Kelly Berdolt didn't understand why her mother, Patricia Kaphan, insisted on bringing a parfait to a woman at the Copiague senior center every week.
Kaphan, who worked at the center, explained to Berdolt that the woman was usually cranky but that her disposition had lightened one day when Kaphan offered her a taste of her parfait. She continued to bring in the treat, even though the woman remained ornery. "My mother said, 'But there's always hope, and what harm is it?' " Berdolt, of West Islip, said. "That's the type of person she was -- good to everyone."
Kaphan, an employee of Babylon Town for more than 20 years, died Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill from complications of diabetes. The West Islip resident was 70.
Kaphan was born Patricia Foley in Manhattan, the third of four children reared by Irish immigrant parents. After high school, she worked as a secretary before marrying Jack Kaphan. In 1974, the couple and their two children moved to Las Vegas.
They returned to Long Island in 1989, settling in Deer Park, and she soon began working for the town's Industrial Development Agency. In 1992, she joined the town's department of planning and development, and in 1998 was appointed deputy commissioner.
In 2004, she was appointed commissioner of general services. She retired last year, and weeks later started working part time at the Tanner Park Senior Center.
Nancy Delaney, the center's director and a longtime friend, said the pair had lunch together every workday for 19 years. In their "morning ritual," the two would sip tea and discuss plans for that day. "By 9 a.m. we knew where we were going for lunch and what we were having," Delaney said. Kaphan, she said, "was a sister from another mother."
Kaphan was active in the Babylon Democratic Party for more than 20 years. Town Democratic chief Robert Stricoff said she challenged members to improve. "We are a better party because of her, and I'm a better person because of her," he said.
A devoted Catholic, Kaphan believed in being generous in spirit, her daughter said. She was always the first to start a collection for someone in need; the first to order the flowers and pick out the card.
Kaphan is also survived by a son, Robert Barnes, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; a sister, Catherine D'Amaro, of Deer Park; former husband Jack Kaphan, of Manhattan; and four grandchildren. A wake will be held Sunday at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in West Islip from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. A funeral will take place on Monday at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Roman Catholic Church in Deer Park at 11:15 a.m.