Cover photo for Stephanie Ur's Obituary
1928 Stephanie 2023

Stephanie Ur

November 14, 1928 — July 11, 2023

East Brunswick

Stephanie Ur, 94, of East Brunswick, passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. She was born in East Brunswick on November 14, 1928 to Andrew and Stefannia (Alesczyk) Firczuk, one of seven children. Her father Andrew was on the original police force in East Brunswick and she loved her hometown so much that she lived there for her entire life. 

 

Stephanie graduated from the 8th grade at St. Mary's School in South River in 1943 and from Jamesburg High School in 1947. She was an excellent student and enjoyed learning. While still in school she worked as a waitress in Thode's Tea Room on George Street in New Brunswick and also at Howard Johnson's, then located at the intersection of Rt. 18 and Rt. 1 north. Upon graduation from high school Stephanie worked in the engineering department at RCA Corporation in Harrison and commuted daily, taking the train from New Brunswick to Harrison. In the early 1950's she worked as a switchboard operator at Bell Telephone in New Brunswick and handled overseas calls from servicemen during the Korean War.  

 

On August 18, 1951 Stephanie married Mario R. Casale and they started a family. She loved being a homemaker and was devoted to taking care of her family. She supported them, worried about them, rooted for them and protected them. She taught them how to laugh at themselves and have fun. She had quite a sense of humor and was always ready for a road trip or a day of adventure. In her late 60's she was still trick or treating in costume. Stephanie valued loyalty, honesty, and authenticity and instilled those values in her children. She surrounded herself with her friends and neighbors which is where she felt most comfortable and loved. Stephanie worked hard and still found the time to care for everyone around her. She often neglected her own needs for the needs and well-being of others. She was fiercely independent and private and held fast to her beliefs. A discerning woman with exquisite taste, she provided comfort and solace while asking little in return. 

 

Stephanie lived so many lives in her 94 years and was constantly reinventing herself. In the early 1960s, before daycare centers were widely available, she started a daycare in her own home. Over the course of decades she cared for local children as if they were her own. She considered them extended family. Stephanie remained young and young at heart seeing things through the eyes of children. She stayed in touch with many, beaming with pride when she learned of their accomplishments and shared in their joy when she heard that they had gotten married and had children of their own. Some of the children affectionately referred to her as “Mrs. C”. She was also known by many other names such as Ming, Aunt O, the adorable one, Leadfoot, Honey Bunny, the impossible one and quite simply, Steph.

 

Stephanie lived through some of the world’s most significant events, experiencing the Great Depression and World War II at a very young age. She learned the importance of being thrifty and developed a tremendous work ethic and sense of purpose. She was raised without a television at home, her family had one radio that they crowded around to listen to. She was captivated listening to shows such as The Shadow and live broadcasts such as the Hindenburg Disaster. She learned the importance of proper English and the written word. She had a thirst for knowledge and eagerly read everything she could get her hands on. She read the daily newspaper, hardcover novels and the entire World Book Encyclopedia, one volume at a time. She did the same with dictionaries, having no less than three sitting next to her during her meals that she read in their entirety and frequently used for reference. She was a genius with words and writing even though she never pursued that path. She enjoyed writing poems about and for her family and close friends. She was great at figuring things out, completing crossword and jigsaw puzzles with ease. From the time she was a little girl she enjoyed reading the cartoon strips, Popeye and Blondie and in recent years Garfield and Peanuts, which she frequently cut out and mailed in the many cards and letters that she sent. She was a whiz with numbers and performed arithmetic operations in her head, without paper and pencil. And she had an incredible memory. She remembered plate numbers, phone numbers, zip codes and account numbers to the amazement of others. She stayed informed by tuning into ABC Nightly News with David Muir in the evenings. She watched and played Jeopardy every evening without fail, followed by Wheel of Fortune always commenting on what Vanna was wearing.  

