James J. Lee., 83, fought on Okinawa
James J. Lee Sr. of Ridgefield, a World War II veteran who fought at Okinawa, died Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Laurel Ridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on Route 7. He was 83 years old and had been the husband of the late Louise M. Shufelt Lee for 50 years.
Mr. Lee was born in Norwalk on April 27, 1919, a son of James and Elizabeth Kelly Lee. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theatre in charge of Army ordnance. In 2000, just before Veterans Day, Mr. Lee was among several veterans who described to a group of Boy Scouts the fierceness of battle during landing in the invasion of Okinawa. “We came ashore in landing craft,” he recalled. “The kamikazes were rough.”
Mr. Lee had a long career as a specifications analyst for Nash Engineering in Norwalk.
He and his family moved to Ridgefield in 1962. He enjoyed playing golf.
Survivors include a son, James J. Lee Jr. of New Haven; two grandchildren, Jessica Lee and Matthew Lee, both of Norwalk; and several nieces and nephews.
A brother, Irving Lee, died before him.
The Rev. Gregory Errgong-Weider, pastor of the United Congregational Church in Norwalk, will conduct services tonight, Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 at the Magner Funeral Home, 12 Mott Avenue, Norwalk. Burial will be private.
Friends may call at the funeral home on Thursday from 5 p.m. until services begin at 7.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Connecticut Audubon Society, 2325 Burr Road, Fairfield, CT 06430-9954
Evelyn B. Leeman, 94, teacher, volunteer
Evelyn B. Leeman of 822 North Salem Road, a former teacher and a leading force in the growth of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, died on Tuesday morning, Dec. 17, at Danbury Hospital after a brief illness. She was 94.
Mrs. Leeman was born May 19, 1908 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of William A. and Frieda S. Boeger. She grew up in Brooklyn and Elmhurst, N.Y. She attended Jamaica Training School, N.Y., a teachers’ college, and later received a master’s degree from Danbury State Teachers’ College (now WestConn). While living in New York she was a first and second grade teacher in Jackson Heights, N.Y.
She met George B. Leeman at a party in February 1938, and they were married four months later. They moved to Ridgefield around 1940. They lived briefly on Ivy Hill Road, then on Olmstead Lane before moving to the present address on North Salem Road in 1948. Mr. Leeman, who died in 1978, was a professional musician who wrote arrangements for several ensembles, including the orchestra of the Arthur Godfrey Show.
In 1955 Mr. Leeman suffered a major stroke, which ended his commuting to New York City. Mrs. Leeman began teaching in the Ridgefield school system to support the family. She taught first and second grade at Veterans Park School and Scotland School for many years and served as a private tutor to several students as well.
Mrs. Leeman was a member of the Caudatowa Garden Club, Thrift Shop, Great Pond Club, and a Red Cross blood drive volunteer. However, her greatest love was the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, of which Mr. Leeman was one of the founders. They worked together to promote and build the orchestra. She was a board member for more than 25 years and corresponding secretary for many years.
She was a member of St. Stephen’s Church and taught Sunday School there.
Mrs. Leeman was artistic and enjoyed painting, drawing, flower arranging, cooking and entertaining, and music. One of her favorite pastimes was keeping in touch with her former first and second grade students over the years, calling or writing them to congratulate them on their accomplishments.
She is survived by her children: George and Virginia Leeman of Ridgefield, and Evelyn and Robert Martinez of New Haven; grandchildren, Leslie Leeman of New York City, Jeff Leeman of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Susan Sendroff of New Haven, Michael Martinez of New Haven, and Kathryn Martinez of Montgomery Village, Md.; great-grandchildren Lily and Zoe Sendroff of New Haven; a brother, William A. Boeger Jr., of Tequesta, Fla.; nieces Barbara Mason of Newton Center, Mass., and Elise Boeger of New York City; and a nephew, William A. Boeger III of Sun Valley, Idaho.
A brother, T. Edward Boeger, of St. Petersburg, Fla., died before her.
A memorial service will be held in January at St. Stephen’s Church.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, P.O. Box 289, Ridgefield, CT 06877.
