Marguerite Reulbach, former bookkeeper
Marguerite W. Reulbach of 51 Prospect Street, a homemaker and a retired bookkeeper, died Tuesday, Oct. 3, at her home. She was 78 years old and the wife of the late Raymond J. Reulbach.
Mrs. Reulbach was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 23, 1922, a daughter of the late George and Catherine (Kemper) Schauer.
She attended Brooklyn schools and had worked during the 1940s as a bookkeeper for the Grace Shipping Line of New York. She had been a homemaker most of her life in Garden City Park, Long Island.
After the death of her husband in 1996, Mrs. Reulbach moved to Ridgefield. She was a member of the OWLS and of St. Mary’s Church, and was involved in supporting the work of various Catholic charities.
“She loved plants, gardens, animals, and was a humanist,” said her son, Paul Reulbach of Ridgefield. “She will be missed.”
Besides her Ridgefield son, Mrs. Reulbach is survived by another son, Robert Reulbach of Harbor Green, Long Island; a daughter, Karen LaFerrera of Bellmore, Long Island; and seven grandchildren, including Kathryn and Christopher Reulbach of Ridgefield.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday at 10:30 a.m. in St. Mary’s Church.
Burial beside her husband, a World War II Navy veteran, will follow in Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton, Long Island.
Friends will be received in the Kane Funeral Home, 41 Catoonah Street, on Thursday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8.
Contributions in Mrs. Reulbach’s memory may be made to the Meals on Wheels Program, 25 Gilbert Street, or to the Ridgefield Fire Department Ambulance Fund, 6 Catoonah Street, both of Ridgefield 06877.
Frederic Pitre, 54, shipping executive
Frederic Pitre, who expanded the use of self-unloading ships and changed a world-wide industry, died Sunday, Oct. 1, of cancer. He was 54 years old, and had lived in Ridgefield for five years.
He was very smart,” his wife, Diane, said. “He had a quirky sense of humor. He was very unconventional, a very unconventional person. He wasn’t a straight thinker, he was more of a visionary.”
Mr. Pitre was born Sept. 11, 1946 in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada, a mining and paper town where his father worked in the paper mill. Mr. Pitre grew up there, and went to three colleges in Canada — St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia, Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and then the University of Toronto after he decided to specialize in engineering. He got his master’s of business administration through night classes at McGill University while working at the Bank of Montreal.
He then took a job with Canada Steamship Lines, beginning a 29-year career in the shipping industry. He was with Canada Steamship for 22 years, rising to the office of president.
“He changed the industry. He just brought it into the 20th Century,” said his wife. “The company itself was antiquated, he computerized it, and he made a lot of changes to the industry itself.”
He improved efficiency and saw the many possibilities of self-unloading ships, which are equipped with a boom and conveyer-belt and don’t not require sophisticated port facilities such as tractor cranes for unloading.
“You don’t need any dock facilities, you don’t need anyone on the dock. The ship can just come and put its boom over to the dock and it unloads itself,” Mrs. Pitre said.
He saw that “self-unloaders” could be used beyond the Great Lakes, in international shipping.
“In the Great Lakes they were unloading ships in six hours. In international shipping it was taking six days,” his wife said.
He also pioneered the idea of ship-to-ship self-unloading, sending out smaller vessels to take cargo from big carriers that had gone through the Panama Canal but were too deep for Canada’s St. Lawrence Seaway.
He received numerous awards for his service to the shipping industry, and traveled the world as a sought-after speaker at meetings and conferences.
In 1993 he founded his own company, Global Self-Unloaders, bought a ship and converted it to a self-unloader. He also did a lot of consulting and worked as broker, matching ships to cargos.
In 1995 he and his family moved to Ridgefield, closer to the New York-centered market. They lived first in Eleven Levels and later in the Ridgefield Knolls.
Later in his career he brought the self-unloading concept to third world countries that lacked developed port facilities.
Travels over his career took him to Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
In his rare free time, Mr. Pitre liked jog.
