Wilfreda B. Stone, 96, Watertown

WATERTOWN, NY — Wilfreda B. Stone passed away peacefully at Samaritan Keep in Watertown NY, June 12, 2018 at the age of 96 years due to complications of polio and neuropathy.

She was born Oct. 21, 1921, in Syracuse NY, to Oscar J. and Mary Mott Brown, the fifth of five children.  She grew up in Baldwinsville and attended Syracuse University for her undergraduate and law degrees, graduating in 1943 and 1944.

On Dec. 27, 1944, she married Irwin K. Stone, moving to New York City to practice law on Wall Street which supported the couple while Irwin was attending NYU Medical School. In 1948, the couple moved to Baldwinsville where Irwin pursued a residency in internal medicine at University Hospital in Syracuse and she opened a practice with Ormand N. Gale. In 1954 they moved to Watertown and she joined the law firm of Giles, Maloney, Marsh, Clary & Swartz which later became the firm of Giles, Marsh, Goodwin & Stone, P.C.

Their two children Charles and Gale were born shortly thereafter in 1955 and 1956.  She established a practice in real estate and will/trust law, eschewing a trial-law practice to raise a family. She remained active in her legal practice until her retirement in 1986, after 42 years of practicing law.  Her practice remained centered on real estate and beneficiary law, where she established a reputation in beneficiary law, which led to an advocacy for estate planning for women.

Even while practicing law and raising two children, she was active in the community of Northern New York.  She was a member of the Board of Education of the City of Watertown for 10 years, with a two-year term as president, Chairman of the Small Cities Committee of the NYS School Board Association, member of the Board of BOCES of Jefferson County, member and president of the Women’s Auxiliary to the Jefferson County Medical Society as well as memberships in the First Presbyterian Church, the Samaritan Auxiliary and the Auxiliary to Mercy Hospital, Board of Directors of Northern New York Community Foundation, Central New York Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Girl Scout Council of Jefferson and Onondaga Counties. Within the legal community, she was a member of the American, New York, and Jefferson County Bar Associations; she served as the first woman president of the Jefferson County Bar Association from 1986 to 1987.

Billie and Irwin were active alumni of Syracuse University through their donations and regular attendance at Syracuse basketball and football games.  With her sisters, she established the Oscar J. Brown Legal Scholarship at Syracuse University. She was recognized by Syracuse University for her activity as an alumna and her professional accomplishments with the awarding of the Melvin A. Eggers Senior Alumni Award in 2006.  She and Irwin also loved to travel with their favorite trips to the Caribbean and more recently remote Georgia.  They were active in Henderson Harbor Yacht Club where they raced a series of Lightning one-design sailboats until the 1990s.  Their love for the Harbor led to the establishment of the conservation easement with Ontario Bays Initiative of Stoney Cove in Henderson Harbor in 2016.

It was during a recognition speech at Syracuse, that she remarked about her experiences in the legal profession.  Her initial goal was to attend the Maxwell School of Communication, but, when she was refused for the PhD program on the basis of her gender, she applied to the Law School instead.  Her father, a distinguished trial lawyer, was told about her application after her acceptance.  He later spirited her off to Rochester to be inducted in to the Bar in 1944 prior to her marriage so that she would be listed as a “Brown.”  It was during that session that the presiding judge asked her to remove her hat, and she refused, stating “Your Honor, women don’t remove their hats in court.”  She prided herself on always having a matching hat and outfit for court.  In later years she was noted for her fiduciary concerns in the practice where her partners noted in reference to practice expenses, “Mrs. Stone won’t like that.”  Raising children with a husband who was a busy internist was almost equivalent to today’s single-parenthood.  Her children growing up felt that it was the norm to manage a household and a practice simultaneously.  Her practice in estate law allowed her to do so, although she did retain her court room desire to win arguments and games, leading to the most famous quote during a discussion of conversion of temperature, “Charles, it is not important whether you are right or wrong. It is important that you win the argument.”

In our family, she represents the last of her generation, the great generation.  She is preceded in death not only by her parents but all of her siblings, Olive, Helen, Barbara, and Oscar II and all of their spouses, as well as Irwin and his siblings Marcia and Fred and their spouses as well.  She is survived by her children, Charles (Tanya) and Gale, her grandchildren, Charles II, Erin and Tyler, and a host of nieces and nephews.  A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Watertown on Monday, June 18, at 2PM. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory to Ontario Bays Initiative, Inc., PO Box 117, Chaumont, NY 13622, and Syracuse University College of Law, 950 Irving Avenue, Syracuse NY 13244 would be greatly appreciated.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Cleveland Funeral Home, Watertown, NY.

Online condolences may be made at www.clevelandfuneralhomeinc.com.