In her 102 years, Sally Lepis has been known for helping her family, friends and neighbors, earning herself the nickname “Mother Teresa” among relatives.
So when the Selden woman couldn’t afford to replace her decades-old hearing aids and it became increasingly difficult to communicate, a local nonprofit was happy to give back.
Last month, Lepis was given hearing aids and audiology services, worth about $7,500, through Senior Dreams Come True, a nonprofit program run by the Melville law firm of Genser Dubow Genser & Cona.
“Mrs. Lepis has given so much of herself over the years to friends, family and those in need in her community,” said Jennifer Cona, a managing partner at the law firm.
Lepis has long been the glue that’s kept her family together, her niece, Olivia Schmidt, 73, said. When Schmidt was a teenager, her mother — Lepis’ twin sister — died at age 42. Lepis “immediately jumped in” and raised Schmidt in her Westbury home and cared for Schmidt’s father, who had become distraught after his wife’s death.
“She was our savior,” said Schmidt, of Port Jefferson. “It was like she was putting Humpty Dumpty together again.”
The family leaned on Lepis again several years later. When Lepis’ sister-in-law became sick shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Dianne Lisanti, Lepis cared for the newborn in her first six months.
Lepis remained a caretaker even after Schmidt and Lepis’ own two children were grown, her niece said. She had to return to work as a sales clerk at a Manhasset department store after her husband, Vincent Lepis, died in 1972. After retiring, Lepis moved to a senior citizen community in Selden, where she became known for driving her neighbors to doctor’s appointments and taking them grocery shopping.
About 10 years ago, she was even credited with saving the life of a friend who had fallen in her bathtub and remained there for two days before Lepis found her and called 911, Schmidt said.
“It’s remarkable that she has done so much for so many people and thinks nothing of it,” said Schmidt, who decided to nominate her aunt for Senior Dreams Come True over the summer.
In July, Schmidt and her cousins wrote letters to the nonprofit, praising Lepis for her lifetime of good deeds. Later that month, Lepis learned she would receive new hearing aids, replacing the ones she had used for the past 25 years.
The new devices have made talking over the phone much easier, and will make certain that Lepis will again be a lively presence at her family’s Thanksgiving feast.
“It was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” Lepis said of the gift.