Sylvia Jacobson

Sylvia Jacobson

VOORHEESVILLE — Sylvia Jacobson was a woman of “wit, wisdom, and wonder,” an all-around interesting person who never lost her zest for living, said her daughter Joyce Jacobson.

She was, her daughter said, both deeply devoted to her family and an independent woman “who believed in making her own way in the world and empowering everyone around her, especially her children.”

Sylvia “Sandy” Jacobson died in her Voorheesville home on Tuesday, Aug. 27. She was 91.

She was born in East Greenbush in Rensselaer County to William and Mary Sultan, both Ukrainian immigrants who had arrived separately in the United States, met, married, and settled in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The couple would find their way to East Greenbush, where they had a dairy and vegetable farm. One of eight children, Mrs. Jacobson was a twin with her sister Sally Macek.

“They were really close,” Joyce Jacobson said. “The whole family was close.”

“It was like the Waltons, I guess you could say,” Ms. Jacobson added.

Each of the eight siblings got along well with one another, she said. Her mother’s brothers raced motorcycles and played hockey on the farm’s pond, while Sandy and her sisters figure skated.

The brothers and sisters each had their individually-assigned chores but would work together, Ms. Jacobson said. “But they all enjoyed doing it.”

Mrs. Jacobson graduated from Columbia High School in East Greenbush, and soon got a job at Roxy Dry Cleaners on South Pearl Street in Albany where she worked at the front desk for a number of years, her daughter said.

Mrs. Jacobson had always kept it a bit of secret how she met her husband, Ernest, her daughter said. “But I believe they met through her older sister, my Aunt Augie.” The pair had dated for about eight years, unusual for the time; however, Joyce Jacobson said, both had dedicated their lives to caring for their parents.

The couple married sometime in 1958 or 1959, their daughter said, after which they moved into the home that Ernest Jacobson and his father built in Voorheesville, and where they would both remain for the rest of their lives. Joyce Jacobson added that her mother took care of her father’s parents until they died.

Of her own “very family-oriented” experience being raised with her two sisters in Voorheesville, Ms. Jacobson said, “It was just a great way to grow up.”

Joyce Jacobson recalls perhaps just two occasions when she and her sisters had a babysitter — “either our cousin who lived next door or my mom’s twin sister … .”

“They just liked being with us,” Ms. Jacobson said of her parents.

Sometime in 1967, Mrs. Jacobson began working in the cafeteria of Voorheesville Elementary School, eventually becoming its manager. She worked there for 20 years.

“She created ‘Win a Cookie Day,’” her daughter said. “It sounds kind of crazy, but it was so popular.”

Recently, Joyce Jacobson said, a worker who was helping with landscaping on her mother’s property recognized Mrs. Jacobson, and said, “You’re the ‘Win a Cookie’ lady; I won one.”

“I was there when that happened and my mom’s face lit up,” Ms. Jacobson said.

The family found out at a recent memorial service for their mother that she had been sneaking little bags of cookies to some of kids who “maybe felt left out,” her daughter said. “So it was kind of cool to find out what we knew about her all along, but we didn’t know she was doing that with other people and helping them.”

Mr. Jacobson retired from Price Chopper Supermarket’s Rotterdam warehouse sometime around 1987 or 1988, Joyce Jacobson said; shortly after, her mother retired from Voorheesville Elementary School.

“She lived a very balanced life,” Joyce Jacobson said of her mother, “both of my parents did.”

Ms. Jacobson said that her mother had cut out of the newspaper and kept with her for many years a poem that said something to the effect of: Make time for work, make time for play, make time for laughter.

“They had a great retirement,” she said of her parents, “just doing simple things.” The couple would go for walks in Crossgates Mall, swim at local pools, and joined a health club.

The Jacobsons would also work in their garden, take day trips to farms in Columbia County to pick fruits and vegetables, and then they would come home to Voorheesville to make jams and jellies, to can fruits and vegetables, and to bake homemade pies.

Mrs. Jacobson had a lot of joint problems, her daughter said, but that didn’t deter her from taking part in the fundraising walks put on by various not-for-profits. “With her bad hip and knee, she could outrun all of us,” her daughter said with a laugh.

Ms. Jacobson worked for the American Lung Association for 10 years and, in that time, her mother was one of the not-for-profit group’s biggest volunteers. “My dad had asthma, so that’s why she supported it,” Ms. Jacobson said; it’s also why she herself chose to work for American Lung Association.

Mrs. Jacobson, her family wrote in a tribute, “Was a passionate fan of Siena College and Duke University basketball, and any team her daughters played on during high school and college.”

Up until the last few years of each of their lives, her parents were still actively attending Siena men’s basketball games, Joyce Jacobson said. “And that’s where my sister Carol went to college and got her accounting degree,” she said; it was because of their parents love for Siena.

Joyce Jacobson said that she already misses the advice she would receive from her mother. “She just seemed to have a solution for anything,” she said. Even when it came to fixing things around the house, she said, “She would know exactly what to do.”

Mrs. Jacobson instilled in her daughters a sense of independence and the idea that they could accomplish anything they wanted. “That sense of independence that she fostered, I know I paid attention and it paid off for me,” Joyce Jacobson said.

Her mother had a “mental fortitude,” Ms. Jacobson said; despite all of her health conditions, she continued to have an “I-can-do-it attitude” for all of her 91 years.

“I wish everybody could have a mom like my mom,” Ms. Jacobson said. “We’re just so lucky, my two sisters and I.”

Sylvia Jacobson is survived by her daughters Carol Jacobson of Voorheesville, Nancy Tatko of Slingerlands, and Joyce Jacobson of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania; her grandson Steven Tatko of Willimantic, Maine; and many nieces and nephews.

Her brothers, Peter, Frank, and Steve Sultan, as well as her sisters, Ann Strevell, Olga Genego, Mary Alheim, and Sally Macek, all died before her.

The family thanks Kelly Blyth for her compassionate care of their mother.

A private service and funeral will be held at the request of the family.

Mourners may leave condolences online at

Memorial contributions may be made to the Steven Sultan Scholarship Fund at Hudson Valley Community College, 80 Vandenburgh Ave., Troy, NY 12180. Sylvia Jacobson’s brother Steven Sultan was an entrepreneur and World War II veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart.

— Sean Mulkerrin


More Obituaries

  • Dennis E. Holmes, the only son of the late Frank Edward and Shirley Holmes, died in his Schenectady home on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. He was 70 years old.

  • Corporal John James Prastio Sr.

    ALTAMONT — Corporal John James Prastio Sr., 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines, retired, died peacefully at home on Sunday, April 11, 2021. He was 76.

    A Vietnam veteran, he served in three tours and received three Purple Hearts. 

  • Peter Wesley Oliver Jr.

    ALTAMONT — Peter Wesley Oliver Jr., a Marine who worked on highways and farmed, died, after a brief illness, on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, with his wife of over 60 years by his side. He was 83.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.