Easthampton, MA - Nellie “Nell” Kirschner passed away in the early hours of January 10, 2022 following a brief illness. Her death came just eight weeks before what was to be her one hundredth birthday. A life-long Easthampton resident, Nell was born March 8, 1922 to European immigrants Antoni and Victoria (nee Wegrzyn) Mamulski.
A family of ten, the Mamulskis were living in a small apartment near the Nashawannuck Pond when the Wall Street Crash occurred. Nell was seven years old at the time. It was because of the Great Depression that Nell had the opportunity to learn piano, and it became one of her lifelong passions. During the 1930s employment was as high as twenty-five percent. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created to put people back to work. Thousands of public works projects were completed, but probably less well known was the fact that artists, actors, writers and musicians were also provided jobs. The WPA’s Federal Music Project sponsored free piano lessons to the citizens of Easthampton, and a teenager named Nell Mamulski was one of the enrollees. Nell took to the piano readily. She not only experienced the joy of playing past her ninety-ninth birthday but inspired her son and granddaughter to also learn the instrument.
Despite the hardship of growing up during the Great Depression, Nell led an incredibly fulfilling and rich life. Never a person to complain, she steadfastly maintained a positive outlook to the end of her life. She was an engaging and social, but humble, woman. A graduate of Easthampton High School, she continued her education at the former Northampton Commercial College. She held office and secretarial positions at the Springfield Armory, Westover Air Force Base and Smith College.
In her twenties Nell met and married her true love Karl L. Kirschner. They raised two children Thomas “Tom” and Joan. As a young married wife and mother, Nell’s interest in cooking, sewing, and hiking among other pursuits became evident. Husband Karl, an avid swimmer, encouraged his wife to join the local YMCA. Nell joined and became a confident swimmer. She later acquired her Red Cross Senior Life Saving and Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certificates and taught Tiny Tots swimming at the Hampshire Regional YMCA. She remained an active “Y” member at either the Holyoke or Northampton facilities for well over sixty years. Even in her mid-90s, Nell swam laps twice a week.
Nell warmly received friends and family into her home and liked cooking and baking for all to enjoy. Nieces and nephews would later report how much they liked spending holidays at the Kirschner’s as children. They loved Aunt Nell’s cooking (and Tom’s magic tricks and astronomy shows). Like her husband, Nell enjoyed the rewards of working the land. She had done so since childhood. For many years, she landscaped the property with flowers and canned vegetables from the garden. She made preserves from the fruit of shrubs that Karl planted such as quince and gooseberry. Peaches and pears for canning came from local orchards. She sewed lined drapes or curtains for every room of the house and made fitted slipcovers for worn upholstered furniture pieces. Nell made many of her own clothes and outfits for Joan. She seemed to be able to mend any item of clothing that came her way and turned fabric scraps into braided rugs and quilts. “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” was a way of life for Nell and so many others who’d lived through the 1930s.
After Karl retired, the couple enjoyed several escorted bus tours of the United States and Canada. They made lasting friendships with a number of couples they met in their travels. After Karl’s passing, Nell joined numerous Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) study tours with her travel buddy Elizabeth “Betty” Ferrante or her sister Helen McQuillan. Nell was particularly proud of items she made as part of a woodworking class at an Elderhostel in Maine. Her sister-in-law Jacquelyn LaFrance invited Nell on a university-sponsored tour of Europe which she thoroughly enjoyed. She also relished car rides to visit her son and family in New York and a trip to Hawaii with her daughter and son-in-law to celebrate her ninetieth birthday. Until her final illness, Nell was happily living in the same home as the one built seventy years prior by her uncle.
In addition to her parents and beloved husband, Nell was predeceased by a sister Mary Lux and five brothers Stanley, Walter, Fred, Edward and Felix Mamulski. Many dear friends also predeceased her including Eleanor Blakesley, Betty Ferrante, Elsie Kessler, Jane and Bill Krug, Helen Latka, Jeanette and Real Richer, Dora Parsons and Elsie Silvia.
She leaves her devoted and loving children Thomas Kirschner of Pleasant Valley, NY (Christina), daughter Joan Kirschner of Holyoke, MA (Philip Guerard), sister Helen McQuillan of Southlake, TX, four grandchildren Stephen Kirschner of New York City, Kathryn Kirschner of Los Angeles, Karl Kirschner of Hyde Park, NY and William Kirschner of Columbus, OH, a cousin Edwina Buehler of New York, sister-in-law Jacquelyn LaFrance of Vermont and dear friend Emlyn Makofsky of Florida. Nell also leaves several nieces and nephews.
The Graham Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements and services were private. Donations in Nell’s memory may be made to The Pascommuck Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 806, Easthampton, MA 01027 (www.pctland.org) or to the Stanley Park Wildflower Display Garden, Stanley Park of Westfield, Inc., 400 Western Ave, Westfield, MA 01085.
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