There was always room for one more at the dinner table of Eileen Fordham’s Sag Harbor home.She was well-known in the community for her generosity, and that often was demonstrated with meals. Her son, Scott Fordham of Sag Harbor, noted that his mother would have him and his two sisters over for dinner every Sunday and always welcomed company.
“If you ever needed to bring 10 more people to dinner, she always had enough food for everyone,” he said. “I had friends who didn’t have the best family relationships—one of my friends lived there on weekends for years. My mom never questioned anything. The more people in the house, the happier she was.”
The 69-year-old died just before the new year, on December 30. Her daughter, Kiersten Simmons, also a Sag Harbor resident, said it was difficult going through New Year celebrations without her mother. She recounted a New Year’s Eve party at her mother’s home years ago, when she was only 12. Her mother saw her sulking alone at the party, so she took her outside and began banging two pots together on the porch.
“And I’m, like … What are you doing? And she said, ‘Let’s ring in the New Year!’” Ms. Simmons recounted. “She hands me the two pots, and she’s, like … ‘Are you going to let me have all the fun?’ Then she went back inside and got two more pots—and we screamed at the top of our lungs.
“We didn’t have a huge amount of money, but you would never know it,” she added. “She had a real knack for that—taking the simple little things and making them big.”
Ms. Fordham was born Eileen Archibald on March 14, 1947, at Southampton Hospital. She was raised in Sag Harbor and was a lifelong resident. When she was 4, she was stricken with polio and was in and out of hospitals until she was 18 years old. She eventually recovered but always had a limp from several surgeries over the years.
Despite her early struggles, her sister, Mary Labrozzi of Sag Harbor, said she always put others first and looked at life in a positive way.
“My sister was one of those types of people who never complained and acted like she never had an illness at all,” Ms. Labrozzi said. “She was very involved, but she never thought twice—her arms were always open.
“We’ve always kept our relationship very close,” she added. “She wasn’t just my sister—she was my best friend.”
Ms. Fordham married her hometown sweetheart, Robert E. Fordham, on September 28, 1968, at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Sag Harbor. Ms. Fordham and her husband spent most of their adult lives involved with the church and the now-closed Stella Maris Catholic School, which was purchased a week before Ms. Fordham’s death, by the Sag Harbor School District, to relocate existing pre-kindergarten classrooms.
Ms. Fordham was a longtime member of the Sag Harbor School Board, became the president of the PTA and started the popular craft fair at the school. She helped orchestrate countless fundraisers, from carnivals to dinner dances. Friends say she and her husband were always willing to fix broken items, paint and help with emergency fixes at the small school, all without hesitation.
Ms. Fordham worked for a telephone company for two decades and over the years wore many professional hats. She catered small events, cleaned houses and worked as a personal assistant for a local family. She was known to be her own “meals on wheels” program, since she prepared and gave out food to friends, family, veterans and anyone who was sick, grieving or in need.
“I think that was one of her top hits on Amazon—to-go containers so she could box up food and send it out to everyone,” Ms. Simmons said.
Ms. Simmons recounted one of the rare times her mother’s delicious food was wasted. Her mother was known for many dishes, but particularly her signature chicken pot pie. When they were younger, Ms. Simmons and her sister, Heidi Wilson of Sag Harbor, were helping their mother with the four large pies. Ms. Simmons added garlic salt … a bit too much.
“I was shaking it in and thinking everything was all good,” Ms. Simmons said, recounting the garlic. “We prepared all the pies—got them all done and put them in the oven. We all start eating and giving each other ‘the look.’ Immediately, of course, she knows what the overwhelming, overpowering thing is. Heidi said she put garlic salt in, too! Four huge chicken pot pies wasted. We had to laugh about it for years—every time we made chicken pot pie, my mother would tell us to watch the garlic salt.”
Last summer, Ms. Fordham took in five collegiate baseball players attending the Sag Harbor Whalers Baseball Camp. She quickly learned their likes and dietary restrictions and packed them personalized lunches every day.
“It was Grand Central Station,” Ms. Simmons said of her mother’s abode, laughing. “Over the years there was very much an open door policy at my mom’s house. That’s just how my mother rolled.”
Ms. Fordham is survived by her three children and their spouses, Mr. Fordham and his wife, Tara, Ms. Wilson and her husband, J.R., and Ms. Simmons and her husband, Rich; as well as seven grandchildren, Kyle and Jake Fordham, Colby and Carolyn Wilson, and Riley, Lilah and Tessa Simmons. She is also survived by five siblings, Thomas Archibald, Patricia Archibald, James Archibald, Pamela Remkus and Ms. Labrozzi.
She was predeceased by her husband, Robert, who died at age 69 in 2013, and her parents, Edward and Katherine Archibald.
Memorial donations may be made to the Sag Harbor Fire Department Benevolent Fund, P.O. Box 209, Sag Harbor, NY 11963, or the March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.com.