Ada Epting Derr was known in Lower Makefield Township as the relentless advocate for a new community center. It was vital, she believed, for the township's seniors to have a place to meet and enjoy their activities.

Ada Epting Derr
Courtesy of the family
Ada Epting Derr

"She fought hard for that," said her daughter-in-law, Arlene Epting. As it turned out, Mrs. Derr with the help of others eventually did succeed, but she did not live to see the culmination of her long-held dream.

On March 10, as the Lower Makefield Community Center in Yardley was being dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, funeral services were underway in Richboro for Mrs. Derr, 89, who died Feb. 25 of complications from Parkinson's disease in Port Charlotte, Fla.

"It was ironic her funeral was held on the day we had the grand opening of the community center," said John LaBar, president of the Lower Makefield Seniors. Before she died, though, Mrs. Derr understood that the center was under construction, her family said.

As the former president of the seniors group, Mrs. Derr spoke at many board of supervisor meetings, always emphasizing the need for a center at which seniors could gather and share cultural, educational, and social activities. She never lost sight of that goal, her family said in an appreciation.

Before the building of the community center on Oxford Valley Road, the 380-member seniors group had to compete with others for meeting space at the township building for their bagels-and-doughnuts snack times, their card games, needlework sessions, and their low-impact exercise, line dancing, and art classes.

"She went to the meetings and talked about it. I made the first motion for the building," said former township supervisor Frank Fazzalore, who served on the board from 1993 to 2006. "It took 25 years. She was instrumental in making sure this was on anybody's mind. I worked the political end."

When $1 million in state money became available, he lobbied that it be used for the center, along with other funds. "It took a long time, but it was a success, and Ada had something to do with it," Fazzalore said.

LaBar said that now, with meeting space in the new center assured, the seniors can gather, do good works for public causes such as giving money to fund scholarships, and "have a little fun."

Born to Eleanor Ellentuch Harbers and William J. Harbers in New Haven, Conn., Mrs. Derr grew up in Bucks County, and graduated from Bristol High School. In 1950, she earned a bachelor's degree in education from Kutztown State Teachers College.

Starting in 1970, she taught fourth grade at Newtown Friends School in Newtown, Bucks County; St. Paul's Episcopal School, Timonium, Md.; and the Lanning Square School in Camden, N.J. She retired in 1992.

She enjoyed knitting, anything British, traveling by train, buying miniature furniture for dollhouses, and pets — she almost always had a Siamese cat.

She was known for being kind, with a keen sense of humor, her family said.

She married Kenneth Epting. After he died in 1968, she married John Trimbey Derr. He died in 2008.

She is survived by a son, Michael Epting; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren; a sister; and a niece and nephew.

Through her marriage to John Derr, she became the stepmother to Ellen Pacewicz, Nancy Biedermann, Rita Diamond, and a step-grandmother and step-great-grandmother to their offspring. All survive.

Interment was March 10 at Sunset Memorial Park in Feasterville.

Donations may be made to the Lower Makefield Seniors, c/o John LaBar, Lower Makefield Community Center, 1550 Oxford Valley Rd., Yardley, Pa. 19067. "In memory of Ada Epting Derr" should appear on the memo line of the donation check.