Deaths Death Notices
STILLMAN, Eleanor Thompson (OBrian)
STILLMAN - Eleanor Thompson (nee O'Brian) Buffalo schoolteacher and WNY native passed away on January 6, 2016 on a sunny day in Seattle, WA with her six children at her side. A determined mom, grandmother, godmother, sister, aunt, tennis player, reading teacher, hiker, host and close friend to many. Eleanor was born in Buffalo, NY (Father's Day) June 17, 1928, the last child of William O'Brian and Claire Mohn. With two older brothers, Bobby O'Brian (Ashville, NC) and Bill (predeceased) and three older sisters Peggy, Happy (predeceased), and Claire Tabolt (Erie, PA), Eleanor spoke of memories of growing up an O'Brian down the street from Buffalo Homeopathic Hospital (Millard Fillmore). At three years old, in the midst of the depression, a circumstantial (some would say almighty help) economic lifeline was generated from short-term boarders renting a room at the O'Brian home at 874 Lafayette Avenue while family members visited loved ones at the Hospital. This was the family "hospital business", and went on for a few years until the economy improved. Eleanor attended Buffalo State to study education and moved to Chicago where she attended the University of Chicago to continue her studies, and then spent time in Europe after World War II where she taught kids from families with parents still stationed overseas in Germany. In 1955, Eleanor met Eugene C. Thompson at Dick Weaver's house on Walton Drive in Amherst and within seven years had six children. For over 40 years, Eleanor resided at 298 Darwin Drive in Amherst where along with neighbors and friends parents, exposed her kids to a life of independent moments and insisted her kids knew how to "pitch in". Throughout her life, Eleanor embraced adventure and along with Gene brought the family outdoors, to Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks - summers at the Buffalo Canoe Club and winters at Murray Hill Ski Club. Eleanor is survived by all her children - Molly Turkewitz, (Stu) Brookeville, Maryland, Peter (Rebecca Nelson), Kodiak, Alaska, Jeanne Smith (Richard) and Andrew Thompson (Lora) both of Seattle, WA, Christine Volz, Fort Collins, CO and Barbara Lines (Scott) of Denver, CO, and 13 grandchildren ranging in age from four to 29 years old. Fond memories of childhood of trips to Crystal Beach in Canada on streetcars and boats, summer days at the once proud destination amusement park and walking the distance to the Canoe Club to swim in Lake Erie - with sisters Claire and Happy. When Eleanor's siblings visited, her kids heard about learning to swim at School 56, sneaking Pall Malls by the pack with sister Happy and attending The Nardin Academy (then an all-girl Catholic School) and learning to can chili sauce and bread and butter pickles from her Mother - Claire Mohn O'Brian. Eleanor shared many kitchen sink traditions including canning vegetables - listening to her kids and their friends around a small wooden table. Her characteristic advice punctuated by "Aren't I right? Wouldn't you agree?"... passing on recipes and individual customized advocacy. Early morning trips with all her kids in the blue bug (VW Beetle) to the Clinton Baily Avenue Market to buy tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers and other vegetables would result in chili sauces, green tomato pickles, bread and butter pickles and the popping lids and cut hands where Eleanor was heard to say, "The acid will heal your hand". Eleanor was still canning with her daughters well into her 80's. In 1967, Eleanor received a Master's in Reading Education from the University of Buffalo and taught for 23 years for the City of Buffalo Public Schools system, including at Saint Brigid's School. Reading was always a part of Eleanor's presence and for many years her love was distributed through reading with her own children, nieces and nephews and grandchildren, including friends children quietly at times in a remedial environment with a neighborhood kid whose parents were trying to find the right coach for their child to "learn to turn the page" and remember the moment. Later in life there were trips to visit kids and grandkids - including a memorable Alaskan summer hiking with sister Happy at Swan Lake in the Tongass National Forest; and learning to shoot a pistol off the back of son Peter's fishing boat in Kodiak; winters walking beaches in La Jolla, CA after she met and married Greg Stillman and early morning visits to her kids' gardens, armed with pruning scissors "just to help out", discovered later by spouses. In 2010, Eleanor moved to Seattle and continued her independence for a number of years while living at an assisted living facility close to her children. In the last few years, Eleanor became a positive force to everyone who interacted with her. While living with Alzheimer's she maintained her sense of humor and willingness to give advice. Eleanor became a mom to her caregivers Sabrina and Amal Ali, for whom the family will always be grateful for their compassion, nurturing of her kids during the last months of her life and their ability to keep the light shining and safely allow her to turn the next page of her life. Eleanor's passion to give was lifelong. She gave her time, thoughts and opinions with determination, rational and characteristic direction. She was always a giver and it will continue. Her desire was to donate her remains to the University of Washington, a teaching hospital in Seattle. In her honor, please have a Manhattan with extra cherry juice and do something kind and unexpected for someone. The family is planning a memorial service to be determined in the future.