Celeste D. Singleton

Obituary
  • "Celeste- my sister- but also she was my mother and added to..."
    - Joan Johnston
  • "Sabrina Warren says that her favorite memory of Great..."
    - Joy & Sabrina Warren
  • "My fondest memories of Grandma Celeste usually consisted of..."
    - Joy Warren
  • "This reminds us of the great times that we had when we..."
    - Marian & Gerry Hutchings
  • "Our story of Celeste...... It all started when we met..."
    - Marian & Gerry Hutchings

SINGLETON, CELESTE D. was an extraordinary woman, with sky blue eyes and red hair, who possessed an infectious smile, one that all remembered who ever met her. She was a child of the Great Depression, who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and outside Arlington, Virginia with her beloved sister, Joan, and her mother and father who worked hard to make ends meet, although they scraped enough to buy the family a second-hand piano and send Celeste to lessons. A significant family member was her great uncle John, who was a doctor who had a winter home in Miami Beach. He and his wife had no children, so they sent generous gifts to their family, Celeste included. Celeste's first glimpse of South Florida was during visits to his home. When Celeste turned 20, her uncle was named president of the American Medical Association, and he invited Celeste to prepare a musical presentation for his installation in Atlantic City. He also gave Celeste and her sister $2000 each, and Celeste wisely used that money, supplemented by seven years of part-time jobs working for professors and government agencies in Washington, D.C., to go to college. She had joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority in 1937, and graduated from George Washington University in 1942 as a political science major. In 2012, she was honored as a 75 year member of Pi Phi, and she was active in the Miami Women's Panhellenic Association for many decades. Toward the end of college, during World War II, Celeste fell in love with a summer classmate, Lew Sasser. Lew was drafted and sent to Ft. Knox, where he trained to be part of a tank battalion. Celeste and Lew were married in November 1942, and four months later, he was sent to Europe. Celeste filled a three ring binder with love letters from Lew, which the family has fondly kept. Tragically in January of 1945, Lew was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge. When Lew went overseas, Celeste moved back home to Virginia and worked for Standard Oil in their D.C. office. After her husband's death, the young beautiful widow bravely applied for a transfer to New Orleans to begin her life over. There she met Joe Singleton, who had returned safely from the war as an Air Corps pilot, and was applying as a pilot with Delta Airlines. Celeste helped Joe type his resume, he got the job, they fell in love and married and they moved to Chicago, where daughter, Patricia was born. In 1948, they left for the tropical breezes of Miami, where daughter Martha was born. They became members of Saint Thomas Episcopal Church just after that new congregation moved out of a tent and dedicated Rantz Hall. Husband Joe flew for Delta for 15 years but was grounded with emphysema at a young age, and Celeste cared for him for many years with this chronic illness until his death in 1977. She remained active in Pi Phi, and had joined the Coco Plum Women's Club in 1953, where she was involved in volunteer office duties and community outreach. Always glamorous, she attended church every Sunday in a dress, high heels, hat and white gloves. She managed the St. Thomas Thrift Shop six days a week for decades, and her contributions to both the church and the community are worthy of notice: in October 1975 the Herald wrote an article entitled "Debts Paid, Church is Consecrated" which described a large ceremony of 500 plus who witnessed as the church's mortgage was officially burned, as Celeste had submitted the final payment of the $38,000 mortgage from funds she raised! During this time Celeste also enjoyed extensive world travel through airline passes from her husband Joe and daughter, Pat, who also worked for Delta. She traveled to over 30 countries, including Japan, Spain, Portugal, the British Isles, and Russia. She visited King Tut's tomb in Egypt and kissed the Blarney stone in Ireland. She also traveled with friends to the Caribbean, traveled from New York City to Iceland and then Scandinavia, and later took a month long cruise to Alaska via the Panama Canal. Celeste was a beautiful soul with a heart for service to others who was born ahead of her time, as she never fell under the influence of the prejudices of many of her generation. She never saw a person by the color of their skin, their age, culture, or financial circumstances. She believed in the equality of women, and she raised two strong independent daughters. She instilled in them the love of a back road trip with a picnic, sunrises and sunsets, and the local treasures like Matheson Hammock and the islands of Biscayne Bay and the Keys. She treasured her family until the day she peacefully died at home, surrounded by family and the things that she loved. In her last decade Parkinson's Disease had slowed her down, but she found companions to help her live life fully to the end: Maria Cristina, Maritza, Brenda, Adriana, Maria and Paola were all her "earth angels" for many years. Celeste is survived by her beloved sister, Joan; nieces, Dianne and Barbara; her daughters Patricia and Martha and son-in-law, Walt; three grandchildren, Joy, Brian & Holly, and five great-grands: Dillon, Sabrina, Avery, Ethan, and Lilliana, born just two months ago. A private celebration of her wonderful life will be held at St. Thomas. In lieu of flowers, Celeste and her family request that donations be made to either the American Parkinson's Disease Association, or the Tropical Audubon Society.
Published in the Miami Herald on July 27, 2014
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