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In loving memory of
Sylvia Thele
  • July 30, 1929
  • -
  • March 01, 2021

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Sylvia Samuelsen Thele passed peacefully the early morning of March 1st, 2021.  Covid had struck her just after Christmas and her 91-year-old body could not stand the strain of the fight.  It will come as no surprise to those who knew and loved her that ten years ago, she wrote a short biography of her life in anticipation of this day.  Here are some of her thoughts and experiences:

“I was born in 1929, the year of the Great Depression in New York City, to Rigmor Alvilde Larsen Samuelsen and Johan Sigfred Samuelsen.   I do not remember much of the Great Depression, but heard much about it as I was growing up.  I understand it did not effect my family terribly economically because my father was employed by Con Edison and never lost his job.  Also, we were not in the financial bracket that involved investments in the Stock Market.  I do remember things that most of you learned about in your History classes:   the crashing of the Hindenburg in Lakewood;  Lindbergh’s flight over the Atlantic; Joe Lewis winning his first boxing championship;  President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats,  World War II.  During the War, we had rationing books for things like butter and coffee.  My father dearly loved coffee and even with rationing coupons, it was very difficult to obtain.  One Christmas, a friend of the family brought as a gift what appeared to be a pound tin of coffee.  My father was elated until he opened the can and found a fruitcake the friend had made.

I am the middle child.  I had an older brother, Ralph, and a younger brother, Einar.  They have both predeceased me.  Our family attended church together and participated in almost all of the church activities.  Sig’s Dad, Sverre Christian Thele, was our minister at one time.  I remember a visit he made to us when I was very young and him asking to use our Bible. I was quite upset about sharing the Bible because I thought he might take it away!  The Bible was something my mother read to us every day. A custom she continued throughout her life.

My father passed away when I was 16.  The death of my father at the early age of 43 was devastating.  The first night home, we all gathered in my parents’ bed and prayed together;  it was perhaps the first time that I could really say I felt the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  My father’s death was an event that changed our lives considerably.  My mother had not been employed outside the home since she married and neither my bothers nor myself were finished with high school.  Plans for college were put aside.  When we finished high school, we all looked for employment.  Since that time I have taken many college courses at a variety of schools, but never earned a degree except PHTC-Putting Husband Through College.  Sigurd and I were married in 1949. Sigurd completed his BS in Education, his Master’s  in History, his Master’s in Library Science and completed classwork for a PHD but never his thesis.

The first eight years of our marriage I was employed at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City.  Our daughter, Karen, was born in 1956 and I then decided to stay home and care for the new baby.  After our move to New Jersey, I worked for a brief period of time in the Accounting Department of the Adamas Carbide Company.  However,  after our son, Jon, was born eight years later in 1964, I was a full-time mom.  I even finally got my Driver’s License!!!

Sigurd’s dad was a Methodist minister. When we married, it was natural for our faithfulness to the church and its ministries to continue.  Both Sigurd and I taught church school for a number of years.   I taught 1st and 2nd grades for most of my tenure.  My mother had been very active in the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, the forerunner of United Methodist Women.  Therefore,  I was familiar with its structure, the ministry and mission and so it was quite natural for me to become involved also.  I became very active first in the local church and then in the District and following that in the Conference.  There  I served as lay member to the Annual Conference, President of the UMW, and the Dean of the School of Christian Mission.

I have not mentioned my mother-in-law, Walborg  Sofia Askildsen Thele, to whom I owe so much.  She raised a son, Sigurd, who had been my main and true supporter.  It wasn’t until several years into our marriage that I truly began to appreciate my mother-in-law.  However, I am fairly certain that she was not thrilled when Sigurd and I were married.  At that time, Sigurd was still in college and she was fearful that he would not complete his education.  She even wore black to our wedding, which in 1949 was not the fashion statement it is today.   Regardless of how she may have felt at first, she became a dear friend and supporter and we knew she always remembered us in prayer.”

