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Frances Halfond: 'Social butterfly' found joy in life

Frances Halfond, 94, died May 12 from the

Frances Halfond, 94, died May 12 from the coronavirus. Credit: Paula Klingelhoefer

On her 94th birthday, Frances Halfond celebrated from morning until night. She had lunch plans and a Judy Garland movie showing in the early afternoon, then dinner plans that stretched until 10 p.m.

“Until she got sick, you couldn’t really keep her down,” said her daughter Paula Klingelhoefer, of Smithtown.

Even in her 90s, Halfond was “completely independent” and had a “very, very hectic and busy social life,” Klingelhoefer said. She woke up thankful for each day she had and appreciative of the memories she had accumulated over nine decades.

Halfond, who was born in the Bronx in 1925, died in her Suffern home on May 12 from complications of COVID-19. She was 38 days from her first symptoms.

Halfond lived in Plainview for 17 years before moving to Rockland County in the late 1970s. She remained in touch with her friends from Long Island even in the 42 years she lived elsewhere, Klingelhoefer said, calling regularly and sending birthday cards.

A careful note taker with an abundance of energy, Halfond both loved to socialize and “kept her own company,” her daughter said. She lived alone in an apartment in Suffern and took advantage of the time she had to herself, watching shows like “Dancing With the Stars” and keeping a spreadsheet of the scores so she could complete her own analysis later.  

She would watch reruns of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” on YouTube and keep her mind sharp by documenting air dates and guest lineups in a notebook. But Halfond also embraced technology, playing the online game “Words with Friends” up until the day before she died.

Her husband, Meyer Halfond, whom she met while summering in the Catskills in the 1940s, died in 1994 at age 69.

“She lived for family, she found joy in everything that she did and celebrating every family event was just a joy of her life,” Klingelhoefer said.

She also loved food, said her eldest daughter Leslie Friedman, who lives in California. She was especially fond of  bagels.

“Eating breakfast, she'd talk about what to have for lunch, and then eating lunch she'd talk about what to have for dinner," Friedman said. It is a habit Friedman has also noticed in herself.

She added, “So much of my mother just shows up in me.”

Throughout her life, Halfond worked as a secretary in New York City, Long Island and Suffern. She was a quick and talented typist, great at shorthand, Friedman said. When she left one secretarial job, she told Friedman that two people had been hired to take her place.

Halfond’s hobbies included knitting, photography and traveling. Before the start of the pandemic, she hosted a weekly mahjong game in her apartment and was known to be a “social butterfly” who penciled everything into her calendar, Klingelhoefer said.

“Her granddaughter Meredith used to have sleepovers with her and she would ask when she was available to hang out, and she would say ‘I could pencil you in two weeks from now,’” Klingelhoefer said.

As self-sufficient as she was social, Halfond was open to learning how to use new technology and did not shy away from the unfamiliar.

“For her 90th birthday, I bought my mom a cane; my sister bought her an iPad,” Klingelhoefer said.

Halfond also used Facebook, sometimes calling her family in the middle of the night asking how to log back onto the social networking site, and FaceTime. As a 14-year-old girl at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, Halfond had learned that, someday, people would be able to see each other on their phones.

“She was excited what seemed like sci-fi fantasy turned out to be a reality in her lifetime,” Klingelhoefer said.

In addition to her daughters, Halfond is survived by her youngest sibling, Helaine Schlansky, who lives on Long Island; a son, Irvin Halfond, of Rockland County; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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