Valley Cottage, New York and Cranberry Isles
Shirley J. Thormann, longtime resident of Valley Cottage, N.Y., and Cranberry Isles, unexpectedly passed away on Aug. 30, 2020. She was born in Millville, N.J., to Capt. Joseph Mazzotta (USCG) and Ida (Mason) Mazzotta on Jan. 19, 1932. Shirley met her late husband, Gerard C. Thormann, while a student at Notre Dame College for Women in Staten Island, N.Y. She received her degree in political science with distinction in 1953 followed by a master’s degree in teaching from Manhattanville College.
Shirley started her teaching career at PS 59 in the Bronx followed by a stint at White Plains High School. From the late 1960s to 1987, she found her home teaching at Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, Conn. Primarily known for teaching American history, Shirley also served at the end of her teaching career as the head of the Upper School. Afterward, she served on the board of trustees of the school from 2004-2005.
Not only did Shirley excel in the education field, she was a tireless public servant and civic-minded individual. She held many titles: Civic Association president, Cub Scout den mother, Altar and Rosary Society at St. Paul’s Church, CCD teacher, Ladies Auxiliary at Nyack Hospital, Meals on Wheels volunteer, Grace Episcopal Thrift Shop volunteer, Birchbrook Day Camp director and trustee of the Valley Cottage Library Board. She was also a board member of Hi-Tor Animal Shelter as well as Pipers Dream Animal Rescue.
To know Shirley was to know that she believed in the political process. She volunteered as a poll worker, and was active in the local Democratic Party, even though she had been head of the Young Republicans in her college days. Shirley served the town of Clarkstown, first as a member, then as chairwoman of the Clarkstown Planning Board. Under her leadership, the town received the award for its new Comprehensive Plan. She had also previously served on the town’s citizen’s advisory board on housing. Shirley was an ardent advocate for housing for seniors as well as those with special needs.
Shirley brought her same dedication and activism to her summer home in the Cranberry Isles. She volunteered for the Congregational Church Ladies Aid Society and spearheaded the fundraising campaign at the Islesford Neighborhood House to enlarge the library and house the local historical society. She also spent many years as a volunteer librarian.
She leaves behind her four children: Erica (Jack), Johanna, Paul (Joanne) and Kathryn (Jeff), eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her two sisters, Patricia and Mary Ellen, her sister-in-law, Monique, and many nieces and nephews.
Shirley was a mentor, inspirational in the lives of many people with her “cut to the truth” approach. It didn’t matter if you were a student in the Bronx, taxicab driver, a civic leader, a governor or a casual acquaintance. Her impact had a long-lasting positive influence on all of them. She will be deeply missed.
Due to COVID, the family is only having private services at this time and postponing a celebration of remembrance until next year.