On Wednesday, June 7, 2023, Reeta J. Hayes, who lived a vibrant fifty-nine years in the greater Binghamton, NY, area before moving to the Philadelphia area to be near her daughters, died peacefully at the Pocopson Home in West Chester, PA, just a few weeks shy of her 88th birthday. Reeta is the daughter of the previously deceased Edwin Jones and Blanche N. Jones and the sister of the previously deceased Ronald Jones.
Reeta is survived by her daughter Lisa Hayes Kane, her husband, Dr. Matthew Kane, and their children Dr. Mica Kane (and her husband, Henry Fuz), Alexander Kane, and Owen Kane; her daughter Polly Hayes, her wife Joy Lesnick, PhD., and their son Anthony; and her three precious cats, Tonka, Mynx, and Princess.
If you were fortunate enough to know Reeta, you probably enjoyed her chocolate chip cookies, half-moon cookies, sourdough bread, hand-dipped chocolate candies, or chocolate sheet cake. Not only could Reeta bake, but she could also cook and was known for her lasagna and infamous Christmas breakfast ring.
Reeta was also an expert seamstress. She made many prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and wedding gowns. She often fitted bridal party members who lived across the country—in the age before virtual conferencing existed. She received measurements in the mail, prepared a muslin version of the dress, shipped it out to the bridal party member who tried it on, sent it back pinned where necessary, and then Reeta worked into the early hours of the morning to make the dress. And the dresses always fit perfectly. Reeta once hand sewed over 3,000 pearls on a wedding dress for a client. Reeta continued her love of creating and sewing throughout her whole life. While living in Philadelphia, she knit hats and baby blankets and mailed them back to New York to her knitting group for donation through the United Presbyterian Church in Binghamton. For her granddaughter Mica’s wedding, Reeta pulled out a dress she had made when she was a high school senior, altered it, and wore it on Mica’s big day, drawing many compliments. Reeta received her talents from her mother and passed them on to her daughter, Lisa, who, like her mother, is incredibly artistic and talented.
Reeta was also an accomplished athlete. Growing up in the 40s and 50s, Reeta was active in almost every sport offered for girls at her high school. She was captain of the cheerleading team, played basketball, tennis, and bowling, and was also a skilled archer. She passed her love of sports to her daughter Polly, who became a professional tennis instructor before attending graduate school and settling into a desk job. Reeta worked multiple jobs throughout her life—as a bank teller; a secretary; a junior varsity tennis coach at Seton High School and college coach at what is now SUNY Broome; a USTA tennis league coordinator; and a tennis league organizer at the Binghamton Tennis Center.
Reeta would leave notes, always written in pencil, strewn about the counter—at home and at the tennis center—that looked like nothing more than random waves and circles. This was the lost art of shorthand she had learned in her work as a secretary and she continued to write in shorthand well into her 80s. Reeta also volunteered—at the Girls Club (teaching young girls to sew and knit, chaperoning Lisa’s ski trips to Greek Peak, and then serving as the President of the Endicott Girls Club), with Red Cross relief efforts (in Scranton after major flooding and in California after a series of earthquakes); with her church (organizing donations); and with assorted animal rescue efforts (including the aforementioned Tonka, Mynx, and Princess).
Reeta enjoyed many hobbies throughout her life, including playing bridge, canning jams and jellies, making something we referred to as “rotten fruit,” and growing beautiful roses on soil that was little more than a pile of shale.
Reeta was a religious person, through her membership at the Campville United Methodist Church and later attending services with her mother as a member of the Central United Methodist Church in Endicott. During her time at the Pocopson Home, Reeta was known to lead the chorus through their rousing, if slightly off-key, versions of some of her favorite hymns. Although all of this sounds like a lot, there’s more. Reeta enjoyed shopping (whether it was a fabric store in NYC, a small boutique in Melbourne or the Target on the Parkway); antiquing; going to museums; taking her yearly trips to the U.S. Open from 1984-2015; making her Fan Slam trip to all four grand slams and the Davis Cup in the same year; traveling—anywhere; trans-Atlantic Zooming with friends during the pandemic; doing anything with her grandchildren; and sharing Friday night dinners with the family.
Reeta cared for others and was always willing to help. She cherished the time spent with her grandchildren, of whom she was incredibly proud. Reeta was kindness and generosity personified. She will be greatly missed by family and friends.
Services will be held on June 23, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church, 17 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott, NY.
Donations in memory of Reeta can be made to the SUNY Broome Foundation for the Reeta Hayes Memorial Scholarship. To make a gift, visit the secure online giving site www.sunybroome.edu/gift or send a check to: SUNY Broome Foundation, P.O. Box 1017, Binghamton, NY 13902, with a note designating your gift to the scholarship. Arrangements are by Matthew Grieco of Grieco Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc. of Kennett Square (484-734-8100). To view her online tribute and to share a memory with her family, please visit www.griecofunerals.com.