Albert Baker, 66, conservationist, engineer
Albert M. Baker Jr. of Ridgefield, an engineer who helped pioneer the use of mobile MRI units and a conservationist who promoted the appreciation of open spaces, died Sunday, June 3, at Danbury Hospital. He was 66 years old.
In his nearly 40 years in Ridgefield, Mr. Baker had been active in working for both conservation and education. Although senior citizens are often linked with anti-school-spending forces, Mr. Baker was a gray-haired Ridgefielder who invariably backed education, often with letters to the newspaper. “He always supported the schools,” said Patricia Boyd Baker, his wife of 44 years.
Thirty years ago, he and four other Republicans tried to unseat more conservative members of the Republican Town Committee in an effort to refashion the committee into a more pro-education organization. Called “the five young Turks” by a Press writer, they were unsuccessful in winning seats, but their campaign helped move the GOP more toward pro-school stances in the 1970s.
Mr. Baker was born in Stamford on Sept. 14, 1934, the son of the late Albert M. Baker and Helen Gombos Baker. He attended Stamford schools and graduated from Stamford High School in 1952. He served in the United States Army in Germany at the end of the Korean conflict.
After his discharge, he received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Fairfield University and went to work for Philips Medical Systems, a division of North American Philips. He spent 25 years as a senior project-engineering manager. In his last 10 years he focused on designing and perfecting a mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging System, scanners installed in tractor trailers that could be transported among many smaller hospitals unable to afford a permanent installation. He was involved in many aspects of the design, from the functioning of the equipment itself to the cushioning and electronic shielding of the equipment within the trailer.
The family moved to Ridgefield in 1962. Mr. Baker served as president of Ridgebury PTA and later the Joint Council of PTA’s. He was on the Committee for Adult Education and served as an alternate for the Zoning Board of Appeals. He was also involved in the voting process, serving as moderator at elections and referendums.
Mr. Baker’s love of the outdoors began when he was a child living in a rural part of Stamford. “He grew up near the woods and he always enjoyed the woods,” Pat Baker said. Many family vacations were spent camping in national and state forests. Sometimes to the chagrin of his then teenage daughters, he would often spend evenings around the campfire, playing tapes of wild bird songs.
An amateur ornithologist, he did field surveys for the Connecticut Audubon Society, was a member of the Connecticut Ornithological Association, and was treasurer of the Saugatuck Valley Audubon Society. While leading the Ridgebury PTA in the 1970s, he and his wife were leaders in a group raising money to buy Peterson Gorge, the open space next to the school that has been used as an outdoor nature classroom for more than 25 years.
Mr. Baker was a member of the Ridgefield Conservation Commission, a town agency that acquires and oversees open spaces. For the past two years, he had been one of the most active and vocal members of the Ridgefield Open Space Association (ROSA), serving on its board. “He did an awful lot of research for ROSA,” Mrs. Baker said.
He also often wrote letters to the editors in support of the town’s acquiring the Bennett’s Pond land. In his most recent letters this spring, he light-heartedly styled himself as “Joe Sixpack,” a reference to a crack made by a Board of Finance member who was critical of ROSA’s efforts.
Mr. Baker enjoyed traveling and had been to the jungles of the upper Amazon River, to Mexico during a major earthquake there, and several times to Europe. “One of his most enjoyable moments was singing Irish songs around a peat fire with two of my Irish cousins in Cork,” Mrs. Baker said. “They were impressed that he knew the words, too.”
“He was just a nice guy,” Pat Baker said. “I am going to miss him very much.”
Besides his wife, Mr. Baker is survived by a son, Stephen, of Leavenworth, Wash.; three daughters, Siobhan Baker Jenkins and Sheila Baker of Marshfield, Mass., and Amanda Baker of Odenton, Md.; three grandchildren, Felix and Audrey Baker of Leavenworth, and Ciara Jenkins of Marshfield; and a sister, Helen Baker Pasenelli of Milford.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated this morning, Thursday, June 7, at 10:30 in St. Mary’s Church. Burial will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Instead of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to RO.S.A., P.O. Box 492, Ridgefield, or the Ridgefield Conservation Commission, Open Space Fund, 400 Main Street, Ridgefield.
