Josephine L. Bliss

1938 - 2024

COOPERSTOWN – Josephine L. Bliss, a life-long resident of the Cooperstown community, passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 7, 2024. Her passing was in the presence of family at her home on State Route 28, in the hamlet of Index, just south of the village. She was 85 years old.

Josie, as she was affectionately known by her friends, was born on December 20, 1938, the third of four daughters of Max Gorney and Mary (Peplinski) Gorney. Josie was born on the family farm on County Route 33 near Middlefield Center. She was delivered into this world by midwife Anita Sargeant, who would remain a close family friend and long-time neighbor in Index.

Josie was married on May 26, 1955, to Clyde G. Bliss, also a life-long resident of the Cooperstown area who “lived down the road,” at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Clyde passed away in 1995. Josie was also predeceased by her sisters Helen Cankar and Elizabeth (“Betty”) Koshar.

Josephine is survived by her sister Dorothy Rico of Ladera Ranch, California, and her three children – Terrance (and Theresa) Bliss of Fort Myers, Florida; Daniel (and Nancy) Bliss of West Oneonta; and, Susan Bliss-Banner (and Carlton Banner) of Burlington. She is also survived by five grandchildren – Scott and Ashley; Colin and Emily; and Gabe; plus three great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Josie had a 50-year career in the restaurant and hospitality field. Most people who read this obituary will associate her with the Otesaga Resort Hotel, where she worked for 20 years. She was the hotel’s maître d’ for her final 12 years before she retired on New Year’s Eve 2006. But only old-time locals will recognize the names of people and places from the early days of her career that began in the 1950s.

At the age of 15, Josie worked as a waitress for Joe Clancy at the Doubleday Restaurant, located next to Smalley’s Theatre. In the early 60s she moved up the Lake Road to the Hickory Grove Restaurant, where she worked for Bill Grady. Many of her regular customers were performers and patrons of the nearby Duke’s Oak summer stock theatre. As the restaurant would close after Labor Day, Josie applied her trade during the off-season at the nearby Red Sleigh Restaurant and also the ski tow in Pierstown. Later, she waitressed for 22 years at the Lake Front Restaurant for the Zoeller family. Josie worked there until 1986 when she was hired as a captain at the Otesaga, and, as she put it, “I was getting too old to carry those heavy trays.”

After eight years in that position, and when her predecessor fell ill, Josie was promoted by then-general manager Bob Holliday to become maître d’. Two more wonderful gentlemen would in turn become general managers under whom Josie would work – Frank Maloney and John Irvin.

During Josie’s stewardship, the hotel began to cater more to the local clientele, and Josie was quick to credit Jane Forbes Clark for her successful efforts to make the establishment more comfortable for their casual enjoyment. Though Josie met celebrities in her work – politicians, movie stars, ballplayers – she knew that “the famous people might be here just once, but the guy across the street will come here once a week.” 

The heart and soul of the 100-year old resort, Josie was admired by Mr. Irvin who said, “Josie had the ability to extract performance and affection at the same time from the people who worked for her.” Josie performed her job with such authority and finesse that it won her the admiration of hotel employees and guests alike. She devoted herself to this position, and was always known to be fair but firm when managing the main dining room.

Her children have fond memories of her at the kitchen table immersed in hearty card games of Rummy or Pitch. Josie could also strike up an energetic polka dance where all would smile but few could keep her pace. In retirement, she was joined by fellow hotel retiree and close friend Jim Kozak on trips to Las Vegas and Aruba.

Josie had an affinity and love for animals. After retiring, she often greeted clients at her daughter’s boarding kennel, Breezy Acres, for many years. She loved living creatures – horses, cats, dogs, and the birds at her birdfeeder – from her life on the farm through the rest of her life.

The family wishes to acknowledge the heartfelt care provided around the clock in mom’s final weeks from the following special ladies – Darlene, Angie, Hannah, Sara, Katy, Jen, and Lisa.

Family and friends may call and pay their respects from 5:00-7:00 pm on Friday, January 12, 2024, at the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 1:00 pm, Saturday, January 13, 2024, at St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Roman Catholic Church in Cooperstown, with the Very Rev. Michael G. Cambi, pastor, officiating.

The Service of Committal and Burial will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 18, 2024, in the Fly Creek Valley Cemetery in Fly Creek, with Fr. Michael Cambi officiating.

Expressions of sympathy in the form of memorial donations may be made to any of the following: Anita’s Stevens Swan Humane Society, 5664 Horatio St., Utica, NY, 13502; Susquehanna SPCA, 5082-5088 State Route 28, Cooperstown, NY, 13326; and, Helios Care, 297 River St. Service Rd., Suite 1, Oneonta, NY, 13820.

Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown. 

If you would like to send condolences to the family, send an email to Connell, Dow & Deysenroth. We will forward your comments to the family. If you would like to send flowers in memory of the deceased, contact Mohican Flowers at (607) 547-8822, or A Rose is a Rose at (607) 264-3100.