Berniece Joyce Skelton, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday, departed this life on January 15, 2016, at the LeRoy Village Green, where she had resided for the previous six months. She was lovingly in the company of a few of her family and friends.
Berniece (with an ‘e’ as she always reminded people) was born December 19, 1920 to Howard Rudolph and Annabelle Boatfield at her family’s farm on the Buckley Road in Stafford, N.Y. She attended a one-room schoolhouse, District #3, which housed seven grades, and was taught by her father’s sister, Clara Rudolph. She remembered Aunt Clara as a stern disciplinarian, but an excellent teacher who was given the credit for Mrs. Skelton’s superior spelling and grammar skills.
Mrs. Skelton graduated from LeRoy High School in 1938 and briefly attended Geneseo State Teacher’s College where she decided, after practice teaching with second graders, that being a teacher just wasn’t for her. She worked briefly for Dipson Theater and in 1943 after answering a blind ad in the Daily News, she was hired as a stenographer with the New York State Police, Troop A. She was the first woman to be so hired, as men were being called off to war. Soon joined by two other women, she often said that it was very apparent that the men were skeptical at first, but the ladies proved their worth in short order. Mrs. Skelton was very proud of her 26 years with the State Police, kept in touch with many retired troopers for years, and helped one of them write a book about the NY State Police. She recounted many stories of the criminal cases that she worked on, including having a jar on her desk containing a lady’s fingers, which were being preserved for possible identification in a murder case.
After her retirement from the State Police, Mrs. Skelton worked for Crocker’s Country Store in LeRoy, NY as a bookkeeper.
Mrs. Skelton was an avid collector of many things, including elephants (figurines, not live ones), stamps, pens, watches and dolls. Her home had a museum-like quality with items from the distant past mixing with the new. She loved flowers -- growing them, picking them, and of course, receiving them. She enjoyed watching the birds from her chair outside the back door.
Mrs. Skelton met her husband, Marvin Skelton, at his 18th birthday party in 1937. After dating for four years, they married on May 31, 1941 and honeymooned in Washington, D.C. In 1948, with encouragement from family members, the young couple moved back to the farm of Mrs. Skelton’s birth, and began their life as a farm family. They eventually owned several farms. For a time, they had a dairy, but later turned solely to cash crops and custom harvesting. Mrs. Skelton savored her role as a farmer’s wife, taking meals to her husband wherever he happened to be harvesting crops, sleeping overnight in their truck camper with him in various fields, and going along on 3 a.m. runs to the canning factory. Both of them were active in the Farm Bureau and traveled extensively on trips organized by that organization all around the United States, Hawaii, and Spain.
Mr. and Mrs. Skelton celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary in May 2015. They were each other’s best friend. Their marriage stood as a shining example for many of their friends and family members, particularly younger ones. They supported each other through many difficult circumstances, including several serious illnesses, lean years of farming, and the loss of many family members and friends. They enjoyed dancing together and for many years danced multiple times a week with friends in Florida. They spent more than 50 happy winter years in Englewood, FL at their second home where they were very involved with the Englewood Methodist Church. At home in Stafford, NY, they were active with the Stafford United Methodist Church and the Stafford Historical Society, served on the Stafford Rural Cemetery Board, and participated in the Old Boys & Gals Club. Mrs. Skelton was also a member of the Red Hats Society in the LeRoy/Batavia area as well as in Englewood, FL.
Mr. Skelton passed on in June 2015. After that, Mrs. Skelton was never the same. Although she will be missed by her family and friends, they rejoice in their knowledge that Berniece (with an ‘e’) and the love of her life, Marvin, are once again dancing together, free of pain, somewhere beyond this earth.
Mrs. Skelton’s family was most important to her. She had a sister, Winifred Miner (1923-2006), with whom she was very close. She is survived by her sister’s children and their children, Jan Miner of Hartsdale, N.Y., Carol (Paul) Beechler of Manassas, VA, David Miner of Batavia, N.Y., Julie (Frank) Wagner of Farmingdale, NY, Laurie (Art) Grocholski of Manassas, VA; and Carrie (Chad) Jordan of Aldie, VA. She also had relationships with several of her husband’s nieces and nephews, who include Tom (Mary) Skelton of Batavia, Katherine (Joseph) Fry of Jacksonville Beach, FL, Earl Skelton of Stowe, Pennsylvania, Susan (Geoff) Briggs of Stafford, and Rita (Dennis) Brayley of Pittsburgh, PA. She also had many first and second cousins scattered around the country.
Although they did not have any children of their own, Mrs. Skelton and her husband cherished and loved a great many children over the years, including the Fullers (Linda, Sandy, and Wirt), the Blythes (Michael, David, Matthew, and especially, Amy), the Swansons (Anders, Beckett, and Cooper), the Bessetts (Tamra and Brandon), the Scotts (Jay, Emily, Sarah, and Anne), the Brantons (Afton, Chad, and Kari), and the Halls (Colby, Katie, and Tyler). They were especially close with Mrs. Skelton’s sister’s children, Jan, Carol & David – but most attached to David, their nephew with special needs. They bragged about David and his talents (photography and ceramics) and his antics (not enough space here) to anyone who paused to listen.
Memorials may be made to Genesee County ARC (64 Walnut Street, Batavia, NY 14020) or the Stafford United Methodist Church (Stafford, NY 14143). Calling hours are 4 – 7 p.m. on Monday, January 18 at H.E. Turner Mortuary in Batavia, NY. The funeral will be held at H.E. Turner’s on Tuesday, January 19, at noon, followed by interment in the Stafford Rural Cemetery.
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