Wilhelmina “Willa” Vollmerhausen, a longtime Bethpage resident dedicated to volunteer work, her church and her family, died at Plainview Hospital of cardiorespiratory arrest on February 16 at the age of 91.
She had remained independent until the past three years, said her son, Otto Vollmerhausen, an airline pilot with a home in Volusia County, Florida. Her husband, also named Otto, whom she married in 1951, predeceased her in 2008.
“She was a positive, sweet, loving, spirited woman,” said her nephew William DeLauro, of Austin, Texas. “She just gave to others, she was all about family. We were so lucky.”
She retired in 1991 as a billing and advertising coordinator for a Mineola company that owned local newspapers.
She and her husband joined the Bethpage Senior Club shortly before he retired in 1989 as a steelworker with Grumman. Over the next two decades, Willa Vollmerhausen served in positions from recording secretary to club president, helping to organize its activities, recruit new members, and negotiate space for the club at the Bethpage Senior Community Center. In 2007, she received Nassau County’s “Spirit of Senior Centers” award.
She was also active at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethpage, where she was a member of the altar guild and the stewardship committee. “She used to have a sticker on her car that said, ‘Follow me to salvation,'” DeLauro recalled. “She had a very strong faith.”
Born Wilhelmina DeLauro in South Ozone Park, Queens, on November 4, 1930, she is named after her mother, who died after giving birth to her. Willa lived with relatives while her three older brothers remained in a Lutheran orphanage until the remarriage of their father, Alfonse, who repaired Staten Island ferries before teaching industrial arts. He converted the family to the Lutheran faith which became a focal point of Willa’s life.
After her marriage, she moved in with her in-laws in Hicksville while her husband served in the military. The couple bought their Bethpage home in 1954 and their son was born in 1959.
“My mom was a person with a lot of interests,” said her son, who added that his parents had been in a bowling league for many years. “She was a talented artist, mostly in oil paintings. They are on the walls of her house, and I will treasure them.”
Niece Linda DeLauro, of Wyandanch, described her aunt as “another mother” to the children and grandchildren of her three older brothers, Warren, Calvin and Elliot DeLauro, who all predeceased her. She was present for all their birthdays, graduations, baptisms, parties and funerals with cards, gifts and good advice.
“She had a sense of values, old-fashioned values, and she instilled that in all of us,” her niece said. “She loved the old fashioned music of the 40s and 50s, Frank Sinatra, the big bands. She also loved his church music. ‘The Golden Girls’, she loved that show. She and my uncle Calvin watched the rehearsals and have a good old time.”
People close to her called her an excellent cook, an accomplished gardener with “the most beautiful flower garden you’ve ever seen”, said William DeLauro. She loved her pet felines and, he said, even fed the strays that wandered through the cat flap.
“She will be truly missed,” Linda DeLauro said. “I know she dances with my Uncle Otto. That’s what gets you through these things.”
Besides her son, nieces and nephews, she is survived by one sister-in-law, Lois DeLauro of Wyandanch; and numerous great-nephews and great-nieces.
Visitation will be held Thursday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Arthur F. White Funeral Home in Bethpage. His funeral will be Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethpage, with interment to follow at Pinelawn Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 449 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, NY 11714.