Alma F. Hooker, 99, of Rutland, died of natural causes Sunday, March 10, 2013, at Mountain View Center (Rutland), where she had made her home for the past six years. She was surrounded by her loving grandchildren at her peaceful passage.
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Born Mary Alma Fabiola LeBlanc, June 21, 1913, middle child of Ernest and Alma (Leonard) Leblanc, Alma grew up on Baxter Street in Rutland and had fond memories of the old neighborhood surrounding her homestead. Even her sons, George and Bob, still recall the names of the Baxter Street neighbors, in many cases never having met them, based on the telling and retelling of the stories. Alma's French-Canadian and Rutland roots were deep and ever present in her life.
After a lengthy courtship of 11 years (interrupted by World War II), Alma married Robert George Hooker of Pittsford in 1946. They spent their entire married life in Rutland where Bob was considered one of the best auto mechanics around, working at Babbitt Motors (later Stinson Ford, now Seward Ford) until his death in 1974. Her husband loved his vegetable garden and always raised bumper crops of corn, tomatoes, beans, onions, lettuce, beets, cucumbers and various squashes for Alma to cook and can or pickle at the end of the summer.
Alma was a warm, loving and accepting person; a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend; always willing to help people in need and welcome all as part of her family. She was proud of and dedicated to her family and her home. She was an early pioneer in the 1950s and 1960s as a full-time working woman who also ran a household. When all of the other mothers in the neighborhood were at home full time, she balanced full-time work outside of the home with the job of housewife and mother. And in her free time, she loved to knit, crochet, watch TV, go to bingo, volunteer at rummage sales, bake sales and get involved with door-to-door fundraisers in the neighborhood. For a woman who never acquired a driver's license, she was remarkably always on the go.
Growing up in a multi-generational, French-speaking household, she was never really comfortable in the English-speaking schools. When her father took ill in 1925, she pleaded with her mother to let her drop out of school after the sixth grade to help at home where she was completely comfortable with kitchen duties, laundry duties and caring for people. Despite her limited formal education, she was a smart and perceptive person, never at a loss for figuring out how to make things happen.
Alma was a lifelong parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, a past president of the St. Cecile Society, past president of the VFW Auxiliary Rutland Chapter, a longtime member of the Catholic Daughters of America, a 20-year-plus volunteer for RSVP and a 17-year participant in the Foster Grandparent Program at the Northeast School. In fact, she often joked that even though she never finished school, she did spend 17 years in the fourth grade.
Alma loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. She was a longtime member of the Peppermint Pipers ladies barbershop group, which performed all over the state and won numerous barbershop singing competitions. She was also a 20-year-plus member of the Rutland Senior Chorus, where she eventually became the director of the group scheduling engagements, organizing sheet music and making sure that everyone had a St. Patrick's Day hat or Christmas outfit for the performance. When she moved to the Mountain View Center, she reluctantly retired as director but was always asked to sing a solo when the group performed there.
From 1929 to 1975, Alma was a popular waitress and short-order cook at many area restaurants. She was particularly proud of being able to welcome tour busses from Canada and take all of their orders in French. Her career began at the Empire Restaurant (her father's establishment) at the age of 16, and over the years, she worked at Looker's Diner, A&W Root Beer Stand (where she was both a "Car-Hop" and the cook), Tampax Corp. cafeteria, The Bradford Room at W.T. Grant Department Store, Mac's Diner, Lindholm's Diner, Midway Diner, Minard's Restaurant, the soda fountain at Woolworth's Department Store, Seward's Family Restaurant and the family restaurant at Montgomery Ward's Department Store. In the early-1970s, she was even the head cook at the Mountain View Center where she had spent her final years.
She was predeceased by her parents; her husband, Bob; her sisters, Bernadette LeBlanc and Theresa Senecal; and by her brothers, Leon LeBlanc and Albert LeBlanc.
She is survived by her sons, George (Cheryl) Hooker of Rutland and Robert (Gregory Sharrow) Hooker of Pittsford; her grandchildren, Sam (Jacqueline) Hooker, Molly (Kris) Hatfield, Emily (Isaac) Moran, TJ Hooker, Siobhan Henry-Hooker, Elizabeth (Nick) Hooker-Farina, Madeline Sharrow, Olivia Sharrow; four great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
The family would like to extend their sincere thanks and gratitude to the fine staff at the Mountain View Center for the excellent care they have provided Alma. Through all of her ups and downs, absolutely everyone - from the people in the business office to the nursing staff, the activities people, physical therapy staff, the kitchen help, the laundry crew, and even the bus driver - has always been professional, capable and friendly. It is clear that they all care very much about the residents and the families of the residents.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Clifford Family Funeral Home in Rutland. Calling hours will be Thursday, March 14, from 4-7 p.m. It was Alma's final wish that Father Privé of Morrisville, Vt., return to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church to celebrate her funeral Mass, which will be on Friday, March 15, at 11:00 a.m. followed by a reception in the parish hall.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to "RSVP of Rutland" or "Rutland Senior Chorus," care of Clifford Funeral Home, 2 Washington St., Rutland, VT 05701; or to the
, in Alma's memory.
Published in Rutland Herald on Mar. 12, 2013