Sylvia C. Sheketoff, born November 19, 1927, in Hartford, Connecticut to Reuben and Clare (Abrahams) Cohen passed away peacefully with grace on March 15, 2019, in Oregon. Sylvia grew up in West Hartford (Foxcroft Rd) Connecticut. She raised her family in West Hartford, and then after spending almost 30 years in Delray Beach, Florida, she moved to Oregon where she spent the last seven years to be near to her son and his family.
Sylvia leaves behind her son Alan Charles (“Chuck”) Sheketoff, her daughter-in-law Naseem Rakha, and her grandson Elijah Rakha-Sheketoff of Silverton, Oregon. Sylvia lost her husband of 60 years Lewis S. Sheketoff in 2012 and her other son, Andrew Roy Sheketoff, in 2010.
Sylvia graduated from Beach Park Elementary School, Plant Junior High, and Hall High School in West Hartford, and Simmons College, where she majored in English in the class of 1949. When her children were in elementary school, Sylvia went back to college and received her Master of Education degree from St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford.
When Sylvia married Lewis, she was working at what was then known as Hartford Electric Light Company on Pearl Street, not far from Lewis’s office on Pearl. After they married, she and a friend opened and ran an art gallery, was a docent at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, taught at local schools, and sold residential real estate. Early on in their marriage she and Lewis spent evenings teaching English to holocaust survivors who had emigrated to Greater Hartford.
In addition to reading, entertaining, education, and philanthropy, travel was important to both Sylvia and Lewis and throughout their life together they made time to see the world. For their honeymoon they took a month-long cruise to South America and later included trips to Cuba, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Mexico and Latin America, and, of course, the United States. A favorite family vacation was the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, where they and their son Chuck and his family would enjoy the lectures, courses, and performance arts and the natural beauty of the area and time together.
After losing son Andy, Sylvia and Lewis moved to Oregon to be near their surviving son and his family. The family could enjoy more frequent visits, and Sylvia, though in the early stages of dementia, was able to travel to see old friends and even one last trip two-week trip to Chautauqua. While dementia eventually robbed Sylvia of her active and stimulating life, she was happy and comfortable and well taken care of by the wonderful and caring staff at SpringRidge Court in Wilsonville.
Naseem, who relished her mother-daughter relationship with Sylvia and shares the same November 19th birthdate, created a wonderful (about 4 minute) music video for Sylvia – visit http://bit.ly/TYSylvia.
Sylvia was philanthropic and politically active. Over the 60 years of their marriage Sylvia and Lewis established a variety of endowment funds with Jewish and community foundations in Hartford and south Florida. The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Florida Boca Raton and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving are among the recipients of her generosity.
Sylvia was a long-time member of the League of Women voters, supported Jewish social services and history programs in Hartford and Palm Beach counties’ federations; women’s rights groups like EMILY’s List, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood; the Alzheimer’s Association and NAMI and other mental health support groups; J Street, The political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans; Simmons University and other educational efforts; and the Oregon Center for Public Policy that her son founded and ran for 20 years. Please feel free making a contribution in her honor to support any of these or other like-minded organizations or any pro-choice, pro-women, progressive candidate for elective office.
Just eight days before Sylvia passed, Sylvia’s amazing, loving, quirky, smart, beautiful, caring, sister-in-law Gerry Van Meter Cohen passed away. Sylvia and Gerry were extremely close and that is why their children have organized a memorial service followed by a celebration of life reception to honor both of them together. The service and reception following will be at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 30th at Congregation Beth Israel, 701 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford, Connecticut.
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