Clara Ringwald of Bethpage died at the age of 90 on...

Clara Ringwald of Bethpage died at the age of 90 on Nov. 4. Credit: Family photo

From an early age, Clara “Terri Lynn” Ringwald had a clear talent: singing.

As a teenager she sang in pubs and clubs in the Catskills. Later in life, as a mother of five living in Bethpage, she returned to the Catskills to perform again during the summer, her family said. She also sang in Long Island restaurants and nursing homes.

She had a “born talent,” said one of her daughters, Margaret Ringwald Deatsch of East Durham, in the Catskills. She “was ahead of her time. She was cool and very creative and funny. … She just had style.”

Clara Ringwald died Nov. 4 in a nursing facility in Smithtown. She was 90.

Ringwald grew up in Astoria, Queens, and nearly died as a child. Her father, a German immigrant like his wife, was pushing Clara down the street one day in a stroller when a car came barreling at him. He shoved the stroller out of the way, but was hit himself, and died, Margaret Ringwald Deatsch said.

When she was a teenager in the 1940s she was sent upstate a couple of summers through a program that brought children from cities to rural areas. It was there, while doing jobs such as working on a bean farm, that she performed in places including The Shamrock House, a local pub, her daughter said.

Eventually she married and moved to Bethpage. Her husband, Hans W. Ringwald, died in 2009.

As she raised her family, she put her music talents to good use. She gave piano lessons to local children, and performed at a variety of locations including the Sunrise Village restaurant in Massapequa, her daughter said.

She sang some of the old standards, such as “The Happy Wanderer,” “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” by George M. Cohan, “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “McNamara’s Band,” as well as more contemporary songs such as “Let it Be” and “Something” by the Beatles and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Tony Orlando and Dawn. 

Sometimes her children would accompany her to the nursing homes to perform with her.

“Our house was full of her music and singing and piano playing,” her daughter recalled.

In the late 1970s she made one trip to the Catskills on a July Fourth weekend, during which she performed at the Bavarian Manor, a well-known hotel, her daughter said.

Ringwald is also survived by her other children, Fred Ringwald of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Nancy Attaway of Cripple Creek, Colorado, Jeanne Watson of Nesconset, and William Ringwald of Charlotte, North Carolina; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A private service and cremation was held at Moloney’s Funeral Home in Lake Ronkonkoma. A celebration of her life is planned for April at The Shamrock House in the Catskills.

Ringwald loved cats and adopted many rescued cats during her life. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating to one of Long Island’s cat shelters.

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