Framingham - Elsie Mae Borden DeGarmo-Smith of Framingham, MA died January 25 at the age of 91 at Saint Patricks Manor, where she had been living since 2018. Widowed twice by the age of 38, Elsie raised five children in Pine Plains, NY while building a successful sales business during an era when women still generally worked in the home. A woman of deep religious faith, upon retirement she cared for developmentally challenged adults in her home in Pine Plains for nearly 20 years. She relocated to Towson, MD in 2007, building a new circle of friends at Towson Presbyterian Church, where she became a deacon, and at Blakehurst Retirement Community, where she lived until 2017.
She is survived by her five children: Lindley DeGarmo (Sarah Finlayson) of Tarrytown, NY, Mark DeGarmo (Jan Hanvik) of New York City, Todd DeGarmo (Nancy Scheemaker) of Shushan, NY, Susan Tonkiss (John) of Framingham, MA, and James Smith (Denise) of Hudson, NY; nine grandchildren; and a brother, Miles Borden, of Kings Park, NY. Born in Kings Park to Bessie and Miles Borden,
Elsie graduated as valedictorian of her class at Kings Park High School and from the Plattsburgh State Teachers' College with a BS degree in nursing. She later obtained a master's degree in counseling from Albany State Teachers' College. She became a nurse teacher at Pine Plains Central School, where she met and married Lindley Spicer DeGarmo, a high school mathematics teacher. Upon his death from cancer in 1960, Elsie returned to teaching, serving as a middle school guidance counselor in Poughkeepsie, NY. In 1962, she married James Edward Smith, a business teacher at Pine Plains. Upon his death from Hodgkin's Disease in 1967, she began a highly successful career at Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, the publishers of World Book Encyclopedia. Propelled by her dynamic personality and passionate belief in education, Elsie rose quickly, become World Book's top national sales representative in 1967 and 1968, and then going on to become a motivational speaker for them, managing and training others nationwide. Elsie managed to balance her business with a deep devotion to her family. She encouraged her children to develop their unique talents and follow their passions, and never left any doubt of her love for and pride in them. Elsie was known for her energy and compassion. She was an active member and lay preacher of the Pine Plains Methodist Church for 57 years. Elsie was an exuberant singer with a joyous soprano. She loved to entertain and always made a point of including the elderly and the lonely. In Towson, she undertook an extensive card ministry, writing many messages of support each week to the ailing and grieving. As she succumbed to increasing dementia in her final years, she maintained her sweet personality and loving nature to the very end.
A memorial service in celebration of Elsie's life will be held at the Pine Plains United Methodist Church on April 25, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be directed in Elsie's memory to Pine Plains United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 317, Pine Plains, NY 12567; Towson Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson, MD 21204; or The Plymouth Church in Framingham, 87 Edgell Road, Framingham, MA 01701.
To plant a tree in memory of Elsie Degarmo-Smith, please visit our tribute store.