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Elaine V. Houck

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Elaine V. Houck Obituary
Houck, Elaine V.

Ithaca: Elaine V. Houck died at the age of 70 on April 15, 2011 in Ithaca, NY. Elaine was a devoted wife, loving mother and dedicated teacher in the Ithaca City School District. Elaine Patricia Vezzani, the older child of Adeline and Bruno Vezzani, was born in Pittsburgh, PA on March 17, 1941. She grew up in Charleroi, PA, graduating from Charleroi High School in 1960. She earned a bachelor's degree in child psychology from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1964, followed by a master's degree in the same subject from Iowa State University in Ames in 1965. Elaine met her future husband, James R. Houck, at Carnegie Tech. and joined him in Ithaca where he was a Cornell graduate student in physics, and soon a Professor of Astronomy. Elaine was proud of her husband's accomplishments, helping him host many faculty events, and traveling with him on occasion to rocket development and launch sites in New Mexico, California and Florida. Elaine's two sons, Christopher, born in 1968, and Robert, born in 1971, as well as the friends with whom they grew up, benefited greatly from the rich scientific backgrounds of Elaine and her husband. Although Elaine had spent some time helping with the early management of the Fairview Heights and Manor properties, she returned to her lifelong interest in child development. She was an insistent believer in the importance of reading and telling stories to children of all ages. By 1978, she had embarked on her teaching career, beginning with elementary schools in Ithaca, and soon moving to middle school when the Sixth Grade Program first was developed. Elaine fervently wished she could have enjoyed more years teaching English at Ithaca High and Dewitt Middle School, where she also served as English Department Chair. She had a keen understanding of each child's unique worth, spending countless hours, not only ensuring the development of communication skills and imparting with humor and sensitivity literary content such as Jane Eyre and Romeo and Juliet, but also helping individual students grow emotionally through the sometimes difficult years of adolescence. She was particularly proud of the later accomplishments of those students who had once struggled to succeed. Elaine was a tenacious person. Having been active in her own high school's forensic club, she qualified as a NYS Lincoln-Douglas high school debate judge and helped establish an Ithaca High School Debate Club. When the school district could not pay for transportation to tournaments around the state, she learned to drive a school bus. Elaine was the cornerstone of her family. Later, several illnesses slowed her, but she steadfastly maintained her love for life and her family. The foundation she laid in her children's lives is her greatest legacy. She is survived by her brother, Eugene Vezzani of Manhattan; her husband, Jim Houck; her sons, Chris (Tracy) of Boulder, CO and Rob (Michelle) of Manhattan; as well as her four beloved grandchildren, Adriana, Aiden, Joshua and Olivia. Friends may call on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, from 4-6 p.m. at the Bangs Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospicare of Tompkins County. A private burial will be held at a later date at Lakeview Cemetery.

Published in Ithaca Journal from Apr. 16 to Apr. 18, 2011
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