Winifred Walter Zimmerman, beloved educator, pianist, and family elder, died peacefully at the age of ninety-six on March 28th, 2022. She resided at the Applewood community in Amherst, Massachusetts. She left behind her children: Barbara Z. Restaino, John (Cathy) Zimmerman and William (Lisa) Zimmerman, her grandchildren: Heidi and Rob Zimmerman, Clifford and Alyssa Restaino, as well as great granddaughters: Emma, Arya, Mila, and Lola.
Born February 28th, 1926, “Winnie” grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey where she began studying the piano at the age of five. As a young child she traveled to Germany by steamer and stayed with family and her cousin Christa for several months becoming fluent in German. During high school she moved with her parents, Frederick and Wanda Walter to the hamlet of Pluckemin, what was then rural New Jersey. Her father was a businessman who commuted daily into New York City and her mother was a homemaker who sent aid to families in Europe living under Soviet occupation.
Winifred attended Bernards High School and went on to graduate from Wellesley College in 1948 after marrying her high school sweetheart Robert, “Bob” Zimmerman. The couple lived in Cambridge where Bob graduated from Harvard College and was a naval officer commissioned just at the close of WWII. After Bob finished his tour of duty, they moved to Philadelphia where he studied city planning and Winifred continued her piano studies as well as took care of her first two young children, Barbara and John.
After a move back to Pluckemin where their third child, Bill, was born, and after a short stay in the hills of West Virginia, the couple settled in Baltimore, Maryland where Bob worked as a city planner on redevelopment projects. While in Baltimore, Winnie continued her music studies at the Peabody Institute. She decided to pursue a career in teaching and enrolled in the graduate education program at Goucher College. After completing her degree and student teaching, the family moved back to New Jersey where Winnie secured a teaching position at the Bedminster Elementary School.
Winnie was drawn to science and math and used her inquiring mind to impart a love of learning to her family and to her students. She taught math, as well as gifted and special ed classes. Children and coworkers found her genuine and open manner irresistible. She took forever to go through the local supermarket because talkative parents and friends sought her out. Intrigued by the natural world, she could name the local native flora and found insects fascinating. She was ahead of her times and helped start the first recycling program in Bedminster Township in the early 1970’s. Throughout her life she provided piano accompaniment for her school, filled in to play organ at the Pluckemin church, provided backup for her grandchildren’s musical adventures, and played for several Applewood events into her eighty’s. She was adept at classical music, but her favorite tunes were ragtime, especially those of Scott Joplin.
Winifred handled difficulty with grace and strength. Shortly after the family moved back to New Jersey, her husband Bob fell ill at the age of forty and was bed ridden until his death eight years later. She cared for him, continued teaching, and ran the household. She insured that her children finished school and had a college education. At retirement, she moved to Amherst, where her son John lives, and became involved in “Around the World Women,” an organization that helps foreign students’ wives feel at home.
As she approached eighty, Winnie moved into the Applewood community with her partner, Alan Smith, where they enjoyed meeting friends for dinner and watching classic movies. After Alan’s death in 2015, Winifred continued to reside at Applewood, looked forward to family visits, played keyboard with her son Bill, and especially liked seeing canine visitors. Throughout her life she had the gift of making people feel comfortable, accepted, and radiated a quality of calm and graciousness. She will be deeply missed. A family and friends service to celebrate Winifred’s life will be held in Pluckemin, NJ at a future date this spring.
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