Georgette Thomas, 83, beloved owner of the Hugging Bear



Georgette Thomas

Georgette Thomas surrounded by the bears and other toys in her shop.

Georgette Thomas, 83, of Chester, died peacefully on Feb. 13 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was best known and adored as the innkeeper of the Hugging Bear Inn & Shoppe in Chester, her business and passion since 1982. She is survived by her sister Phyllis; her children Laura, Paul and his wife Diane, Sue and her husband Jim and Kris and her husband Bob; and five grandchildren.

Ms. Thomas was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 15, 1930 to Susan Sohner and George Poehland, a prominent violinmaker. She was raised in Jamaica, N.Y., and graduated from Jamaica High School. She attended Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT, as well as Syracuse University. As a young woman, Ms. Thomas worked as a social worker before having children, and again when her children were older. She was involved in New York state politics, which led to active involvement in the Civil Rights movement, prison reform and literacy programs in state prisons. Ms. Thomas was also a lobbyist for women’s rights and fair wages for women in New York, and organized women’s groups to work for safe and legal abortions.

“Georgie,” as she was known by friends and family, loved the Adirondacks. She spent many summers there during college and with her children. She enjoyed folk music of the ’60s and often brought her children to folk festivals. Her passion for words and poetry remained with her throughout her life. Her grandson, Brendon, a musician and songwriter, says he would always be sure to mix the vocals on his albums loud enough for his grandmother to clearly hear the words. Customers in her teddy bear shop would find his lyrics and music, along with artwork and photos of all of her grandchildren, proudly on display since she would never miss an opportunity to boast of their accomplishments.

During her years at the Hugging Bear, Georgie could be found conversing warmly with guests, gardening, raking leaves or shoveling snow with an unshakable smile. She remained healthy and active through most of her life. In 2011, she took a trip to the Galapagos Islands where she snorkeled, sailed and observed the unique wildlife. A few years prior to that, she spent a winter’s week in Yellowstone National Park cross-country skiing.

In her life, Georgie embodied love. She will be remembered by her family, friends and many others for her kindness and compassion. A memorial celebration will be held in the spring.

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  1. Lynne Cannon says:

    Georgette was one of the most generous and giving souls in Chester. She will be greatly missed by those who knew her and those who will never get the chance.

  2. Mark & Lillian Handren says:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with Georgie’s family. As prior business owners across the street from The Hugging Bear, we came to know and love her even more and enjoyed the relationship that we had with her. She was full of wonderful, worldly knowledge and loved to share it with all.
    She’ll be truly missed,
    Respectfully, The Handren Family