Maurine Tiivola Failey, the unofficial historian of East Northport who lived her entire life in the house her grandfather built there in 1906, has died.
She died June 22 in hospice, just a few blocks from her home. She was 99.
Failey was an educator in local school districts for three decades and was an avid reader, seamstress, knitter, bridge player, baker, cake decorator and traveler, who took great joy in spending time with family.
“My mother was a great example of perseverance and taught us not only useful skills, sewing, baking, etc., but how to live a life focused on family and faith,” said her daughter, Dawn Hutchison, of Runnells, Iowa.
At the time of her death, Failey was the oldest member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in East Northport and its Ladies Aid Society.
Failey was born in 1919. Her grandfather was a Finnish architect and builder. Her father, who died before she was born, was a carpenter who worked with his father building homes and hotels on Long Island. Her mother was also Finnish and worked as a housekeeper in Huntington for the Sammises, one of the town’s oldest families.
At 15, Failey was salutatorian of the Northport High School class of 1934, having skipped two grades in elementary school despite not speaking English until she was 6, Hutchison said.
She graduated from Hunter College in 1939 and began her teaching career in the Elwood school district in a one-room schoolhouse, Hutchison said.
In 1941, she married Harold Failey, who was a teacher in the Northport school district. They divorced in August 1971.
Failey also taught in the Northport district and finished her career in the Harborfields district..
She received a master's degree in math education from New York University in 1957.
During her career, she taught every grade except kindergarten, with the majority of those years spent teaching high school math, Hutchison said. Failey retired from teaching in 1974.
During World War II, Failey was one of the first female engineers at what was then Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. in Bethpage, Hutchison said.
“They were looking for people with a math background,” Hutchison said. “I have a feeling they looked at math teachers or people who had math degrees and then she was asked to come in and work in the weights and measurements department.”
After her retirement, she gave presentations to community organizations about the history of the Northport and East Northport area, getting the unofficial moniker of East Northport historian.
Toby Kissam, a Huntington Historical Society board member and its former president, was Failey’s student, colleague and longtime family friend.
“She was a grand lady with multiple talents,” said Kissam, who worked in the math department with Failey at the end of her career. “She came to our 50th class reunion and she was the queen of the ball, wearing a beautiful dress she had sewn herself.”
In addition to her daughter, Failey is survived by Hutchison’s husband Robert, also of Runnells; daughter-in-law Marie Failey of East Northport; five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her son, Dean Failey.
Services were held June 26 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. She was buried at Genola Rural Cemetery in East Northport.