Off Topic: Aunt Faity
Esther Leeming Tuttle
July 1, 1911 – July 9, 2015
The memorial service for my Aunt Faity is today [Register-Star notice]. Don’t be sad. If ever there was a life that was a celebration, it was hers. Age is just a number. Until her last hospitalization, Faity was younger at 103 than other people are at 60. Yup, 103. She passed away just after her 104th birthday.
Seeing her was one reason I went to Albany earlier this month [Hudson Valley Horses]. She was in the heavy-care end of a lovely assisted-living community, with airy, open-plan common rooms and sightlines over green, rolling farmland. Sign me up. Her room – of course – was the one with flower bouquets outside the door. The inside was filled with paintings, photos, cards, and more flowers. She was sleeping quietly when I stopped by.
Okay, I wimped out on going back to see her when she was awake. Having girded my loins once, I lacked the fortitude to do so again, particularly as I could hold onto the image of her resting peacefully surrounded by love.
Enough about me. Let’s talk about her … and me.
Her husband, Ben, was my grandfather’s brother. My grandfather, Tom, passed away before I achieved the age of consciousness. When I would visit Grammy, we would head over to see the passel relatives at the Tuttle compound. At final count, Faity had three children, eleven grandchildren, and … sisters and cousins whom she reckoned up by dozens … Sorry. Got carried away. As an only child, I found the amount of family overwhelming, but they all seemed to have a good time.
Faity also had a barn. On her property. As a city kid, this seemed the height of impossibility to me. My first riding memory is of sitting on Bucky, a rotund, chestnut pony. My parents walked alongside while I drummed my little heels trying to get Bucky to trot. Bucky never shifted out of a walk.
Was Faity responsible for my riding addiction? Probably not, the roots go too deep. If I could maintain a horse mania in Manhattan, my current position was undoubtedly inevitable from the get go. However, it didn’t hurt to have access to regular doses of l’air du hay.
Photo of Faity inside the barn, Diane Smook Photography
Faity was a big noise in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, “Faity’s deep involvement with the Garden spanned more than 70 years. She served in a variety of leadership roles … (Auxiliary President, Trustee, Board Chair) … Faity Tuttle’s dedication to community, her enthusiasm for life, and her unflagging energy and vibrancy inspired all who knew her.” ESTHER TUTTLE, NYT
Her 100th birthday party was held in their Palm House, Unfortunately, I was too deep in the hell that was my ongoing tooth abscess to remember much [Hi There]. I surfaced long enough for the speeches and to hear happy birthday sung by her horde of descendants. Almost made me see the point of a big family. Almost.
As a young woman, Faity played on Broadway. As an older woman, she was a granny model in commercials, television and movies. Her IMDB page is incomplete.
Back in the late 80s, Faity was visiting us in Washington DC. A friend and I decided to pursue what appeared to be a casting call. We invited the professional to join us. We turned up at a reasonably non-sketchy address, were herded into lines, & given scenes. It turned out to be a scam. We should have recognized this. When Faity told them she had a SAG card, they didn’t know what it was. Still, we had a fun afternoon and got out before signing anything.
If memory serves, my friend and I were bank robbers and she was our hostage. I remember thinking, “Wow, this isn’t just family myth, she can actually act.” Prophet in his own town and all that.
At age 103, Esther “Faity” Tuttle still going strong
New York Times
100 Candles on Her Next Cake, and Three R’s to Get Her There
The Observer on Sunday
Making the century mark
Woman Around Town
Esther “Faity” Tuttle–Still No Rocking Chair For Her
No Rocking Chair for Me: Memoirs of a vibrant woman still seeking adventure in her 90s (iUniverse 2003). I’m on page 196, along with several eyebrow raising stories on my father and my uncle.
Good-bye and God bless, Aunt Faity.