Roberta Neff vonHahmann


Roberta Neff vonHahmann 103, died on Jan. 4th.
Known to many as Bobby, she was born on April 12, 1915 in Toledo, Ohio, to Leah Hazel Gabriel Neff and Rolland G. Neff.
Eventually becoming a musician and landscape and portrait artist, she grew up in Cleveland during the Depression era doing a variety of jobs, including vegetable scrubber and nanny in well-to-do- homes, and waiting on customers in her parents' cafe and gas station. In her late teens she studied piano and life drawing at the Cleveland School of Art, always hoping to find her way into the music and art world.
When she was 23, in 1938, Roberta married Luther vonHahmann, a musician. They moved in 1940 to rural New York State, eventually settling in East Worcester in 1945, where they raised three children over the years. During this time she taught Sunday school and began her devoted choir singing at the East Worcester Methodist Church, where Luther was organist. In the 1950's and 60's, they led the Methodist Young Fellowship.
She had previously been a Girl Scout troop leader in both Fultonville and East Worcester. She was also a member of the United Methodist Women, having joined in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and now attended its summer courses for women at Key Stone College in Pennsylvania, returning to offer these courses to East Worcester women.
From 1956 to 1971, Roberta worked at the Cobleskill Community Hospital (now Bassett) while taking courses in accounting at SUNY Cobleskill and Indiana University, and eventually shifting from office manager to purchasing agent at the hospital.
Throughout these years, Roberta continued to pursue her love of music. She had studied piano in her teens and always remembered how she had performed the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# minor on the Ft. Wayne, Indiana, radio as a young girl. Over the following years, she accompanied and sang with church and community choirs, in East Worcester, Esperance, Cobleskill and Worcester. Following in her husband's footsteps, she studied the organ and served as organist at St. John's and St Mark's Lutheran Church in Canajoharie for two years, and after his death, became substitute organist at the Esperance Methodist Church.
Roberta began to pursue her lifelong dream of painting, both landscape and portraits. At the age of 67 in 1982 she was able to study for ten successive summers with portrait artist Betty Warren at the Malden Bridge School of Art, in New York. After her husband's death, she moved to Cobleskill, where she was commissioned to paint portraits of two teachers at the elementary and high schools. She also was asked to give demonstrations of portrait painting at the high school as well as other local organizations.
As she began to devote herself now to this work, her paintings became increasingly public and appreciated. In 1998 a period painting of the Rexmere Hotel received honorable mention at a Centennial art show. The painting was purchased by the Mural Society and until recently hung at the Cyr Center in Stamford. In 2003, she received third prize in the 11th Annual Jeanne Pierce Walker Prize for the Arts in Oneonta for her pastel entitled "The Beginning," on the theme 'The Susquehanna.'
Altogether, she painted over 100 landscapes, still-lives and portraits, including portraits of the people of Somalia (East Africa) and Lesotho (Southern Africa) from her visits to her daughter in those countries in 1985 and 1990.
She was a member of various art associations, including the Mt. Utsayantha Regional Art League (MURAL) in Stamford.
In her later years, she lived in Phelps at 'Vienna Gardens, near her son and daughter-in-law, where she served as 'resident pianist, for which she received an Ontario County Senior of the Year Award in 2011. Returning to the Worcester area in 2012, she lived with her two daughters in Decatur, where she continued to work, painting six portraits (including a self-portrait,) several still-lives and landscapes.
She is predeceased by her husband, Luther vonHahmann. She is survived by her daughter Hazel vonHahmann, son Milton (Louise) vonHahmann and daughter Gail vonHahmann; her three grandsons Karl (Tammy) vonHahmann, Bryan (Sherri) vonHahmann, and Kraig (Jill) vonHahmann; six great grandchildren, five nieces and their families, and several cousins.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Worcester Emergency Squad, PO Box 191 and the Worcester Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 430, Worcester, NY and Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care, 297 River Street Service Road, Oneonta, NY 13820.
Published on January 6, 2019
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