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Florence (née DiSabatino) Otto Brown, age 99, passed away on Sunday, August 20, 2023, at her home in Kenoza Lake, surrounded by her loving family. Florence was born and raised in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, the daughter of Abraham and Elizbeta (née Argila) DiSabatino, recent immigrants from Leonforte Sicily, Italy. At the start of World War II, she met her first husband, Henry (Hank) Otto. While Hank fought in Saipan, in the Far East theater, earning a Purple Heart for his service, Florence was on the home front serving as a “Rosie the Riveter” worker making ammunition for the war effort. After Hank returned from World War II, they married, and welcomed their twin children in 1948. The Ottos resided in Staten Island until 1975, when Hank passed away. Soon after her husband’s death , Florence moved to their country home in the Town of Bethel.
Although not a hunter herself, thanks to hunting, Florence lived more than half of her adult life in Sullivan County, New York and met her second husband, Jesse Brown. Back in the early 1960s, Hank Otto and son Ray approached Kenoza Lake dairy farmer Jesse Brown seeking permission to hunt the overabundance of woodchucks that plagued Jesse’s farm. Although Jesse was suspicious of “city hunters”, he knew that woodchuck holes were dangerous and could cause his hay wagons to flip over. Jesse granted Hank and Ray Otto hunting privileges, but cautioned them not to hunt near his cows. After this first hunting visit, the men returned to Brown Farms often to hunt woodchucks. Later, the Ottos made a campground space in a wooded area of the farm so they could spend weekends in the country. Hank and Florence fell in love with the local area and spending time here. They soon bought several acres on Pucky Huddle Road from Ned and Annie Hendrix and built their country home.
Hank and Florence became very close friends of Jesse and his wife, Margaret Brown. The couples enjoyed playing cards, sharing meals, vacationing together, and time spent at the Iroquois Club. Florence helped Margaret with gardening and sewing. Hank and Jesse shared many mutual interests. Early in 1980, Margaret Brown died unexpectantly from a sudden illness. After Margaret’s death, Florence, and Jesse, by now longtime friends, began to date. They married in 1981 and Florence moved from her Pucky Huddle Road home to join her husband Jesse living at Brown Farms. Florence and Jesse enjoyed participating in antique car shows, traveling to Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, and attending Callicoon Co-operative Insurance Company meetings and insurance conferences (where Jesse was the then, President of the Callicoon Co-operative Insurance Company.)
One of Florence’s favorite activities was sewing. She was a professional seamstress and sewed dresses for First Ladies Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, and for designer Oleg Cassani. She made exquisite wedding gowns for two of her granddaughters, spending countless hours attaching beads to the lace on these gowns. In addition, she sewed prom dresses, American Girl doll clothes, and numerous handmade gifts like placemats, pillows, and baby quilts. Every year she enjoyed watching the Red-carpet entry to the Academy Awards, critiquing the gowns the actresses wore.
Florence’s handicraft skills extended beyond sewing. Each year during Lent, she wove hundreds of palms branches into crosses which she shared with family members, near and far, as well as the Kenoza Lake United Methodist Church. Florence still wove these crosses earlier this year when she was 98 years old. Each December, she baked dozens of Christmas cookies to give to others. Many have received her crocheted potholders as gifts. She enjoyed cooking and tending her flower and vegetable gardens during the summer. She had a large vegetable garden and made hundreds of canned pickles, tomatoes, green beans. The Iris was her favorite flower. In her younger years, Florence canned several hundred jars of her garden’s bounty. Bread and butter and dill pickles were just two of her canning specialties.
Florence volunteered locally by selling Cornell Extension Service subscriptions for a great number of years, as well as supporting the Sullivan County Dairy Princess Program by making milk punch for the dairy princess banquet and the Grahamsville Fair. When her husband Jesse passed away, she took over his Iroquois Hunting and Fishing Club membership and enjoyed treating her family to the annual Labor Day chicken barbeque dinner.
During her car driving days, she had a bit of a “lead” foot, and was known for ignoring speed limits. Once she was stopped in White Lake by local town constable Radar Ray. Florence avoided receiving a speeding ticket because she told Radar Ray she had to drive fast because ice cream was melting in her trunk.
When she did sit down to relax, she enjoyed watching her beloved Yankees team, especially Andy Pettitte, her favorite Yankee. In addition, she enjoyed visiting with her friends and family by phone in the evening.
Florence is survived by her daughter Sandra Scaramuzzo and son-in-law Jospeh Scaramuzzo of Belford, New Jersey and son Raymond Otto and his wife Susan of Bethel, grandchildren Denise (née Scarramuzzo) Hall and husband Thomas, Joseph Scarramuzzo and wife Leah, Michele Otto and fiancé Michael Swan. Florence’s great grandchildren include Sandra and Cross Siclare and Samantha Yahara, step great grandchildren Teddy and Even Hall and great-great grandchild Sienna Siclare. Florence is also survived by stepchildren Adele Erlwein and Shirley and Richard VonBergen and Marguerite Brown.
Florence was predeceased by Henry Otto in 1975 and in 2000, by her second husband Jesse Brown, brothers Sam and Ralph DiSabatino, grandson Joseph Otto, and stepson Robert Brown. Her brother Albert DiSabatino survives, as well as several nieces and nephew.
Florence’s family is forever grateful for the service that the team of caregivers have provided to Florence during the last chapter of her life.
Calling hours will be held at the Stewart-Murphy Funeral Home in Kohlertown (5068 Route 52 Jeffersonville) on Saturday, August 26th, 2023, from noon until 1:30 pm. Pastor William Chellis will officiate at a service in the funeral home from 1:30 until 2:00 pm. Burial will take place at the Jeffersonville Presbyterian Church Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Hospice of Orange and Sullivan County, the Kenoza Lake Fire Department, or the Kenoza Lake United Methodist Church.