Beside his wife he is survived by two daughters, Amanda Bonneau of Toronto, Canada; a son and daughter in Ridgefield, Andrew and Allison Pitre; and his parents, Emile and Hermina Pitre of Bathurst.
Services will be in Bathurst, with a wake Thursday and a Mass of Christian Burial on Friday.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, or to a charity of one’s choice.
Olaf Olsen, 81, film actor and filmmaker
Olaf Olsen, a longtime Ridgefielder who had a distinguished career both in front of and behind the camera, died Sept. 5, it was learned this week. Mr. Olsen was 81 years old and had been living at Laurelwood.
A native of Germany who was born in 1919, he came to England when he was 15 years old and almost immediately began a career in film and radio. Mr. Olsen played in 29 British films including The Man in the White Suit, Lili Marlene, and We Dive at Dawn, performing alongside such greats as Alec Guinness, Deborah Kerr, and Leslie Howard.
At 18, he played a German POW in the BBC production of Journey’s End, the first full-length drama ever broadcast over live television.
He was only 19 in 1938 when he played Queen Victoria’s son-in-law with Dame Anna Neagle as the queen in Sixty Glorious Years, a film about the reign of Queen Victoria. In 1953, the year of the present queen’s coronation, he portrayed Prince Albert with Miss Neagle in the musical version of the Victoria story, The Glorious Days, which was at the Palace Theatre for two years.
Mr. Olsen also appeared in more than 1,000 BBC radio and TV broadcasts.
In 1954, he went to Hollywood to sign a movie contract but Jack B. Ward offered him the vice-presidency of Ward Acres Studios of New Rochelle, N.Y., a newly formed enterprise that produced TV commercials and documentaries.
In 1957 he and Mr. Ward moved to the former Ridgefield Golf Club calling it Ward Acres, and breeding and raising award-winning thoroughbred racing horses.
Mr. Olsen continued to produce travel documentaries as the Olsen Film Productions Company, serving as cameraman, producer, director, cutter, editor, and synchronizer. Distributed by the J. Arthur Rank Group, many were world travelogues, but some also dealt with horses and wildlife. His favorite is the widely shown Lion Country Safari.
Almost as soon as he arrived here, Mr. Olsen became active in the Red Cross. He also formed a group that visited and entertained patients — including the criminally insane — at the old Fairfield Hills State Hospital in Newtown, Southbury Training School, and other institutions and hospitals in the region. He showed his films to many organizations and in many schools.
Did he miss acting? he was asked in 1975. “No,” he replied. “When you’ve had your name in lights for two years in London, what else do you want?”
Nonetheless, in 1996, when he returned to London for a memorial to Dame Anna Neagle, mobs of fans sought his autograph and Princess Anne invited him to a party. “What a delightful and fascinating man he is,” the Princess was quoted as saying after meeting and chatting with Mr. Olsen.
No services were planned.
Eleanor Newton, 84, a founder of Ridgefield Baptist Church
Eleanor S. Newton of Hebron, N.H., a founding member of the Ridgefield Baptist Church, died Monday, Sept. 25, at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, N.H. She was 84 years old and the widow of Stanton Newton Sr., who died in 1993.
A native of Boston, Mass., Mrs. Newton was the daughter of Irvin and Elsie Clayton Studwell. She grew up in Rye, N.Y., a descendent of one of the founding families of the town. She moved to Spring Street in South Salem, N.Y., in 1946, and lived there nearly 50 years.
For many years, she had worked for the Pinchbeck Brothers nursery in Ridgefield as a floral designer.
She had been a member of the Christian Women’s Club of Southern Connecticut, and helped start the Ridgefield Baptist Church in 1961.
In 1993 she moved to Hebron to be closer to her family.
Mrs. Newton is survived by a son, Stanton Newton Jr. of Hebron; a daughter, Eleanor Myles of Rumney, N.H.; a sister; 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Two sons died before her: Irvin S. Newton in 1960 and Peter R. Newton in 1985.
Burial was in South Salem Cemetery on Spring Street.
A memorial graveside service will take place Sunday, Oct. 8, at 3 p.m.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Manadonock Bible Conference, P.O. Box 70, Jaffrey, NH 03452.
