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Annette Gurney Ontell
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Annette Gurney Ontell

Annette Gurney Ontell, 93, of Hillside died June 4, 2011. Born in Newark to immigrants from Poland and Belarus, she lived in Hillside for 71 years.

Mrs. Ontell worked for many of the major Seventh Avenue dress houses and was one of the originators of the junior line in women’s wear. She designed couture clothing for many clients during the 1930s, including some of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art. From the end of the Depression until 1942, she ran the power sewing rooms in the women’s prisons and girls’ reformatories for the New Jersey Department of Institutions & Agencies. She instituted two major reforms: bringing music into the prisons and making sure that each woman had a uniform that fit, making the dress patterns in multiple sizes so that inmates would no longer feel invisible. She was commended for her efforts by then-NJ Gov. Charles Edison.

Having sewn clothing to help support her family since the age of eight, she attended Newark’s West Side High School by day and Arts High School by night. She studied costume design and graduated from Pratt Institute.

She was a lifetime member of Hadassah and active as a leader in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, she made hundreds of shirts for the Israel Defense Forces.

Predeceased by her husband, Herman B., and son, David R., she is survived by a daughter, Marilyn G. of Manhattan, and two grandchildren.

Services were held June 7 with arrangements by Menorah Chapels at Millburn, Union.

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