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OBITUARY: Lucy Hamilton

August 3, 2023
By Staff Report

Lucy Battel Hamilton died peacefully on July 19, 2023 at her summer home in Cooperstown, New York surrounded by her loving family. 

Known to all as “Bunny,” she was born in Buffalo, N.Y. on November 13, 1933, the daughter of Lucy Mills Battel and John Lawrence Battel. After attending the Buffalo Seminary and Bennett College, she and Lyman Bass Townsend wed, settling in Millbrook, N.Y. with their three children. It was during her Millbrook years that Bunny began a lifelong passion for gardening and love of the outdoors, nature and adventure. 

She subsequently married Louis Busch Hager, dividing time between Manhattan and Cooperstown. Bunny found great delight in traveling the world, often by train; in music, from Stevie Wonder to Stephen Sondheim; in entertaining, whether it required dressing in a costume (her favorite being a green sequined ball gown with matching diamond tiara) or recreating Gourmet Magazine’s “centerfold.” 

She was not one to hold back on usage of butter, mayonnaise, and heavy cream in her recipes. 

With her husband, Lou, she found a calling in the world of Broadway show production and investment as an “angel,” even crossing the pond to bring “Peg of My Heart” to London’s West End. 

Bunny made Cooperstown her permanent home upon marriage to Dr. Lewis L. Hamilton, while spending winters in Boca Grande. Florida became the place to be for Thanksgiving from that point on. But paradise was not perfect. She later attributed her bad back problems to years of stooping over on Gasparilla Island beaches to gather thousands of fossil sharks’ teeth for her unsurpassed collection. Not one to slow down or miss a step, she served on the board of Cole Kitchen, a London theatrical agency as well as continuing investments with Dodger Theatricals Ltd. (New York), often with an eye on the winners including Jersey Boys, Matilda, and Guys and Dolls among many. Travel adventures with husband Lewis ensued. 

Inspired by Ballymaloe in Ireland, Bunny returned home to Cooperstown and created an Italianate-style fruit and vegetable garden at Lewis’s Allen Lake Road farm, delighting all who visited, including her growing extended family of many grandchildren, who cherished their “Grandmoth.” 

One grandson reflected on how she always wanted to be where the action was, finding a way to make everything more fun and full of life. Her family and lifelong friends were incredibly important to her, but as well, her influence on all she encountered in life was immense and lasting. Of note, too, was her love of dogs, particularly finding good traits in one terrier her family knew was pure evil. 

Her humor, generosity and loving spirit were not saved for family and friends alone. She was deeply committed to making the world a better place, becoming involved with organizations she cared deeply about. She supported a broad range of organizations including service as president of both the Bennett College Foundation and the Lake and Valley (GCA) Garden Club (Cooperstown,) vice president of the Planters Garden Club (Boca Grande), board member and secretary of the Boca Grande Women’s Club, vestry member of Christ Church (Cooperstown), board member of the Susquehanna SPCA and trustee of the New York State Historical Association. 

A dream she envisioned came to pass with the creation of the “Lucy B. Hamilton Amphitheater.” Located high on a bluff overlooking a view north over Lake Otsego, this important addition to the Fenimore Art Museum property is now used for theatrical productions and special gatherings.

Bunny is pre-deceased by her parents and loving stepfather, George A. Brainard, and survived by husband Lewis Hamilton and brothers Robert L. Battel and Calvin A. Brainard. 

Her family includes daughters Lucy Townsend, Shelley Graham (Tom), and son Lyman Townsend (Amy), all of Cooperstown NY. Other children she counted as her own are Louis Busch Hager, Jr., Alice Hager Holbrook, Mary (Sissy) Hager Thomas, all of Palm Beach, and Heidi Hamilton Kerko (New Canaan CT.) Grandchildren include Walker Irving, Jamie Irving and Ted Irving; Nicholas Graham, Kathryn Williams, Leigh Graham, Pamela Rich, Holland Townsend, Lyman Townsend III, Brianne Carey and additionally nine great-grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled for August 28 at Christ Church in Cooperstown at 11 AM followed by a celebration of her life at Templeton Hall. Contributions in Bunny’s honor may be made to any of the organizations she cherished, The Fenimore Art Museum, Glimmerglass Festival and Susquehanna SPCA. On August 28, please follow Bunny’s Number One Rule: “Never leave the house looking less than your best.”