Obituaries: Claire Birney

Claire Birney

Claire Birney, 61, of West Grove, PA, sang her last song on earth on May 13, 2020 after a very brief but hard-fought battle with cancer. She passed peacefully at home surrounded by her daughter, Annie Rose Birney and partner of 26 years, Harry Orth.

Claire was extraordinarily talented and her exceptional ability to connect with anyone and everyone allowed her to excel in music, athletics, community building and non-profit advocacy.

She was born on April 29, 1959 in Brooklyn, NY,  the daughter of Santo and Edna Pulise. Raised in Pound Ridge, NY she graduated from Fox Lane High School in 1977 and was inducted into their Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000 for her exceptional contribution to the field hockey, gymnastics and track & field teams. She used her B.A. in Communications from West Chester University to devote her life to leading fundraising efforts for worthy causes. Over her accomplished career in non-profit development, Claire raised over $100 million for regional organizations including the Stroud Water Research Center, West Chester University Foundation, University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, The Nature Conservancy, The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Winterthur Museum, Upland Country Day School and the Delaware Symphony. Most recently, Claire was the Director of Individual Giving for Easterseals of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Since 1996, she maintained her international professional certification as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and was awarded the 2007 Fundraising Executive of the Year by the organization. Claire also served as a board member for many organizations including the Brandywine Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls, the Lehigh University College of Education, the Fort Foundation for Education and London Grove Friends Meeting Committee of Trustees.

She was an active member of her spiritual community, London Grove Friends Meeting as well as her local communities in Chester County and Wilmington, Delaware. Claire was a world traveler and treasured every beach and sunset, whether at home or abroad. She brought the party wherever she went, whether it was a University of Delaware football tailgate, Dukes of Destiny concert or Jazz Fest in New Orleans. As much as she loved sailing, hiking and traveling, she found just as much rejuvenation and joy during her daily walks with her dog Crickette on Big Springs Road. Claire was blessed with an incredible singing voice and made so many happy as a member of various local ensembles including the Sin City Band and The Willin’ Band.

Claire was unmatched in her generosity of spirit and faith in God’s ultimate plan. Her first love, however, was her family and she will be dearly missed by them as well as her countless friends who have become like family. They take comfort in knowing she is now reconnected with her late father, Santo Pulise and sister, Camille, as well as beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Rusty. She is survived by her partner, Harry Orth, daughter, Annie Rose Birney, as well as her mother Edna Pulise, sister Claudia Pulise, brother Cristin Pulise, sister-in-law Bonnie Pulise, nieces Bella and Cecelia Pulise, nephews Sebastian and Maximus Pulise and stepchildren, Albert Birney and Edith Wilson. A memorial service “in the manner of Friends” will be celebrated at London Grove Friends Meeting at a later date when all are able to safely gather.

Claire would be happiest knowing we are honoring her incredible spirit by singing, dancing, contributing to our communities and taking the time to be still and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin.

Online condolences may be made offered at

In lieu of flowers, please consider a charitable contribution in Claire’s memory made to the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls, the Stroud Water Research Center or Easterseals of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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