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Lila Stein of Massapequa Park dies at 77; community volunteer kept photo diary of the mundane, momentous

Lila Stein, 77, a community volunteer who was

Lila Stein, 77, a community volunteer who was involved with countless Long Island organizations, from the Red Cross to a group helping children with epilepsy, had died. Credit: Stein family

Lila Stein, whose photographic diary documented almost every day of the last 14 years of her life, died Dec. 27 at her home in Massapequa Park. She was 77.

The cause was a Parkinson's-like disease, said her husband, Isidore Eli Stein, 83.

Stein began the project in 1999 as the turn of the millennium approached. Composed of images both mundane and momentous -- her condo community's aesthetics committee walking around looking for rules infractions, the hospital room as her father died -- it eventually filled dozens of annotated black albums in the couple's living room.

Taken with a series of simple pocket cameras in an era before the ubiquitous "selfie," the images rarely showed Stein herself.

"The criteria is that I take the picture," she said in a 2001 Newsday profile. "People are always saying, 'Why don't you get in the picture? I'll take a picture of you.' No. It's my view of the world."

That view was sometimes whimsical, and for the year 2000, a Kermit the Frog doll appeared in every picture she took, even if that meant asking a stranger to pose with the frog.

Stein was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 6, 1937, to Susan Brown, a homemaker, and Ben Brown, a baker. She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, Farmingdale State College and SUNY Old Westbury, where she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology.

After retiring as payroll manager of Farmingdale State College, she volunteered for a number of organizations across Long Island, leading tours of Oheka Castle in Huntington, conducting puppet shows at schools to educate children about epilepsy, and serving as an ombudsman at nursing homes, among others.

The Steins met at a dance in Wantagh in 1970 and married in 1971; it was a second marriage for both of them. The photo diary was one of a series of ambitious, eccentric projects they embarked on together. Other projects included walking from the Nassau-Suffolk county line to Montauk, a 100-mile journey that took five days; walking metro-area bridges, and walking every street in Manhattan.

They began that project, documented on a blown-up map in the couple's home, in 2005 and ended in 2012, when her illness interfered. After 26 visits, each time taking the Long Island Rail Road into Penn Station, the couple had walked about 10 percent of the borough's streets.

Stein is survived by children from a prior marriage: Kelly Nagle of Tampa, Florida; Stephen Browne of Union, Connecticut; Andrew Greiff of Manhattan; and stepchildren Gary Stein of Holbrook; Sharon Groth of Hauppauge; Marc Stein of Woodbridge, Virginia; and Lori Stein of Birmingham, Alabama.

She is also survived by a sister, Doris Appelbaum of Manhattan, and eight grandchildren. A brother, Robert Brown, predeceased her.

A funeral and burial were at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon on Sunday.

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