Henrietta Elizabeth Dunne Cleary

Henrietta Elizabeth Dunne Cleary

ALTAMONT — Etta Cleary was a kind and gentle woman, the type of person who “would often find something between two or three people,” some kind of connection, that would forge “a companionship,” her son, Daniel Cleary said. “She’d make you feel like you’re family.”

Mrs. Cleary died on Saturday, June 6, 2020. She was 93.

 Henrietta Elizabeth Dunne Cleary was born to Thomas Stanley Dunne and Anna Violet Johannis on Sept. 27, 1926, in the Bronx, New York. 

Her father worked for the The New York Central Railroad in Manhattan, Mr. Cleary said, while her mother, in her later years, worked at a German delicatessen right next to Yankee Stadium. 

Etta grew up in the Bronx, her family moving from apartment to apartment, her son said, before eventually settling in the Fordham, Bronx Botanical Garden area, which is near the Bronx Zoo.

She spent her high school years in that area of the city, Mr. Cleary said, “and she has had a lot of happy memories of going to Bronx River Park”; on the weekends, her family would go for picnics in the park.

“Attending Walton High School,” Mrs. Cleary’s family wrote in a tribute, is “where she met her best friend, Rosemary Cleary.”

Graduating from high school amid World War II, she got a job in the Navy’s procurement department in Manhattan, which at that time was located near Rockefeller Center, Mr. Cleary said. “She had happy memories of the Christmas tree and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral,” he added.

Mrs. Cleary joined the United Service Organizations (USO) club, where she and her sister, Anna, would go to the dances, her son said.

“Viewing a photograph of her best friend’s handsome brother in uniform, Etta secretly fell in love with William P. Cleary, planning to meet and marry him once the war ended,” her family wrote in a tribute.

The couple was married in the Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov. 23, 1947. “They remained happily married for 44 years until his death in 1991,” Mrs. Cleary’s family wrote in a tribute.

Mrs. Cleary’s sister, Anna, would end up marrying a Navy man from Oklahoma, her son said, “and the only thing he knew how to do was farm,” so following the war, Anna and her husband moved to Middleburg, which prompted the rest of the family’s gradual move to the area.

The Cleary family’s move to Albany County, Mr. Cleary said, “goes in two pieces.” 

In 1959, the family bought a summer home in West Berne, an old farmhouse, he said. “When the summers came, they wanted to get us kids out of the city and give us something to do, he said. “So they would bring us up here to the country.”

The family sold its Bronx home in 1971 and moved to Yonkers for three years. From Yonkers, they moved to Ardsley in Westchester County, where Mrs. Cleary did real-estate work.

Then Mr. Cleary’s father retired in 1987, and the couple moved to the area permanently, settling first in the city of Albany, and then, when Mr. Cleary’s father died in 1991, his mother moved to the Altamont Oaks apartments.

“In later years, Etta was a Eucharistic Minister and volunteered at the Guilderland Nursing Home and Christ the King Church,” her family wrote in a tribute; Mrs. Cleary also attended Saint Madeleine Sophie Church in Guilderland as well as Saint Matthew’s in Voorheesville.

“And then she had her little friend group,” Mr. Cleary said, likening the six to eight friends who would get together at the Capitol Diner once a month to “compare notes and talk about their kids” to The Enterprise’s own Old Men of the Mountain. 

“Etta was always giving small inexpensive gifts to those she encountered,” her family wrote in a tribute. 

In 1991, after her husband died, Mrs. Cleary moved to Florida for a short time, but decided it wasn’t for her, her son said, and moved back north and into Altamont Oaks, where she would live for the last 23 years of her life.

Asked to describe his mother’s personality, Mr. Cleary said, “Vivacious.”

“She was just fun, she liked to be around other people, she enjoyed her independence for sure,” she would love to drive out to Duanesburg or Cobleskill and eat at the Cobleskill Diner. “You don’t know how many times my wife and I took her to Duanesburg to eat at the Duanesburg Diner,” he said with a laugh. 

“As I’m going through her apartment now, it’s hard to believe all of the things that are in there,” he said. Mr. Cleary said his mother liked to write, “and she liked to sit down and write little diaries ... I mean, there’s pages and pages of things about birthdays, and who’s this and who’s that.”


Henrietta Elizabeth Dunne Cleary is survived by her children, Catherine Wojewoda  and her husband, John, of Voorheesville; William Cleary and his wife, Joan O’Brien Cleary, of Daytona Beach, Florida; Daniel Cleary and his wife, Judy Knouse Cleary, of Guilderland; and Thomas Cleary and his wife, Karin Melsopp Cleary, of Northbridge, Massachusetts.

She is also survived by her grandchildren, John Wojewoda Jr., Stacy Silcock, Anne Wojewoda, William Cleary, Erin Warner, Danielle Fleckenstein, Colleen De Gisi, and Rebecca Cleary; and by her great-grandchildren, John III and Lillian Wojewoda, John III “Jack” Silcock, Patrick and Sloane Cleary, Charlotte, Lillian and Wesley Warner, Claire, Henry, and James Fleckenstein, and Elio and Allegra De Gisi. 

A funeral was held on Wednesday.

Memorial messages may be left at www.altamontenterprise.com/milestones.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Salvation Army at www.salvationarmy.org.

— Sean Mulkerrin



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