The Kane Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Lillian Bennett Bliss, 84, retired nurse with deep roots in Ridgefield
Lillian Sarah Bennett Bliss, a nurse and longtime Ridgefielder whose ancestors were among the early settlers of the town, died Friday, Jan. 12, at Ashlar of Newtown. She was 84 years old and had lived at 3 Derby Court, Brookfield.
Although Mrs. Bliss had been born on an estate in North Salem, N.Y., her father was a native Ridgefielder whose roots here went back to the 18th Century. She, her sister Dorothy Carboni and her brother Harry Bennett were well-known Ridgefielders.
Mrs. Bliss was born on Feb. 7, 1916, a daughter of Harry R. and Anna Karlson Bennett, and moved to Ridgefield while still a child. When she was only two, her father died in the 1918 flu epidemic, and her mother raised the family, earning income by operating a laundry business.
The family moved to Gilbert Street in 1922. Mrs. Bliss attended Ridgefield schools and graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1934.
A registered nurse for 47 years, Mrs. Bliss attended Norwalk Hospital School of Nursing, and served as an operating room nurse at the hospital for some years. She then spent many years as a private duty nurse in the area and finally was a nurse for Dr. Martin Prince at his offices in Ridgefield and Danbury for 20 years.
She and Charles R. Bliss of Stamford were married around 1939 and lived on Wilton Road West. For a year in 1953, they lived in Japan where Mr. Bliss was stationed with the U.S. Army. They were divorced in 1964 and Mrs. Bliss later lived on Greenfield Avenue.
After she retired in 1978, she moved to Florida for several years, but returned to Fairfield County in 1982, living in Brookfield. “She missed her friends,” her son, Charles R. Bliss Jr. of Newtown, said of his mother’s return to New England.
Mrs. Bliss was a founding member of the WWW, a popular Ridgefield bridge club in the 1930s and 40s, and of the CCC, a sewing club. “No one to this day knows what those initials mean,” her son said.
She was an avid bridge player. Although she participated in a few tournaments, “she was much more a social bridge player than a competitive bridge player,” Mr. Bliss said.
She was a member of Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Bliss is survived by two sons, Charles Bliss and Robert K. Bliss of Atlanta, Ga.; her brother, Harry Bennett of Astoria, Ore., formerly of Main Street; her brother-in-law Olinto Carboni of Ridgefield; and 10 grandchildren. Her sister, Dorothy Carboni, died in 1996.
A memorial service took place Tuesday at Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, 372 Danbury Road, Wilton CT 06897.
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Eleanor Brown, former Ridgefielder
Eleanor Leal Brown of 7 Union Street, Brattleboro, Vt., a former Ridgefielder, died on Sunday, May 13, in Vermont. She was 82 years old and the widow of William Victor Brown, who died more than 40 years ago. Mrs. Brown was born in Stamford on May 30, 1918, a daughter of the late Robert and Pauline Stewart Leal. She attended Stamford schools.
A Vermont resident for the past eight years, Mrs. Brown was a retired cashier with the former Grandway Store of Danbury. When they lived here on West Lane in the 1950s, her husband was a dairy salesman for Borden. Her father-in-law had been sexton at St. Stephen’s Church.
Survivors include two sons, William Brown of Bethel and Michael Brown of Danbury; two daughters, Barbara Buttery of Brattleboro, Vt., and Judith Rousseau of Brookfield; a sister, Roberta Tomanio of Danbury, 11 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
A daughter, Patricia Riccardi of Bethel, died before her.
The Rev. James Bray of the Ridgefield Baptist Church will conduct graveside services today, Thursday, at 11 a.m. in Mapleshade Cemetery.
There are no calling hours.
The Kane Funeral Home of 41 Catoonah Street is in charge of arrangements.
