WATERTOWN, NY — Stella Ann Hunkins Garitz, 87, a longtime resident of Watertown, NY, passed away peacefully on Monday, July 26, 2021, at Tiffany Springs Senior Living Community in Kansas City, Missouri, where she recently moved to be closer to her family.
Stella was born March 2, 1934, in the village of Gouverneur, NY, to the late Ernest and Lucille (Wells) Hunkins. Stella graduated from Gouverneur High School as the Class President in 1951, with her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and her master’s degree in Library Science in 1955 from Syracuse University.
She began her teaching career as a librarian in September 1955 in North Creek, NY. She also taught at the Liverpool School District from 1957 until moving to Watertown with her family in 1965. Stella began her career as the elementary schools librarian with the Watertown City School District in 1971 and achieved tenure in September 1975. After retirement from her 36 year librarian career in 1997, she remained active in the Delta Kappa Gamma education society and held many leadership positions. She created her chapter’s newsletter, Chi Chatter, and traveled around the North Country for their regular meetings.
Stella felt her greatest accomplishment was her family. Her greatest blessing was her only child, John Michael Garitz. Her daughter-in-law, Teri Jo Wallace Garitz joined the family in 1993 and quickly became the daughter she always wanted. She was a dedicated and proud Grandma to her two grandchildren, Marisa Johanna Wallace Garitz and Michael John Wallace Garitz. Even from afar, she was involved in their lives, frequently traveling cross country for visits to Oregon and more recently Missouri. She would show pictures and share their achievements with anyone who would listen to her “One Happy Grandma” stories.
She was a dedicated and faithful member of Asbury United Methodist Church for over 55 years. She was a member of the Board of Trustees and honored as a Trustee Emeritus in 2011 when she retired from the board. Stella was influential in the creation of New Day Children’s Center and retired from their board after 30 years. She was honored as a Director Emerita in 2017 and the center’s library was dedicated as the Stella Garitz Resource Room. Stella also was the founding member of the Ashbury United Methodist Book Club and remained active for over 25 years. She led each book club meeting into 2021 creating book summaries and author’s bibliography and notes compiled in mini scrapbooks for each member.
Stella greatest passion was her lifelong love of reading. She was an avid collector of author/illustrator autographed books. She traveled to many author presentations and American Library Association conferences. Stella had great pride in her complete collections of the Newbery and Caldecott Book Award winners.
Her other passions included researching her family history, scrapbooking, trips with the Jefferson County Historical Society, counted cross stitch, decorating her home, being a judge for the Public Television Whiz Quiz competition, and planning reunions and biannual lunches for the Class of 1951.
Stella is survived by her son John and daughter-in-law Teri Jo Wallace Garitz (Parkville, MO); her granddaughter Marisa (Omaha, NE); grandson Michael (Parkville, MO) and sister-in-law Elsa Poole (Boerne, TX). She also leaves behind many cherished friends and extended family members.
She was preceded in death by her father Ernest; mother Lucille (Wells), a brother Robert; and former husband Joseph Garitz.
Calling hours will be 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at Cleveland Funeral Home, 404 Sherman Street, Watertown, N. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, Aug. 9, at Asbury United Methodist Church, 200 Parker St., Watertown, NY. A private family burial will take place at Hermon Cemetery, Hermon, NY on Monday, Aug. 9.
If you wish, in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to New Day Children’s Center or Asbury United Methodist Church.
Online condolences may be shared at www.clevelandfhinc.com.