Seta Northrop, former biochemist and voracious reader, dies at 83

Seta Northrop, a resident of Huntington since 1969,

Seta Northrop, a resident of Huntington since 1969, died Feb. 13 of lymphoma at the Hospice House in East Northport. She was 83. (Credit: Handout)

A memorial service for Seta Northrop will be Sunday at the Cold Spring Harbor Library -- a fitting place for a celebration of the voracious reader's life.

Northrop, a resident of Huntington since 1969, died Feb. 13 of lymphoma at the Hospice House in East Northport. She was 83.

Northrop was born in New Haven, Conn., on Nov. 24, 1929, to Hagop and Hasmig Mahakian, who were immigrants escaping the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century.


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She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. She went on to get her master's degree in chemistry at Duke University in North Carolina. She worked as a biochemist for the Jimmy Fund Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for about six years.

In 1969, she moved with her children and husband, John Northrop, to Long Island, where she switched careers and became an appraiser of estates. Her sister, Sona Olson, said she was on the approved list as an appraiser for the public administrator's office in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"She had an insatiable curiosity and she had the mind of a researcher," Olson said. "Seta was a veritable walking encyclopedia of information."

Northrop's daughter, Wendy Luck, agreed. "That's what I miss the most, I can't call my mom up and ask her a question."

Luck, of Arvada, Colo., said she always felt proud of her mother during show-and-tell days at school, when pupils would talk about their parents' careers. She said her classmates were "fascinated by the fact that she was an accomplished scientist and that was unusual at the time."

She said her mother was a "tough lady," and very practical, but was "always very, very supportive."

Luck said her mother, who spent a lot of time at the library, loved reading murder mysteries, sometimes 20 in just two weeks, only listened to classical music -- "everything else was noise" -- and had a "fabulous sense of humor."

She volunteered for about 30 years at the thrift shop run by the Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice of Suffolk.

In addition to her husband of 44 years, daughter and sister, she is survived by her son, Randy Luck of Cary, N.C.; and her stepchildren, Michael Northrop of Brooklyn and India Pratt of East Hampton.

The memorial service will be at the library, 95 Harbor Rd., from 2 to 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice of Suffolk, 505 Main St., Northport, NY 11768.

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