 

Stephanie had a vivid imagination. She was known to always have an interesting story to tell and especially loved telling them, with dramatic pauses and keeping her listener interested until the last word. Born only two years after Queen Elizabeth II, Stephanie followed Elizabeth's life through print, watching her evolve into a leader who was loved and respected around the world. She admired her fashion sense. Stephanie followed all the rules of fashion and developed her own personal style. She shopped at the finest dress shops in Perth Amboy and New Brunswick but her blue jeans, cotton T shirts and sneakers were her fashion statement. Her jeans were always pressed with a crease and her sneakers always whiter than white. Her outfits were complimented by her beautiful long nails that she maintained from the time she was a teen. Mickey Mouse was born the same year as Stephanie and she aged with him as well, in one form or another he kept her company at home and celebrated many birthdays with her. She had boundless energy, even at 94. She was a true icon, inspiring others with her strength, courage, resilience, and zest for life. While recuperating from breaking her right leg in 2016 she watched the summer Olympics and was very impressed by gymnast Laurie Hernandez who hails from Old Bridge. Laurie's performances inspired Stephanie to regain her mobility and independence and that she did. It was of the utmost importance to Stephanie to meet Laurie and tell her what an inspiration she was. Stephanie attended one of Laurie's local exhibitions and shared her story with Laurie. They sat and talked for some time and Laurie returned the compliment by telling Stephanie what an inspiration she was. Stephanie watched Tiger Woods struggle to rebuild his golf game and walk the course after he was injured in a car crash in 2021. She thought Tiger would be inspired by receiving a letter from a 94 year old woman who had broken her right leg twice and fully recovered both times. Stephanie was strong-willed and stubborn, but those traits defined her. They were part of who she was, and her strength undoubtedly helped her deal with life’s challengesShe lived a beautiful, dignified life. 

 

Steph, as she was affectionately known, excelled at everything she did and had an appreciation for all things beautiful. She envisioned how things could possibly look. She saw what other people thought of as trash and somehow was able to turn it into much more-treasured pieces that anyone would and should be happy to display. Stephanie enjoyed garage sales and shopping for antiques, eating ice cream sundaes with all the toppings and drinking ice cream sodas, and admiring giraffes. While on the drive-thru safari at Six Flags Great Adventure she was truly in awe of being so close to the giraffes that she could see their mesmerizing eyelashes through the sunroof. Her favorite bird was the red cardinal. Her friends frequently gave her gifts bearing the image of the red cardinal. Each Christmas season she looked forward to writing holiday cards to her family and friends, the list was long and it took quite some time to complete. She chose her cards based on the message and the picture, and the picture had to include the red cardinal. Once her friends saw the stylish penmanship on the envelope and the cardinal they knew immediately that the card was from Stephanie. The red cardinal was her trademark. She was also known for making the most beautiful bows, going back to when she was a teen and tied the bow on her work apron. Mrs. Thode used her as an example of how a uniform should look. Her embroidery and counted cross stitch pieces are so perfectly done, it's hard to tell the difference between the front and the back. She created flower arrangements and centerpieces to rival any florist. She once made an edible centerpiece for a friend's anniversary party that consisted of pink rosebuds made from cream cheese. She formed each petal one at a time using a spoon and secured it against a cherry tomato which became the center of the bud. Stephanie took pride in her driving record and also in the many cars she purchased throughout her life. She washed and detailed them regularly and the interiors and exteriors were always spotless. She scrubbed the whitewall tires each time and used a toothbrush to get into the little crevices inside the car. She had many decorative animals, she loved anything with a face, gave each a name, adorned them with beautiful bows and placed them in interesting poses throughout her house. She selected the most thoughtful gifts, wrapped them in unusual and interesting ways and didn't wait for an occasion to give them. She was constantly giving gifts from her heart. She prepared the most delicious meals and frequently baked cakes from scratch, even fruit topped New York-style cheesecakes but her specialty was her apple pie. She perfected the recipe throughout the years and enjoyed making and giving them to special friends. Without even getting to taste them, she gave them away. She enjoyed the smiles they elicited.  

