“Just looking at her calendar would make your head spin,” Jennifer Paley Ambro said of her late mother, Suzanne Paley.
Paley died on July 18, at the age of 86, after a year-long battle with cancer. She was married to The Smithtown News publisher Bernard Paley for 65 years and was very active within the Smithtown community.
According to Dave Ambro, son-in-law to Paley and editor of the Smithtown News and The Observer, she was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx by parents Annette and Giuseppe Piazza, both immigrants from Italy, along with her late brother and sister, Frank and Josephine.
Paley was the first member of her family to receive a college diploma, graduating cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1950, where she met her husband. She then worked as a teacher in New York City public schools for five years.
“She could never have imagined the life she would live,” Ambro said of her mother. “She grew up in a tenement sharing a bed with her brother and sister, and sharing a hall bathroom with her neighbors. She was so grateful for her life, which she truly cherished.”
The couple married in 1951 and moved to Kings Park where she taught elementary school at the district for five years. Paley left the school to raise her two daughters, Jennifer and Elizabeth, then settled with her family in Smithtown. Later she worked as a teacher at Western Suffolk BOCES before retiring in 1985 and helping out at The Smithtown News as a proofreader and doing rewrite work.
“She and my father moved out to the suburbs with virtually nothing but my mom’s teaching job and together built a life filled with world travel, including month-long trips to Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Ireland and through the United States,” Ambro said.
Paley’s daughter Elizabeth echoed the same sentiments about her mother’s zest for life.
“My mom lived such a meaningful and passionate life,” she said. “Whether it was having us all up to Vermont to go skiing, dragging us all out to Montauk to go camping or inscribing a special book for every birthday, her greatest joy was spending time with her family.”
Ambro said her mother loved spending her winters in Vermont, where she skied daily well into her 80s, and her summers on Fire Island and the Berkshires, where she loved to go to the Tanglewood Music Festival.
“She never turned away from what she believed or the people whom she loved and respected.”
Paley enjoyed many passions including bridge, and was an active member of the Smithtown Bridge Studio.
She enjoyed the theater and museums — she was a season ticket holder at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — though she also supported smaller theater companies throughout Manhattan. Paley was a past president of the League of Women Voters of Smithtown.
Paley’s husband said she loved running into old students and parents around town.
“She never turned away from what she believed or the people whom she loved and respected,” her husband said. “She still had friends she kept in touch with from the second grade.”
Donations in memory of Paley can be made to the New York Philharmonic Education Fund, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023; or to the Smithtown Historical Society, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown, NY 11787. Arrangements were entrusted to the care of Branch Funeral Home of Smithtown and the Vigliante family.
Quotes and information with permission of The Smithtown News.