Ethel was born in Auburn, New York on December 27th, 1926. She grew up on a small farm in the beautiful countryside of the Finger Lakes, with parents Stella and Edward Switzer; three brothers Earl, Charles and Clarence; and two sisters Minnie and Barbara. Ethel’s great grandfather was a famous civil war veteran: the Reverend A.F. Beebee, who lived to almost 100 years and was aptly named after Alexander the Great and Benjamin Franklin. She loved growing up on the farm, but tragedy struck when Ethel was 9. Her father had a brain hemorrhage in the barn and lived for just a week. Losing him meant the family also lost the farm and moved into Auburn. Ethel’s artistic talent was recognised by her art teacher, who urged her to study at the excellent art department at Syracuse University, where she graduated with honors. She often laughed about one life model who at her break would dash to a nearby shop dressed only in her fur coat. Ethel almost became an illustrator, but instead accepted a teaching job in a small town beside the Beaverkill River, where (according to an old saying) she must have got her feet wet early on, as she never left. She married Wilmer Sipple (died 2015), who created Roscoe’s O&W Railway Museum. Wilmer and Ethel met at the evening pottery class she taught. It seems that his new interest in ceramics was somewhat influenced by the attractive teacher. Ethel sketched, painted, and exhibited throughout her life and created an impressive body of work. She regularly won awards at major shows in New York State, working from her art studio at home. One day infant daughter Karen escaped her notice for a moment and covered herself in oil paint in colorful emulation of her mother’s fine brushwork. Cleaning her up was a formidable task. Karen rarely dabbled in painting thereafter and became a graphic designer. Daughter Diane also began expressing her creative side in infancy. She ate a full box of crayons and regurgitated her first artwork, a rainbow themed abstract, onto the dining room carpet. She is now a painter and she and her mom have had joint exhibitions. Diane's home in Baltimore is filled with Ethel’s and her own paintings, as are Ethel's grandsons’ homes. Andrew lives in San Francisco and is an engineer. Stuart lives in Baltimore and has his own electrical company Common Ground. Ethel spent her summers at Lake Muskoday, where Wilmer had built cottages. She looked after grandsons Stuart and Andrew some summers and made sure they learned to swim, getting up early to drive them to lessons in the icy water of the old swimming pool, which was freshly filled weekly from the Beaverkill River. Both boys are fly fishermen and continue to spend vacations in Roscoe, inevitable for those who get their feet wet in the Beaverkill. When Ethel retired from teaching art (at both Roscoe and Livingston Manor), she continued to paint and exhibit, and also helped Wilmer with Roscoe’s O&W Railway Museum. Karen helped with t-shirt designs. Ethel spent many summers traveling with Wilmer, whose sister Elaine lived in Hawaii. They visited all the islands and volcanoes and made the steep hike to and from the Leper Colony on Molokaʻi when in their 70s. She also visited Europe many times, compiling glorious sketchbooks of her travels there. There are sketchbooks of Venice, the Greek Islands, the volcanic Aeolian Islands and Italy’s Mount Etna during a year when it was erupting. In Egypt she also rode the camels she sketched. Daughter Karen lives in London and Wilmer and Ethel went every spring, visiting the art galleries and theatres. Daughter Diane had exhibitions in Baltimore, where Ethel also made many visits. She skied the French Alps, an extension of her regular skiing at Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills, where she skied into her 70s. Local square dancing was another pastime in a happy and extremely active life. Ethel passed away on July 20th, 2022 at the age of 95 and was buried in Riverview Cemetery, Roscoe, NY on July 25th.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Harris Funeral Home, Railroad Ave. Roscoe, NY www.Harris-FH.com 607-498-4929 or 845-439-5200