Dawness Niehoff McPherson, 81, of Ithaca, passed away unexpectedly on November 30, 2020 after a brief illness.
Dawness was born in Allentown, PA, spent her formative years in Lehighton, PA, and subsequently moved to NY, first to Endicott and then Ithaca, where she unleashed her entrepreneurial spirits by partnering with Beth Dyer to form and operate Sally Forth, the gift shop with the distinctive red boxes that graced the Commons for 14 years (1978-1992). This experience not only spawned a lifelong friendship, but also provided a treasure-trove of memories that they revived and shared with unrestrained joy at the drop of a hat. Dawness subsequently relocated to Sacket’s Harbor, NY with her husband Andy McPherson to help manage Navy Point Marine, a family business. There she founded yet another enterprise, Navy Point Canvas, dedicated to the creation and repair of cockpit covers and other accessories to enrich the experiences of the many sailboat enthusiasts who frequented the marina.
Upon returning to Ithaca in 2011, Dawness rekindled the “artistry that seemed to shine within her” (to quote a cousin) by devoting more of her considerable talent and time to horticulture and gardening, eventually producing one of the most beautiful and widely admired properties in the area. Even at age 81, she frequently spent all day on these endeavors, tweaking here, rearranging there, in constant pursuit of perfection. When not tilling the soil, she spent many a happy hour volunteering at the local SPCA. She never met a cat she didn’t like and quite frequently brought one or more home for a few extra doses of her tender loving care. In 2019, Dawness received the SPCA’s coveted “Scooper Award” for her devotion to the facilities felines, which included, among many other things, purchasing and maintaining much-needed self-heating pads to help keep them warm in the winter. As one of her colleagues so poignantly put it, “Her passing left a very big hole in the hearts of her many friends here”.
And so it has in the hearts of her devoted family members, along with a cadre of additional friends accumulated over a lifetime well lived. Memories of her warm welcomes, big hugs, and generous spirit, and, shall we say, keen observations of the follies of our time will sustain us forever.
Surviving Dawness are her friend and partner Andy McPherson, her daughter Suzanne (John) Wisor, her brother Greg (Pam) Reich, and a devoted group of feline companions. Predeceasing her were her cherished daughter Pamela, her parents Thelma and George Reich, and her brother Ian Reich.
Burial will be private. Plans for a post-Covid-19 memorial are on hold. Meantime, those who wish to make contributions in Dawness’ memory are asked to consider The SPCA of Tompkins County, 1640 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, or Alley Cat Allies at www.alleycat.org.