Leona Needleman was “clear-headed, funny, and relentlessly ethical, with a vast heart whose love she showered on her friends, siblings, children, and grandchildren,” her family wrote on legacy.com.
Ms. Needleman, a resident of East Hampton for many years before moving to Pompano Beach, Fla., died in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 31 of lung disease. She was 86.
“After several years of firmly and gracefully managing ongoing compromises to her health, she decided to let down her defenses,” her family wrote. “She died as she had lived: resolutely, with understanding and self-determination.”
Known as Lee, she was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 16, 1932, to Benjamin Malitz and the former Sarah Ginsberg. She grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School in Flatbush.
“A Dodgers fan who never forgave that team’s departure for Los Angeles, she switched her allegiance to the Mets, whose every move she followed with the eyes of a raptor, and whose every misstep she first catalogued and then accepted with Solomonic forbearance,” her family wrote.
She was married to Robert Needleman, with whom she had two children. She raised her children in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for many years as a school bus driver there. Her husband died in 1976.
She later moved from Westchester to East Hampton with a partner, Doris Bednar. “Lee and Doris were nearly inseparable, whether at home or in their many joyful travels around the world,” her family wrote. Together for 32 years, they eventually married. Ms. Bednar survives, as do Ms. Needleman’s children, Barry Needleman of Hopkinton, N.H., and Sara Needleman of Portland, Me. She also leaves four grandchildren.
A service will be held in Florida in late February or early March, with an additional service in New York at a future date.
The family has suggested donations to the Nature Conservancy’s Long Island chapter at 250 Lawrence Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor 11724.