 

Having been raised on a farm, Stephanie loved being outdoors and felt at one with nature. She loved to feel the sunshine whether it be outdoors, at the beach or on her sun porch. Her true passion was being in her garden. She completely transformed her yard from the wooded and overgrown lot it was when she first moved in almost 70 years ago. Stephanie worked steadily for decades, making improvements, designing garden beds and amassing all of her favorite flowers and trees. In the 1960's she had a custom built greenhouse on her property and was able to sow all of her seeds early and in large quantities. She was often seen outside at the first hint of daylight, sometimes drinking her coffee while checking to see if anything needed to be watered before the heat of the day arrived. Stephanie knew just what to do and when to do it. No one taught her, she was talented in so many aspects of her life. She would be aware of the changing time of sunrise and as it got earlier by seconds each day she knew that springtime was just around the corner. She started keeping track of the additional daylight in December and it kept her spirits high through the winter. She checked the ground daily so as not to miss the first daffodil poking through the dirt. She was aware of every critter, whether bird, butterfly, squirrel or chipmunk that appeared on her property. They undoubtedly found her garden as desirable as she did. She was a life-long gardener and took great pride in her yard and gardens. Riding in a car gave her the opportunity to just sit and look around. She always commented on the beauty of the clouds and used her vivid imagination to describe what she thought they resembled.  

 

Stephanie had many friends and was a well-loved member of the community. She served East Brunswick Township and her fellow citizens in many public and civic areas. Stephanie enjoyed being on the Hospitality Committee of the Bowne School PTA. She was a scout mom and helped out with both Brownies and Girl Scout Troops. She worked in the administrative office of the East Brunswick Board of Education. She was an active member of the East Brunswick Garden Club. Her sense of style and decorum paired with her outgoing personality was a perfect fit for her to thrive and contribute. She enjoyed the club’s programs in horticulture and floral design but the lasting friendships and camaraderie were what made this part of her life so meaningful. She enjoyed spending early weekend mornings at the Dairy Queen doing her part to keep it extra sparkly. Annually she volunteered to help at the Daisy Breakfast where she prepared large trays of bacon, priding herself on laying out each strip without it overlapping another. In the late 1990's she served on the Board of the East Brunswick Department of Parks and Recreation. She worked for the Middlesex County Board of Elections for many years culminating with the presidential election in November of 2016.

 

 

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband Mario R. Casale, her four older brothers and two younger sisters. She was the last remaining sibling of a family of seven children. Stephanie will be dearly missed by all those that she’s left behind and our hearts are broken by this loss. She is survived by her two daughters Dr. Debra Casale Burrows, PhD (Arnold) of Mill Hall, Pennsylvania and Dawn D. Casale of East Brunswick, New Jersey. Her nephew and godchild Michael Firczuk (Kathryn} of Durham NH, and niece Barbara Bodine of Summerfield FL. She is also survived by those who were very dear to her, Justin Sanchez, Nicole Regan and Dr. Megan Giovanni along with special friends and wonderful neighbors. She will be missed by Max and Percy who found her a curiosity and enjoyed the attention she paid them.  

 

Stephanie was able to stay in her home due to the outpouring of love and support she received from family, friends and neighbors. She was one of a kind and will be forever in our hearts. A special thank you for all the kindnesses extended to Stephanie and her family. You have all become extended family. 

 

The care of Stephanie Ur has been entrusted to the staff of The Crabiel Home for Funerals in Milltown. Stephanie’s wish was to be cremated. Her ashes will remain with her family. 

 

To recognize Stephanie's years of service to the East Brunswick Garden Club, a donation will be made to the Garden Club of New Jersey Scholarship Fund.  Stephanie will be honored and immortalized by having her name inscribed in the Book of Memory which will be read during the Memorial Service at the annual meeting of the Garden Club of New Jersey. The donation will help support students in gardening related fields.   


A Legacy Tree bearing a
 tree charm inscribed with Stephanie's name will be planted this fall at the pond at the East Brunswick Municipal Building. This tree will allow her memory to continue to live amongst us, in the town that meant so much to her. If you are so inclined to donate to Stephanie's memorial tree please contact the family or The Crabiel Home for Funerals in Milltown at (732) 828-1331 for details.

 

You may sign the online condolence “guestbook” at www.crabiel.com and please feel free to share a special thought or memory.

 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Stephanie Ur, please visit our flower store.

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