Heather Tharp.
A memorial service will be 4 p.m. Sunday, July 1, at the Lester Grummons Funeral Home.
The family welcomes cards and remembrances. They may be sent to the family, c/o Pantaleoni and Bernier, 28 Watkins Ave., Oneonta, NY 13820.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Oneonta Dollars for Scholars, P.O. Box 1083, Oneonta, NY 13820, for the Patricia Pantaleoni Memorial Music Scholarship.
Condolences to the family may be made online at www.grummonsfuneralhome.com.
Arrangements are by the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home, Oneonta.