Henrietta Cetas

Riverhead resident Henrietta Cetas passed away early Saturday morning, Feb. 26, 2022, at South Bay Hospital, Sun City Center, Fla., with her daughter Cheryl at her bedside. She was 100 years old.

Henrietta was born May 12, 1921, in Dothan, Ala. She was the daughter of Bryant and Cornelia (Kitching) Burkett. She preferred to be called by her middle name rather than her first name, Melba.

She was predeceased in 1979 by her husband, Dr. Robert Cetas, whom she married in 1947 in Dothan. They met at a church social when he was in the U.S. Army and stationed there during World War II. When the war ended he was ordered to Japan, but he kept in touch with Henrietta. After his stint in Japan he returned to Dothan and proposed marriage. 

Robert’s home was in Harbor Springs, Mich. So Henrietta had to make a trip with him to meet his parents and family in Michigan. The Cetas family approved of Henrietta since she was a devout Christian, as were Robert and the Cetas family. The marriage was set for after Robert’s graduation from Michigan State University. He had also been accepted to Cornell University to study for a doctorate in plant pathology. After their marriage and honeymoon they moved to Ithaca, N.Y. 

Part of Robert’s doctoral program was to work summers on eastern Long Island to get familiar with the diseases of Long Island potatoes that farmers had to deal with. After graduating from Cornell in 1952, Robert was offered the position of plant pathologist at Cornell’s Long Island Vegetable Research Farm in Riverhead, a position he held for 27 years, until his death.

The youngest of seven, Henrietta was also predeceased by her three brothers and three sisters. She is survived by her son, Charles Cetas of Riverhead, and her daughter, Cheryl (Winston) Bowen-Hay of Sun City Center, Fla. She is also survived by granddaughter Vanessa (Steve) Leblanc of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; granddaughter Alison (Randy) Barkalow of Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and by four great-grandchildren.

Henrietta was an accomplished pianist and organist. She learned to play the piano at an early age. Henrietta’s mother unselfishly provided piano lessons for her even though money was tight during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Henrietta used her musical talent in service to the church, both with musical instruments and in song. She had a good alto singing voice and often performed solos and duets in church. After settling in Riverhead, she also taught piano to many Riverhead area young people from grade school to high school age. In 1954 she helped found Calvary Baptist Church of Riverhead. She served as its choir director until 2006 and its organist until 2011. In the early 1960s she also gave two piano recitals of classical music for the benefit of the Northville Grange on Sound Avenue and Baiting Hollow Congregational Church.

Henrietta enjoyed many other activities like swimming at the local beaches, playing tennis, bicycling and walking. In her youth she also enjoyed softball, basketball and gymnastics. She often bragged she could do the back bend touching her feet to the ground. As an adult she could still do cartwheels.

Henrietta was a loving, unselfish person and had many friends over her long lifetime both in and out of church. She had twinkling hazel eyes and a quick smile that showed her outgoing personality. She was not a joke teller but her laugh was infectious when she was amused. She loved to tell stories of her growing up in Dothan. She was a wonderful example to her children and grandchildren. She will be greatly missed. But she will remain with us in our hearts and memories. Thankfully, her suffering during the past few months is over. She is now rejoicing with her Lord and Savior, her husband and her brothers and sisters in heaven.

Tuthill-Mangano Funeral Home in Riverhead is handling Henrietta’s funeral arrangements. Viewing will be Thursday, March 10, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the funeral home. A celebration of her life will take place at Calvary Baptist Church. The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Friday, March 11, with a short viewing period starting at 10:30. Burial will follow at Calverton National Cemetery. 

Memorial donations may be made to Calvary Baptist Church of Riverhead. 

This is a paid notice.