Clara Belle Palmer De Lill, 64, of 796 Douglas Drive, Waverly, N.Y., passed away at home very unexpectedly, on Friday, January 31, 2014, after a brief illness.
She was born in Sayre, Pa., on September 16, 1949, the only child of the late Stanton Mark Palmer and Evelyn Halstead Palmer, who together operated the Palmer House in Waverly for many years. Belle was something of a miracle baby owing to the fact that her mother gave birth to her at the age of 44 following a great many unsuccessful pregnancies, while Belle’s father was 66! Mr. Palmer believed that travel was an integral part of a child’s education, and as a result, she’d been to every state in the Union except for two by the time she completed high school. Mrs. Palmer was the home economics teacher at Waverly High School and under her tutelage, Belle honed her incredible culinary skills, from which we all delightfully benefitted. Belle was a self-taught expert on many subjects and was a true Renaissance woman. Conversations with her were unforgettable.
She began music lessons at the tender age of three, and by the time she was 14 had her first job as organist for church services at the Waverly Methodist Church. In 1966, she began her long association with the Valley Chorus as a 17-year-old singing under the direction of Art Rae, and with her amazing voice was soon singing solos.
A 1967 graduate of Waverly High School, Belle earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and Performance in 1971 from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Belle has been an inspirational musician in the Valley for many years, providing instrumental and vocal music for countless weddings, funerals, and special events. She served as organist and choir director for Church of the Redeemer in Sayre, and in the same capacity at Sayre Presbyterian Church for 33 years. For many years, the highlight of the Christmas Eve service was her incredible vocal performance of “O Holy Night.” Belle was the Waverly High School Chorus accompanist for ten years while for 20 years she accompanied the Valley Chorus, serving as its Director for the last 10 years. Belle also taught private vocal, piano, and organ lessons to children and adults for over 40 years. She wore many hats during those lessons, and many of her students appreciated their side-chats and Miss Belle’s wisdom and understanding. Many well-wishers have expressed the sentiment that the Valley Community has lost one of its finest ambassadors of the musical arts, while heaven has gained another angel.
Belle became an instant mom to five children when she married Robert William De Lill on October 11, 1975. Together, Belle and Bob had two more children, and recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary. They operated several businesses together over the years including a produce stand on Banana Curve, an ice cream stand on Elmira’s Southside, and a specialty candle shop from their home. Theirs was a symbiotic relationship with one balancing out the other and they were proud of the fact they never had an argument. There wouldn’t have been any point, because we know who would have won. Bob sadly mourns the sudden loss of his best friend. Honey Bear, Belle’s beloved Bison Frise, is already missing her mama, but keeping dad company.
In addition to her loving husband, Belle is survived by six children for whom her absence is still not yet quite real. They are: Robin De Lill (Rusty) Stroman, Gail De Lill Straub, Jean De Lill Knapp Fritzman, Scott (Julie) De Lill, Mark De Lill (and friend Tammy), and Heather De Lill. Her grandchildren are Robert, Katherine, and Daniel Stroman; Sonja Klugo, Jamie, Ryanna, and Reagan Straub; Eric and Brent Knapp; Caden, Nathan, and Lauryn De Lill; Mark Connor and Alex Volpe; and Qualyn Terry. Belle is also survived by her sisters-in-law Beverly De Lill Sherman of Arizona and Dolores De Lill Vargo of Chemung and several nieces and nephews.
She was predeceased by her uncle Kenneth Halstead, whose widow, aunt Christina of Florida, survives at the age of 100. Her mother- and father-in-law Harold and Clara De Lill of Lockwood have also passed away, as did her son Robert William De Lill Jr. in 1983.
Belle also leaves behind many friends who were like family, in particular “sisters” Judy Richter and Pam and Elaine Kellogg, Dawn and Glen McCoy, Steph Murphy, and Pat Wanck. The family extends warm thanks to Doctor Blood and nurse Pam (seamstress extraordinaire) for their loving care during Belle’s illness. There are many more dear ones too numerous to mention, but though you aren’t named, your importance in Belle’s life is no less appreciated and there’s no doubt Belle made sure you knew that.
A joyful musical celebration of Belle’s life will take place hosted by Pastor Andrew Weidner at the Athens Methodist Church on South Main Street in Athens on Saturday, February 8, 2014. The family will have a time of visitation from 1 to 4 p.m. with a musical celebration to follow. Pastors Nelson Kopatz and Chuck Carver will conduct the service while musical direction will be overseen by dear friend and Valley Chorus accompanist Larry Hoey. Following the service, there will be a time of fellowship in the church social hall. Those wishing to remember Belle with a memorial gift may direct donations in her memory to The Valley Chorus, P. O. Box 146, Athens, PA 18810. The Altieri-Bowen Funeral Home of Sayre is assisting the family.