William Brown Jr., 77, TWA captain
William Brown Jr. of 79 Barry Avenue, a retired captain for Trans World Airlines who enjoyed iceboating and decoy carving, died at his home on Monday evening, May 21. He was 77 years old and the husband of the late Marjorie Kosky Brown.
Capt. Brown was born in New London on June 21, 1923, a son of the late William and Agnes M. Rogers Brown. He was educated in both public and military schools, including Riverside Military Academy in Gainsville, Ga.
Capt. Brown was an Army Air Force fighter pilot in the European theater during World War II, flying P-47s, and also served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He joined Trans-World Airlines in 1952, flying domestic and international routes, and retired in 1983.
He and his family moved from Wantagh, Long Island, to Barry Avenue in 1964.
Capt. Brown enjoyed working with wood in several ways. He was an expert decoy carver whose work was exhibited in shows and won several blue ribbons. His wife, who was an artist and craftsperson, often helped with coloring the decoys.
He also built and sailed iceboats — “he was a retired captain for TWA so everything had to go fast!” said his daughter, Toni Kowalec. Capt. Brown sailed at both Peach Lake in North Salem and at Bantam Lake in upstate Connecticut, and was active in Westchester Ice Boating Club.
Capt. Brown also enjoyed boating on Long Island Sound aboard his 32-foot SeaRay.
Besides Ms. Kowalec, who lives in Bantam and Ocala, Fla., Capt. Brown is survived by a son, William Brown III of Ocala; another daughter, Colleen Litof of Redding; a sister, Margaret Hopper of Modesto, Calif.; three grandchildren, William Brown IV, Stephen Partrick and Lisa Partrick; and three great-grandchildren, William Brown V, Cameron Partrick and Catherine Partrick.
Private graveside services will take place in Comstock Cemetery, Montville.
There will be no calling hours.
Contributions in Capt. Brown’s memory may be made to the Visiting Nurse Association, 90 East Ridge, or to the Ridgefield Fire Department Ambulance Fund, 6 Catoonah Street.
The Kane Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Harriet A. Callahan, 67, publisher
Harriet A. Callahan of Greensboro, N.C., a former Ridgefielder who had operated a publishing business here, died Sunday, May 27, at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro after a long illness. She was 67 years old.
Mrs. Callahan was born in Hartford, the eighth child of Doris and Herbert Hungerford. She lived in Ridgefield for many years where she brought up her three children.
Later, together with her husband Richard J. Callahan, she ran a successful publishing business for 20 years from their home, eventually retiring to Greensboro in 1986.
Besides her husband, she is survived by her three children and two stepchildren, Robby Hackert of Thomaston, Donna Ellis of Graham, N.C., Wendy Burchard of Midlothian, Va., Kevin Callahan of Richmond, Va., and Susan Callahan of Seattle, Wash.; and by eight grandchildren, seven brothers and one sister.
Services were Wednesday, June 6, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greensboro. Burial was at Westminster Gardens Memorial Park.
Contributions in her memory may be made to Hospice of Greensboro, 2500 Summit Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27405.
Hanes Lineberry North Elm Chapel was in charge of arrangements.
Marie C. Canavan, 91, family leader
Marie C. Canavan of Ridgefield and Rumson, N.J., a former sales representative, died at home Monday, May 28. She was 91 years old and the widow of the late M. Vincent Canavan.
Mrs. Canavan was born Feb. 15, 1910 in Manhattan, a daughter of the late Clarence and Rose McKenna-Cavanaugh, and attended Sacred Heart schools.
Mrs. Canavan had been a sales representative for Nina Ricci perfumes. She had a longstanding interest in the arts, especially the theater in New York City.
She moved to Ridgefield eight years ago to live with her daughter Barbara Canavan. “She was loved by all and quite an example to all of us,” said Ms. Canavan. “She helped us grow into a loving, close-knit family. She was a great lady.”