The Mayhew Funeral Home in Plymouth was in charge of arrangements.
James Menousek, taught chemistry for 35 years
James A. Menousek of Bethel, who taught 35 years at Ridgefield High School and then became a volunteer at the school, died Monday, Oct. 2, at Danbury Hospital after a long illness. He was 66 years old.
Mr. Menousek, who taught chemistry, came to Ridgefield High School when it was still on East Ridge and had graduating classes of about 50 students. He retired in 1997 and immediately began volunteering 20 hours a week at the school assisting staff and students.
“He enjoyed being at Ridgefield High School so much that after he retired because of his illness, he continued to come in every day as a volunteer to help with computer maintenance and programming,” said high school Principal Joseph Ellis. ”When I suggested that maybe we could arrange for a paid job, he said he preferred working for nothing so he could come and go as he pleased.”
Mr. Menousek grew up in New Britain and graduated from Central Connecticut State College with a bachelor’s degree in education and from Fairfield University with a master’s in science education. He was a recipient of a National Science Foundation Award.
He came to Ridgefield High School in 1961. At that time, he told The Press in 1999, there were three openings in the state for a science teacher and he chose Ridgefield because it had “by far the best facility.”
“I probably learned more than the kids did my first year,” he said. “They learned some chemistry. I learned how to teach chemistry.”
And it was the teaching he loved. “The drag in teaching is the homework, correcting lab tests. But the excitement in a class is still there for me. I love it.”
Mr. Menousek had great rapport with students. Years ago, a student in class asked him his age and when he declined to reveal it, the students said they would sing happy birthday to him every day. And they did — for more than 15 years — passing the tradition on to each new class.
In 1997 Mr. Menousek came down with pneumonia and was out for eight school days — more time than he had missed in 35 years. It unnerved him and he decided to retire, effective Feb. 4, 1997. The next day, he returned as a volunteer, helping with computers, which had been his hobby for many years.
“He could fix anything that was broken, electrical or mechanical,” Dr. Ellis said. “I once asked him to look at a broken electric pencil sharpener. After he had it working, I said that I was surprised that he knew about electric pencil sharpeners. He said it was the first time he ever worked on one.”
“Jim Menousek was a throwback to another era,” Dr. Ellis added. “He was one of those old-time, dedicated teachers with high standards whose major concern was the teaching of chemistry.”
Survivors include two sons, Michael Menousek of Newtown and Andrew Menousek of Clearwater, Fla.; a daughter, Margaret Austin of Manhattan Beach, Calif; a sister, Betteanne Menousek of New Britain; and two grandchildren, Catherine and Matthew Menousek, both of Newtown.
Friends will be received at the Kane Funeral Home, 41 Catoonah Street, today (Thursday) from 4 to 7 p.m.
There are no services.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, 372 Danbury Road, Wilton CT 06897.
William McMahon, teacher and author
William C. McMahon of Lawson Lane, a longtime teacher, a textbook author and a conservative activist, died Saturday, Oct. 21, at Pope John Paul II Center for Health Care in Danbury. He was 80 years old and the husband of Lorraine M. Remillard McMahon.
Bill McMahon, who taught in the Ridgefield schools for nearly 20 years, succumbed to the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, an ailment that led him to retire early from teaching and to move from his beloved home on Main Street. In a 1991 interview that focused on how he was dealing with the disease, Mr. McMahon told The Press, “I try not to be morbid — not to be a nuisance to the people around me. I very consciously try.”
“This is the most horrific disease you will ever see,” said his daughter, Lori E. McCleery of Danbury, this week. “Yet, he never complained about it.”
A native of Dorchester, Mass., Mr. McMahon was born on March 15, 1920, a son of the late Edward and Mary Long McMahon. He graduated from Roxbury Memorial High School in 1937, and received his bachelor’s degree in education from Boston University and a master’s in English from Southern Connecticut State College.
Mr. McMahon served four years in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. He and the former Lorraine Remillard were married on Aug. 22, 1948 in Boston.
