By Steven J. Smith
BOCA RATON — Smashing glass ceilings was Adelaide Van Winkle’s specialty, as she made purposeful strides in her life at a time when most other women could only dream about such success.
“Adelaide was a person who meant what she said and did what she said she was going to do,” said her stepdaughter Linda Watkins. “She was a woman who followed through and was well liked by everyone because of that.”
Adelaide (Shaffer) Van Winkle died at her Boca Raton home Aug. 27 after a brief illness. She was 100.
Predeceased by her husband, Arthur, in 2001, she leaves behind a legacy of generosity, love and a determination to succeed, Watkins said.
Mrs. Van Winkle was born in Hackensack, N.J., on Jan. 21, 1917, the only daughter of Louis and Adelaide Shaffer. Upon graduating from Hackensack High School in 1934, she attended Lasell College, and then Columbia University in 1941.
“A dorm at Lasell was later named after her,” Watkins said, “because she had been so philanthropic to that college.”
In 1946, Mrs. Van Winkle joined her father’s real estate firm and eventually became president and sole stockholder after he retired in 1971. Along the way, she recorded an impressive series of firsts: first woman president of the Central Bergen County Board of Realtors; first woman president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors; first woman vice president of the National Association of Realtors; first woman to hold the member appraisal institute designation of the Appraisal Institute, and the first woman to hold the senior property appraiser designation. In addition, Mrs. Van Winkle was the only woman director of the Garden State National Bank in New Jersey.
“She was especially proud of her MAI designation,” Watkins said. “That’s like having your BA in real estate.”
After retirement, the Van Winkles decided to winter in Boca Raton, away from their Mystic, Conn., home.
“They loved Florida and the warm weather,” Watkins said. “And I think they liked the fact that there’s no state tax in Florida, which ultimately helped convince my mother to live in Boca full time by 2015.”
Even as a snowbird in Boca Raton, Mrs. Van Winkle never let up in her pursuits to serve her new community.
“She was president of the Women’s Club of Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club and president of the Sabal Ridge Condominium Association,” Watkins said. “In 2011, she was knighted by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, as dame of grace. They’re an extremely philanthropic organization that helps out needy, poor individuals. And it’s quite an honor to be asked to join them.”
Watkins summed up Mrs. Van Winkle as a woman of many accomplishments who was held in high regard by everyone she met.
“She was a consummate lady,” she said. “She is — and will be — greatly missed.”
Mrs. Van Winkle is survived by her three stepchildren, Joan V.W. Cunningham, of Severna Park, Md.; Daniel H. Van Winkle (Elizabeth) and Linda V.W. Watkins (Thomas) of Mystic, Conn.; eight step-grandchildren and 12 step-great-grandchildren, and a cousin, John (Pat) Bennett of Manchester, Vt.
Funeral services were held at the First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack on Sept. 9.