Lucille Claire Covell, formerly of Bridgehampton, died June 29, 2019, in hospice care in Florida. She was 90, just 11 days shy of her 91st birthday, and had been a resident of Celebration, Florida, since 2000.
Born on July 10, 1928, in the Bronx, she was the daughter of Leo and Alice Hilgeman. A child of the Great Depression, she often recalled that, despite the hardships, her parents never made her feel as if they were poor. Her mother sewed beautiful costumes for her school shows and her father grew vegetables in a large, backyard garden to help put food on the table. It was those memories that stayed with her, not the fact that there was little money to spare.
When Mrs. Covell was a young child, her father owned a very successful business on Fordham Road, selling auto parts and accessories in a new and booming automobile industry. He lost the business during the Depression and went to work at his father’s butcher shop.
The Hilgemans lived on Tibbetts Road until the $50 property taxes were left unpaid because her father had been out of work for three years. Always looking at the positive side of things, rather than the memory of losing the family home, Mrs. Covell remembered the garden at the house, especially the hollyhocks that grew outside the dining room window, the treasured baby doll given to her for Christmas, and the winter wonderland created by her father when he’d spray a fine mist of water on the freshly fallen snow.
An high-achieving student, she skipped a grade in elementary school and, in fifth grade, became the editor of the school’s first magazine, “The Trumpet.” The magazine went on to win honors in its category in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, through Columbia University.
In seventh grade at P.S. 19, she wrote an essay titled “The Importance of Cultural and Commercial Relations with Latin American Countries,” earning a $10 prize and a chance to go to City Hall with her family for the presentation ceremony. Immediately following, she used her winnings to take her family out to dinner at the Horn & Hardart Automat near Macy’s.
With the Depression over, Mrs. Covell started taking piano lessons at age 10. She continued to play the piano throughout her adult life, including at church, where she also sang in the choir, often as a soloist.
A talented artist like her father, Mrs. Covell was accepted into the art program at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, but her time there was cut short after she developed rheumatic fever and chorea, which would impact her health later in life. During the following six months of bed rest she put to use a gift that was probably the greatest influence on her future: a mannequin fashion doll. The love of sewing and fashion would propel her to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating in 1948, and later work for a garment company that made girls clothing.
Through FIT, she received a job offer designing children’s dresses. She was offered $25 a week to start, but always confident and conscious of her skills, she refused the offer, saying she could only take the job if she were paid $50 a week. She got the $50.
On Mother’s Day of 1942, a young soldier in uniform came to the Hilgeman house looking for a friend. It was Clifford Covell, who would become her husband. He went to church with the Hilgeman family that day and, as was considered civic duty at the time, Mr. Hilgeman corresponded with him after he returned to duty. Her father eventually passed the task of writing to the young soldier to his daughter. Over the course of his four years of service, they wrote continually and fell in love. They married on June 26, 1949.
She and her new husband had many friends and took wonderful vacations to see the United States. They were known to take spontaneous trips, such as the time they hopped in the car to see the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower. They took road trips out west, visiting Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and even Alaska, a trip that earned them mention in their local newspaper, The Bergen Record, for being the first people to make the drive there from New Jersey. As an avid photographer, her husband documented their trips on thousands of stereo slides and black and white prints. Photographs show her early in the travels wearing dresses, heels and pearls at national parks and later adapting to the fashion of a camping life, wearing cowboy hats, slacks and Western shirts.
Their travels slowed after 1954, when their first child, Pamela, was born, followed in 1956 by Dwight, Claude in 1961, Kim in 1963 and Carol in 1966.
The family moved from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, to Dix Hills in 1972. After her husband’s early retirement in 1983, due to disabling diabetes, they moved to Bridgehampton, just down the road from where her sons raced motocross, and Mrs. Covell began working for what was then Maran, DeBaun, Cruise and Simonson insurance agency in Southampton. She enjoyed her work there, a continuation of a second career started at Geico while they were living in Dix Hills. She later worked part time at the original Loving Touches, home décor shop, in Water Mill.
While living in Dix Hills, Mrs. Covell became a master quilter, a passion that started with a part-time job at the Sewing Nook in Syosset, where the colorful fabrics inspired a new canvas. She crafted hundreds of quilts, presenting them with handmade labels to family and friends over the years.
The warmth of Florida, where her oldest daughter lived, beckoned in 2000. In Celebration, she continued her quilting for many years, buying up yards of fabric at her favorite stores that she went to with her quilting friends. Macular degeneration made it difficult to continue the hobby, but she happily replaced that craft with knitting, which she had learned as a child from her grandmother.
Her health began to decline after getting a heart valve replacement in 2002, but she continued to bring her positive energy to all around her for many more years. Throughout her life, the example she set for her children taught them the values of kindness, resilience and, above all, compassion.
Upon hearing of her death, a friend of her son’s wrote, “I was only 18 when I first met her but she made such a strong impression on me that I thought of her often in my life. She was so kind, gentle, intelligent, traditional and yet so modern. I always was in awe of all her talents. “
Predeceased by her husband, Clifford Covell, in 1989, and her sister, Alice Haff, she is survived by children Pamela (Ronald) Shaw, Dwight (Lisa) Covell, Kim (Tim Motz) Covell and Carol (Michael Ferran) Covell; grandchildren Samuel Creech, Alexander (Amanda) Shaw, Michael Shaw, Dylan Motz, Jackson Motz, Jeremy Covell and Matthew Covell. Her son, Claude, died in 1983.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton.
Memorial donations may be made to the Flying Point Foundation for Autism, a nonprofit founded by her daughter, Kim, fpf4autism.org.
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