Besides her Ridgefield daughter, Mrs. Canavan is survived by four other children: Catherine C. Gaffney of Rockford, Ill., Michael V. Canavan of Hohokus, N.J., Denis D. Canavan of Bel Air, Md., and Maureen C. Barrett of Newport, R.I., and by 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Her brother, Clarence F. Cavanaugh of South Orange, N.J., died before her.
A memorial Mass will be held at St. Elizabeth Seton Church here on Saturday, June 16, at 11 a.m.
Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations in her memory be made to the Visiting Nurse Association of Ridgefield, 90 East Ridge, Ridgefield, or the American Cancer Society, 372 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897.
Imogene Coca, 92, comedienne, actress
Imogene Coca of Westport, comedienne and the “sweetheart of the golden age of television,” died Saturday, June 2, at her home. She was 92 years old and had lived in Ridgefield in the 1950s.
Miss Coca, whose show business career spanned 80 years, began performing at the age of 11. Her mother, Sadie Brady, was a magician’s assistant, and her father, Joseph Fernandez de Coca, was a violin soloist with the Philadelphia symphony in his youth and later conducted an orchestra in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and for the Keith/Albee vaudeville circuit.
Watching him rehearse, the young Imogene “caught the bug.” At age 15, she was performing in Jimmy Durante’s Silver Slipper, a tony New York club. She made her Broadway debut in When You Smile, starring Jeanette MacDonald, and continued working as a singer/dancer in New York until her friend, producer Leonard Sillman, perceived another element to her talent.
Working with her first husband, Robert Burton, in New Faces of 1934, Mr. Sillman assigned her and a young Henry Fonda to entertain the audience with brief comedy routines in front of the curtain while the scenery was being changed.
>From 1950 to 1954, she starred with Sid Caesar in the NBC television award-winning “Your Show of Shows.” According to writer Sidney Fields, “Imogene Coca is the only TV comedienne who can convulse an audience with just a wink. With one grimace she can make her mouth threaten her chin; with another, one eye will battle her nose. The endless variety of expressions on her flexible face continuously amazes everyone including Max Liebman who directs Imogene.”
She later starred in “The Imogene Coca Show” and then a summer in London on the BBC. She appeared on Broadway with Robert Preston in Janus, and starred in the Broadway hit, The Girls in 509, where she met King Donovan, who became her second husband. Their long partnership on stage and off included more than 30 productions, including Plaza Suite, The Rivals, The Fourposter, Cabaret, and The Gin Game. In 1978 she was nominated for a Tony Award for On the Twentieth Century and later won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for her performance.
She received an Emmy nomination in 1988 for a guest appearance on “Moonlighting” and for a while even appeared in soap opera, appearing on “One Life to Live.” She co-starred in the CBS television special “The Sid Caesar-Imogene Coca-Carl Reiner-Howard Morris Show,” which won 11 Emmy Awards, and she was featured on variety shows with Danny Kaye, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Elvis Presley, among others.
On film, Miss Coca is best remembered as Aunt Edna strapped onto the car roof in National Lampoon’s Vacation with Chevy Chase, and for her featured part in Under the Yum Yum Tree with Jack Lemmon.
Miss Coca received three Emmy Awards (1952 Best Actress, 1966/67 Outstanding Variety Special), the 1979 Board of Governors Award, and a Peabody Award. In 1987, she was honored with “The Lifetime Achievement in Comedy” Award, and in 1989 received the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal for “Artistry in Comedy.”
Miss Coca lived in Manhattan for most of her life, but often summered in the country, including periods in Ridgefield. She first came here in the fall of 1953, leasing a house on Silver Spring Lane. Mark Basile, a close longtime friend of Miss Coca, said she was probably introduced to the town by longtime Ridgefielders Debbie and Jack Rosenberg; Debbie Rosenberg was Miss Coca’s agent for most of her career.
“She had loved Ridgefield,” Mr. Basile said of Miss Coca.
At Miss Coca’s request, there will not be a funeral service. Donations in her memory may be made to the Imogene Coca Charitable Foundation c/o Price Financial Group, 37 North Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851.