Sylvia closed her comments by musing whether the readers would “realize the impact their lives have had on other people?  I wonder if you all realize the impact you had on my life?  I wonder if you realize that you all are a part of an endless line of splendor?”

Sylvia was an inspiration to all who knew her.  Her vocabulary did not contain the word “no.”  She worked tirelessly in her church.  Her achievements are attached.  They are too numerous to list here.

Even though, she devoted herself to the church, she had an abundance of time and energy for her family, which grew and grew as the years past.

Eddie became a part of the family to the delight of Syl and Sig.  When Sunday dinner was being discussed, it was always:  “What does Ed want to eat?”  Recently, Eddie recounted a moment he will not forget for it demonstrates her selflessness.  He was working on a carburetor and needed a part.  Since he was immersed in his project, he called up Syl and without hesitation she headed out to pick up the part;  he said that it has always stayed with him.  He was loved by both Sig and Syl as a son dearly.

And then the Grandchildren arrived!   First, Heather Lee followed by Emily Anne two years later.  Before Heather was born, I remember Mom saying that she wasn’t going to be tied down to babysitting.  She was very busy with church activities, etc.  However, once Heather arrived, no one else was going to touch that child.  It was love at first sight.  The joy was compounded upon the arrival of tiny Emily.  She was 5 and a half weeks early and cried constantly, but was loved beyond measure by all her family.

The years passed quickly.  I do not think Grandma Sylvia missed any event that involved the girls.  She cooked, baked, sewed, sang, read and anything else imaginable.  Never-ending love.

A few years later, Sandy married Jon on a beautiful Spring day.  Their obvious happiness brought joy to the hearts of Sig and Syl.  Two years later, Erik Sigurd joined the family.  He was a healthy and happy little boy – the apple of everyone’s eye.

At this point, Grandma and Grandpa wanted to live closer to help as much as they could.  Their move to Forks, Twp. Brought many years of happiness and new and treasured friendships.  The proximity to Jon and Sandy made it possible to often times pick Erik up at Daycare; a task they thoroughly enjoyed.  As they had with the girls, they attended as many events as possible while watching Erik grow into a young man.

The years flew by.  The desire still remained, but the ability declined.  They remained a devoted and loving couple moving from their home in Roselle Park to the senior development in Forks Twp. Pa., to Independent Living at Traditions of Hanover to Assisted Living at Abbington.  Sadly, this is where Sylvia had to say a final goodnight to the love of her life, Sigurd.  Happily, she carried on and made the huge move to Florida.  She lived happily at Buffalo Crossing Assisted Living for a few years until recently when the world turned upside down during the Pandemic.  Up until that time, she socialized with the other residents, loved riding with me around The Villages, getting her Medium Diet Coke and Plain Cheeseburger from McDonald’s and watching her favorite channel  – Hallmark.

So, Mom, I will always remember:

If it wasn’t for you, we would never have had Ticket To Broadway.  I was 5 years old.  You came into the kitchen in Elizabeth, New Jersey and announced you had signed me up for dance lessons.  Didn’t know what that was.  After the first lesson, I was hooked.

I will always remember:

On Halloween, I would come home from school…back then even in Kindergarten, we could walk home by ourselves…and the hallway would be decorated.  She must have worked on it for days.

I will always remember:

My first dance recital.  You made it special – just like you made everything special.  The pancake make-up you carefully applied.  The nosegay you presented with the beautiful pink carnations.  Their scent still takes me back in time.  The smile on your face after my performance because I actually remembered everything involved in the routine “Pineapple Princess.”

I will always remember:

The Saturday night beauty parlor routine where you would try different methods of torture…sorry.  Methods of curling my hair.  So much fun.

I will always remember:

Each August, our special shopping trips for school clothes.  We would come home with bundles and put on a show for the family.

I will always remember:

How you would drive me to the New Jersey School of Ballet in East Orange.  You sat patiently knitting leg warmers for hours without complaint.

