Obituary of Leah Gaies
Leah Schwebel Gaies, 98 years old, passed away on February 4, 2019, in her home at Beverwyck in Slingerlands, surrounded by love. The daughter of Frank and Sarah Oxenhandler Schwebel, she was the fourth of five tightly knit siblings. Leah attended the Troy public schools, graduating from Troy High School in 1939. A gifted pianist with an extraordinary love of music, she was accepted to a music conservatory. She began the first chapter in her professional career as a registered nurse, graduating from the Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in 1942. A year after graduating, she married Abe A. Gaies, also from Troy, whom she met at a Hebrew school picnic when she was 12 and he was 13. They were married for 68 years.
Leah had a lively intellect, a tireless curiosity about people and ideas, and a wonderful talent for using her gifts as a writer and poet to celebrate and deepen her relationships with family and friends. She was modest about her own talents, but unfailing in encouraging others and taking great pride and pleasure in their achievements.
Inspired by her parents’ example, Leah put her strong Jewish faith and identity into work and generous support for numerous service and philanthropic organizations, most notably Hadassah, Temple Beth El, Troy JCC, and the Daughters of Sarah Nursing Home Auxiliary. She was fervent and eloquent in championing equality, justice and respect for all people, not only in a general way, but with each individual she encountered.
Throughout her life, she was a friend, mentor and role model to people of all ages and backgrounds. Always a proud Trojan, in her last years, she was actively involved in compiling and preserving the history of the Jewish community of Troy.
Leah took pride in her work as a nurse, nursery school teacher, Director of Pinewoods Center (Rensselaer County ARC) and community volunteer, but above all else was devoted to her family. She loved gathering with friends and family and thought nothing of preparing and serving a meal on a moment’s notice to any one or more who stopped in for a visit. She had a special connection to babies and children.
Her love, loyalty and selflessness has served as a model of living for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren: Stephen and Nancy Gaies (Cedar Falls, IA), Mitchell Gaies (Latham), Judy and Bill Kahn (Guilderland) and Jeremy and Lisa Gaies (Tampa, FL). She was an integral part of her grandchildren’s and great grandchildren’s lives, whether they lived near or far. Michael (Abbe Devine) Gaies; Abigail and Taylor Gaies; Erika (Michael Stratta) Gaies; Daniel (Jennifer) Gaies; Noah and Silas Gaies; Andy (Anwei Li) Gaies; Orson and Parker Gaies; Samantha (Naycho) Stoitsov; Joshua Kahn, and Sarah and Talia Gaies, who will cherish their memories, especially those that included delicious meals and her love of games. In addition, she will continue to inspire dozens of beloved nieces, nephews and friends.
She was the last living member of 19 siblings, siblings-in-law and their spouses: Dr. Walter and Judith Schwebel, Dr. Milton and Bernice Schwebel, Tobie and Herm Kessler, Rosalind and Oscar Kaufman, Faye and Sam Vipler, Ethel and Sam Agins, Joseph and Betty Gaies, Anne and Milt Miller and Toby Brown.
In the last decade of her life, Leah formed extraordinary bonds with Maxine Lepak, Sophia Powell and Arlene Sankey, who enriched her life with love, care and compassion, for which Judy, Mitch and Steve will be forever grateful.
Leah’s funeral will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 6, at Temple Beth El, 411 Hoosick Street, Troy. Shiva will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 on Wednesday and Thursday at Mitch’s home, 14 Northview Drive, Latham, and on Saturday evening at Judy and Bill’s home, 127 Chancellor Drive, Guilderland.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Leah’s memory to Hadassah, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, or the Leah Schwebel Gaies RN, ‘42 Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing Scholarship Fund (givetonortheast.org), or a charity of choice.