Wife, mother, friend, artist, chef, gardener: these are just a few of the many titles Arleen Santonas held over her lifetime. Arleen began her life on December 22, 1946 in the projects of Fort Greene, Brooklyn with her parents, John and Frances Guidice and older sister. She and her family ultimately ended up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was during her senior high school year that she went with one of her girlfriends to watch a football game with her boyfriend and one of his friends – who turned out to be the love of her life, George M. Santonas. They began dating when she was a month from her 16th birthday and he was 18 – she always loved to point out that he asked her to go steady right before telling her he joined the Navy. While George was away, Arleen was a range table operator on Wall Street for DeCoppet & Doremus as she finished up high school. Their love lasted the two and a half years he was in active duty and school, and married on May 14, 1967 at St. Cecilia’s Church in Williamsburg.
They started their life together in a small apartment in Ridgewood, Queens followed by homes in RIchmond Hill and Middle Village, where they raised two daughters, Gina and Elizabeth. She was a doting, loving mother who took that job very seriously. She fully immersed them in the culture of NYC, taking them to museums, the Bronx Zoo, the beaches, the Village, Chinatown – and was also both director and co-star in multiple home videos. Arleen also taught Art as a volunteer where her kids went to school, Resurrection Ascension in Rego Park, and was one of the most popular teachers there.
Eventually, to get away from the noise of the city, they moved up to North Salem in 1983. Nature was always important to Arleen – her garden was the most beautiful in the area (once she gave up her war with the deer and put up a fence) and how she started many important friendships in the neighborhood.
She went to college and received her degree ultimately from Empire College and started her career in the nonprofit world as a grant developer and manager for places like Westchester Children’s Association, FoodPatch, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Weir Farm and the United Way. Her only for-profit job was for the Town of North Salem as the Building Inspector Secretary. Her favorite job was at Teatown Lake Reservation where she made many friends and got to work with their raptors program. She would feed and care for the birds of prey, as well as do educational talks with the animals – she even did it in Albany, in front of Congress in order to ask for grant money...that she of course got.
After her retirement, she volunteered for SeniorNet, where she taught senior citizens not only how to use digital cameras, but how to download and edit their masterpieces on their computers.
A natural artist, she studied portrait art under the renowned Dan Slapo in the 70s and early 80s. While up in North Salem, she was commissioned for portraits and did them for family and friends in her spare time. She transitioned to digital media during the tech boom, doing photo restorations, historical documentation and fun gags. Arleen was an excellent portrait, stained glass, sculpture, graphics, ceramics and jewelry artist as well as photographer – there was not much she couldn’t do.
Mostly, she was best known for being a wonderful hostess and cook. A mother to those who were either gone or too far away. All were welcome in her home, at any time, for any holiday.
Arleen is survived by her husband of 52 years, George M. Santonas, and her two daughters, Gina and Elizabeth Santonas.
A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Monday August 19th, 2019 at 10am at St. Lawrence O'Toole Church, Brewster, NY. A memorial wake will be held on Sunday August 18th, 2019 at Beecher Funeral Home, Brewster, NY from 2pm-6pm. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to donate on Arleen’s behalf to any of the organizations below, or to one of your choosing:
National Aphasia Association
PO Box 87, Scarsdale, NY 10583 https://www.aphasia.org/
Food for the Poor, Inc.
6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073 www.foodforthepoor.org
North Salem Ambulance Corps
PO Box 427, Croton Falls, NY 10519 https://www.nsvac.org/