For Immediate Release — Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo alumna, a retired elementary education teacher, leaves more than a half million dollars to alma mater

GENESEO, N.Y. — Elizabeth R. "Betty" Raynor Neuffer grew up in an era and a place where there weren't too many opportunities for young women.

A descendant of the early settlers of Suffolk County on Long Island, Neuffer grew up in Westhampton, N.Y., on a large farm that her father, John, tended to while her mother worked as a school principal.

And as she saw her older sister, Sarah "Sally" Lind go off to college to follow in the footsteps of their mother, Mabel (Black) Raynor, so, too, did Neuffer. She received her teaching certificate in elementary education in 1936 from the State University of New York at Geneseo, when the college was a "normal," or teacher training, school. At Geneseo, she was a member of the Clio/Phi Kappa Pi sorority.

"She gave them credit for educating her to have a career because, you know, back then out there, those women sort of got married and set up house," said Carol Loonam, of Westbury, N.Y., a second cousin of Neuffer's late husband, Richard. "That's why she remembered the school. It got her started."

Neuffer, who went on to work for decades as an elementary school teacher, died May 17, 2003. She was 87. As a way of remembering her alma mater, Neuffer left the college $570,000 in her will.

Neuffer began her career right out of college in Cutchogue, Suffolk County, not far from her hometown Westhampton. She later went to work at Oceanside School No. 2 in Seaford, Nassau County, where she taught for decades. Throughout the years, she taught kindergarten, second and fourth grades, retiring in her 60s.

"She was dedicated to those children. She really wanted to see them forge forward," said Loonam.

"Many, many times her students looked her up and came back," she said. "So many times she would be in a strange place and a former student would come up to her and say, 'Are you Mrs. Neuffer who taught me?'

"She was what you call the old-time dedicated teacher," she added.

Having grown up during the Great Depression, Neuffer lived frugally and worked hard for a living.

"She came from the old school, and she never forgot it. She lived through the depression and got through it. They lived off the land," said Loonam. "She knew what it was like to live off pennies."

Her father, known as "Big John," was a farmer and fisherman whose family settled in Suffolk County in the 1600s, she said. Neuffer also lived through the hurricane of 1938 that hit the coast of Long Island.

In 1956, she married Richard Neuffer, who worked as a civil servant for the Nassau County government. Together, they shared a love for dogs and boating. They lived in the southern part of Seaford, on one of the canals that leads into the bay, and had their own dock for their 30-foot boat. They also spent a lot of time in summers boating with Loonam and her husband at the Loonams' New Hyde Park home.

Neuffer also left part of her estate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc. in Smithtown, Suffolk County. Neuffer became interested in sponsoring guide dogs because she loved dogs and also because Richard Neuffer's grandmother, who was Loonam's great-grandmother, was blind.

Neuffer sponsored dogs for years, and Loonam found numerous letters from blind people thanking her for her generosity. By sponsoring the dogs, Neuffer supported the efforts of "puppy walkers," people who train Labrador retrievers for one year before the dogs are ready to become guide dogs.

Neuffer also enjoyed entertaining and bowling up until a few years before her death, said Loonam.

"She was no sit-and-knit girl," she said. "She was always on the go, very much involved with life."