Edna H. Vail

Longtime Riverhead resident Edna H. Vail passed away Dec. 15, 2014, at the age of 98.

She was born April 27, 1916 to Adelaide (Bunce) and William Louis Harrer. Edde, as she liked to be called, moved from Brooklyn to Riverhead 82 years ago, after she married.

She was a well-known musician and music teacher who traveled to all North Fork towns and gave piano, accordion and guitar lessons to hundreds of students. She also was a church organist for over 30 years.

When Otto Ninow opened Ninow’s Music Store on Railroad Avenue in Riverhead in 1957, he asked Edna to teach for him, and she soon began giving music lessons. Her son Ralph said, “She loved to teach and said she hoped to die teaching, and always told each student to ‘practice and try your best.’” In June 1967, she and Ralph purchased the business, which became a fixture in Riverhead.

Unfortunately, on Jan. 1, 2006, Edna had the first of several strokes. Ralph continued to operate the store, but in June 2013 he and his helpers decided that because of the area’s continuing decline they could no longer continue a family-oriented business on Railroad Avenue and relocated Ninow’s to 30 West Main St. in Riverhead.

Edna’s immediate family, along with several friends, gathered in April to celebrate her 98th birthday and her life. The celebration of life was held in lieu of a formal funeral service and Ralph said it was a “bittersweet memory for all.”

Edna had another son, Forrest W. Vail, who died in 1970. Forrest’s wife, Mieko, died in 2010.
In addition to her son Ralph, she is survived by Forrest and Mieko’s four children: Bill, John and Daniel, all of Riverhead, and Mindy Sullivan of Tennessee; and nine great-grandchildren. Edna, the oldest of four siblings, was predeceased by her two sisters and her brother.

There will be no funeral service. Ralph said, “She has outlived many of her family and friends, and attributes her longevity to the love she shared with everyone.”

The family asks that donations be made to the Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance or Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.