A specialist in reading, he began his teaching career in southeastern Connecticut, working at schools in Old Lyme, Hamburg, and Old Saybrook, then moved to the New Canaan schools where he not only taught but was a state reading consultant. He then joined the Mt. Pleasant School District in Westchester County, and soon after, came to Ridgefield.
Mr. McMahon taught reading at Branchville School for many years, beginning when it opened in 1969, and then moved to Veterans Park. He retired from teaching in 1987 after the effects of his disease were growing stronger. “I wanted to be honest and fair,” he said. “All along I told [the principal] that I wouldn’t stay if I couldn’t do the work.”
His work over the years included 16 years of teaching at Western Connecticut State University where he was assistant professor in the School of Graduate Studies. He taught courses in “The Teaching of Reading” and “English Phonetics,” and wrote textbooks on reading instruction.
Mr. McMahon was convinced that reading is best taught through phonics, although that was not always the favored approach of school administrators during his career. He developed his own phonics readiness program, wrote a series of workbooks that he first published on his own and were then picked up by an educational publisher in Cambridge, Mass., who kept them in print for 20 years.
He was well known regionally as a reading teacher and had been president of the Danbury Council of the International Reading Association.
Early in his career here, Mr. McMahon established the Ridgefield Independent Teachers Association as an alternative to the Ridgefield Teachers Association, the established union. The group, later called Professional Educators of Ridgefield, objected to Ridgefield union members’ being forced to join and pay money to the Connecticut and National Education Associations, because those organization supported political candidates and political action committees.
A conservative politically, Mr. McMahon was active in supporting conservative causes and candidates, and was once vice president of the Connecticut Conservative Union.
He had many other interests. For nine years during the 1970s and early 80s, Mr. McMahon operated a food co-op, open to both teachers and the public, which allowed people to buy foods and household items in bulk at considerably discounted prices. “It was a kind of pre-Costco,” said his daughter, Lori. He’d drive his pickup truck on regular runs to New Jersey for supplies, and gave up the co-op only after “my truck wore out,” he said later.
For a time he and his son, Barry, operated a “greaseless doughnut” business. “And this was before all the concern about low fat diets,” Mr. McMahon said.
He also enjoyed maintaining his 19th Century Italianate Victorian home on Main Street, which the McMahons purchased in 1963 after having lived three years at the Ridgefield Knolls. He kept a large garden out back and enjoyed raising vegetables. The family sold the house in 1985 to move to Casagmo.
Mr. McMahon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1976 and became active in the local support group; his wife still is active. He was pleased with the help that new medications in the late 1980s were providing. He also extended his mobility through the use of a special three-wheeled scooter that allowed him to drive into town. In 1991, Mr. McMahon, who was six foot seven inches tall, rode his scooter with the American Legion contingent in the Memorial Day Parade.
Mr. McMahon frequently commented on the community scene through letters to the newspaper. Usually, his writings dealt with education. One, in 1982, noted that The Press had just carried two interesting help wanted ads in the classifieds. One sought “cleaning ladies” at $40 for a six-hour day and the other, Ridgefield substitute teachers for $30 a day.
“There must be at least 300 certified, unemployed teachers in Ridgefield,” he wrote. “Why must the Board of Education advertise for substitutes? Where are all the teachers? Now we know where they are. The females are working as cleaning ladies.”
Besides his wife and daughter, Mr. McMahon is survived by three sons, Brian C. McMahon and his wife, Slavka, of Sydney, Australia, Edward S. McMahon of Chapel Hill, N.C., and Barry O. McMahon of Danbury; two brothers, Edward and George McMahon; two sisters, Margaret McDonald and Rita Voerding; and two grandchildren, Meghann and Kellie McMahon of Vermont.
A brother, John, and two sisters, Mary Hood and Theresa Lamb, died before him.
A memorial Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Mary’s Church at a time to be announced.
A private graveside service, with military honor guard, will take place in St. Mary’s Cemetery at the convenience of the family.
There are no calling hours.
Contributions in Mr. McMahon’s memory may be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Association of Connecticut, 27 Allendale Drive, North Haven CT 06473.
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.