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Joanne Zeeman: Loving mother and avid reader

Joanne Zeeman and her brother, Harold Breecker.

Joanne Zeeman and her brother, Harold Breecker.    Credit: Breeker Family

Joanne Zeeman was such an avid reader in her later years that she would often borrow five or more books at a time from her local library.

Zeeman, who was homebound and on 24-hour oxygen in Suffern, New York, because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, died on March 31 due to complications from COVID-19, according to her brother, Harold Breecker of Melville. She was 79.

“She was very brave all through it,” Breecker said.

What thoughts pass through your mind when a loved one dies? So many. For Breecker, one was that his sister probably has library books in her apartment that can’t be returned until the quarantine period ends for Zeeman’s home health care aide.

“Our lives are totally turned inside out,” Breecker said.

Joanne Zeeman lived in Douglaston, Queens, before she married the late Richard Zeeman and moved to Spring Valley, New York, to raise a family.

“She was two years older than me,” Breecker said. “We had this humorous idea — she always said that when I became a father, I became two years older than her instead of her being two years older than me. Every time we had a birthday, she always reminded me I was older than her. She was a very generous, giving woman who loved her family.”

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And there were the books. So many books.

“An avid reader,” Breecker said. “She would be reading constantly. Anything in print.

"But she was not of the 21st century in terms of technology. She didn’t have a Kindle. She liked that fat book to carry around or, actually, she wasn’t going anywhere, but she sat in her living room and read. She liked to have the physical book.”

Zeeman is also survived by her daughters, Andrea and Nicole, and their families.

Andrea Zeeman, who declined to be interviewed, posted the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” on her public Facebook page to honor her mother. It reads:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


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