I will always remember:

How you made each and every holiday so special.  You baked and baked and baked for Christmas.  The girls and I have made a pact to recreate those recipes.  Fingers are crossed.

I will always remember:

How you and Dad tirelessly supported TTB as we grew.  You followed us throughout the northeast for many, many years.  Eddie always felt confident when you were handling the lobby sales.  In an effort to provide something other than pizza for our 15 or so employees, you would pack up box lunches with homemade goodies not to mention the doilies and toted them along.  We were so blest to have you and Dad with us.

There remains countless other memories.  Precious times we spent together that will comfort me as time passes.  You will always live on in the hearts of those who respected and loved you  so.

So, I will always remember:

My mother, Sylvia  Samuelsen  Thele.   She was my inspiration;  she taught me how to be a strong, confident, happy, loving person.  She taught me how to be a mother.  Mom, I will love you and cherish the time we had together for the rest of my life.


Thumbing Through the Photographs
In memory of Sylvia Thele
Thumbing through the photographs
There’s one I’m trying find
It’s was taken by my dad
Way back when I was 5 or 6
On a warm day
In sunny California
In front of the gardened entrance
To Disneyland
Standing in a row
As families do
My mom, sister and I
As the Big Bad Wolf
(Or was it Honest John
The fox in Pinocchio?)
Was trying to open
My mom’s pocketbook
I remember being angry
Then looking up to mom’s face
(All these years haven’t faded
The image in my mind)
Which was bright with laughter.
Jon Thele 3/8/2021




Instead of flowers, the family would prefer if you would make a donation to
Community United Methodist Church, Memorial Fund, Chestnut Street, Roselle Park, NJ 07204.

Tribute Wall

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  1. Karen Shapiro lit a candle:
    25 Apr 2021
    Lit since April 25, 2021 at 4:30:04 PM

  2. Nickie and Larry lit a candle:
    16 Mar 2021
    Lit since March 16, 2021 at 3:13:23 PM

  3. Karen Shapiro posted an image:
    14 Mar 2021
    This is a photo of the family's first car.  Sylvia and her brother Ralph are sitting inside the car.
    This is a photo of the family's first car. Sylvia and her brother Ralph are sitting inside the car.

  4. Charlene Parlin says:
    14 Mar 2021
    To Karen and Sylvia's Family,
    My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. She had an incredible life.
    Take care, Charlene (Buffalo Crossings Rehab)

  5. Charlene Parlin lit a candle:
    14 Mar 2021
    Lit since March 14, 2021 at 3:26:47 PM

  6. Karen Shapiro posted an image:
    12 Mar 2021
    Sylvia with her brother Ralph, her father John and her Uncle Aage.   <br />
<br />
    Sylvia with her brother Ralph, her father John and her Uncle Aage.

  7. Rick thele lit a candle:
    11 Mar 2021
    Lit since March 11, 2021 at 3:35:09 AM

  8. Emily lit a candle:
    10 Mar 2021
    Lit since March 10, 2021 at 3:54:50 AM

  9. Emily posted an image:
    10 Mar 2021
    Grandma, our cousin, and myself in Bergen, Norway. I am so fortunate to have had this amazing experience with her and Pappy.
    Grandma, our cousin, and myself in Bergen, Norway. I am so fortunate to have had this amazing experience with her and Pappy.

  10. Heather Weber posted an image:
    09 Mar 2021
    Matt, Grandma, and Pappy<br />
November 2013<br />
Heather and Matt’s Wedding
    Matt, Grandma, and Pappy
    November 2013
    Heather and Matt’s Wedding

  11. Heather Weber posted an image:
    09 Mar 2021
    Grandma, Pappy, and me (Heather)<br />
November 2013<br />
Mine and Matt’s Wedding
    Grandma, Pappy, and me (Heather)
    November 2013
    Mine and Matt’s Wedding

  12. Karen Shapiro posted an image:
    09 Mar 2021
    This is a list of the United Methodist positions held by Sylvia
    This is a list of the United Methodist positions held by Sylvia

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