Denise C. Rathbun

Denise C. Rathbun

Denise Catherine Rathbun of Greenport died May 27 at The Shores at Peconic Landing after a long illness. She was 83.

She was born March 11, 1934, in Yonkers to Frida (Schad) and Don Seavey Rathbun, a nurse from Zurich and a corporate lawyer who married aboard the S.S. Rex en route from Naples, Italy, to New York. She grew up in Riverside, Conn., graduated from Greenwich Academy and, after a year at Wellesley College, earned a bachelor’s degree in government in 1956 from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., having made the dean’s list consistently for three years. She remained a devoted Smith alumna throughout her life.

After 10 years in PR at Doubleday publishers, Denise began work toward a master’s at City University of New York. However, according to longtime friend Phyllis Rosser, she didn’t finish “because she realized teachers weren’t in big demand” at the time. Instead, she returned to publishing as an editor at Henry Holt and Praeger Publishers, where she was in charge of history and political science titles. She later became in-house editor for the consulting firm Organization Resources Counselors, from which she eventually retired.

After living for many decades in the heart of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, Denise purchased the historic “Walt Whitman” house in Greenport in 1997 and quickly immersed herself in village social and civic life. In addition to the beautiful garden at her home, she designed and planted the garden behind Village Hall to complete Master Gardener certification from Cornell Cooperative Extension. She volunteered at Eastern Long Island Hospital’s Opportunity Shop, was a member of the village tree committee and taught English and citizenship at Floyd Memorial Library. She also became a certified Alexander Technique instructor and operated a private practice in the village. In addition, she took Pilates classes, was an avid bridge player and studied German and Chinese. She was known for her annual March Madness parties, where friends from across the North Fork would gather to reconnect after a winter of relative hibernation.

She always loved to travel, Ms. Rosser said, making frequent trips to Switzerland, where she had relatives, and extensive visits to Australia, France, Indonesia, Viet Nam and throughout mainland China.

Denise was an active member of First Presbyterian Church of Southold and became an ordained deacon there. The Rev. Dr. Peter Kelley said she was “a very thoughtful, inclusive, faithful and kind person who quietly served the church in many different ways … [and] enjoyed a good conversation on the deeper matters of faith and life.”
Denise is survived by dozens of loyal and loving friends, most notably Orient resident Janet Markarian and her children, Abigail and Alex Collier of New York City, and Andrew Collier of Hong Kong, China.

“Denise was a member and true supporter of my family,” said Ms. Markarian. “She was curious, energetic, true to her word and fiercely independent. I benefited from her guidance and will always miss her.”

Mr. Collier described her as “smart, lively and loyal. I was always impressed that she could jump on a plane and travel to rough places by herself.”

A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Southold Sunday, June 18, at 1 p.m.

Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport handled arrangements.

This is a paid notice.