Helen C. Lesser, 88, was Army nurse
Helen C Lesser of Haviland Road, a retired nurse and an Army veteran, died on Sunday, Feb. 16, at Laurel Ridge Health Care Center. She was 88 years old and the widow of Cyril Lesser, who died in 1975.
Mrs. Lesser was born in Taylors Falls on April 6, 1914, a daughter of Anton and Matilda Engdahl Strum. She grew up in Minnesota and was a graduate of Lutheran Deaconess Nursing School in Minneapolis.
During World War II, Mrs. Lesser served as a nurse in the Army Air Corps and after the war worked for the Veterans Administration. Before retiring to Florida, she had been a nurse and on-site medical officer for the New York Public Library.
Mrs. Lesser had lived in Wood Ridge, N.J., and Bradenton, Fla., before coming to Ridgefield, living at first at Kiwi Corner, Fox Hill condominiums.
“Much of her life was devoted to her love of music, playing piano, performing with several choral groups and playing the recorder in local organizations in the New York area, Florida and Connecticut,” said her daughter, Diana Friedlander of Ridgefield.
Besides her daughter and her son-in-law, Arnold Friedlander, Mrs. Lesser is survived by a son, Dr. Maury Lesser and his wife Linda of Dumont, N.J.; and by three grandchildren, Alia and Andrew Lesser of Dumont, and Abigail Friedlander of Ridgefield.
A memorial service will take place at a time and place to be announced.
Contributions in her memory may be made to a charity of choice.
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Lena Jean Marconi, 78, mother of First Selectman, "represented the heart of Ridgefield"
Lena Jean Marconi, a lifelong Ridgefielder and mother of First Selectman Rudy Marconi, died Thursday, April 3, surrounded by family at her home on Prospect Street. Mrs. Marconi, called "Grammy," was a lover of golf, enjoyed writing short poems, and was well known for her chocolate chip cookies. She was 78.
She was born April 12, 1924 to Attilo and Gina Montanari Cassavechia in North Salem, N.Y. She moved to Maple Shade Lane in Ridgefield when she was just months old and lived there until she was married in 1947. She attended Titicus School and Ridgefield High School.
"My mother lost her own mother when she was only eight years old and as a result, she became a homemaker at a very young age — taking care of her younger brothers and sisters," her son Rudy said. "My father, Nano, became her knight in shining armor when he gave her her own home and a family."
Mrs. Marconi was married to the late Nazzareno (Nano) Marconi and in addition to Rudy they had a daughter, Linda Rose of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Friends and family say that while Mrs. Marconi had various jobs, including a 23-year career at Fairfield County Trust (currently First Union Bank), her true love was her husband and her priority was taking care of her family.
"She found wealth in the simple things," said Rudy. First she loved her husband, then came family and then the church and community."
With children grown followed by retirement from the bank, Mrs. Marconi focused on a new career — one that would earn her the nickname that would stick throughout the rest of her life — Grammy.
"She worked at the Fitness Studio (now Every Woman’s Spirit) taking care of kids who were eight months to two and one-half years," said daughter-in-law Peggy Marconi. "Every single child there was so important to her — she loved every baby — even the ones who cried and had runny noses — the toddlers used to line up for a chance to have her do "Staccia Minaccia" with them. That was her success." (Staccia Minaccia is an old Italian lullaby similar to Rock A Bye Baby.)
Her grandsons, Andrew, Jason and Alex Marconi, all of Massachusetts remember the Italian lullaby well. They say she was the kind of grandmother who focused her attention 100% on them when they visited. "She would serve us sugar-coated cereal," said Jason.
In her retirement years, Mrs. Marconi was an avid golfer, bowled, loved playing cards and continued to be an exceptional cook.
"I can remember my mother rolling out the sheets of pasta and then cutting them all by hand," said Rudy. "It was amazing that every single one of those strands of pasta were exactly the same size."
Mrs. Marconi was a familiar face on her son’s campaign trail. It wasn’t unusual to see her sitting at a long table surrounded by her friends and fellow workers stuffing endless envelopes while they chatted about local happenings. When she wasn’t helping out at campaign headquarters, she was home baking her famous chocolate chip cookies, which she brought in to fortify the workers.
As one volunteer tells it, the chocolate chip cookies were unofficially named the favorite food of the Ridgefield Democratic Party. In fact, so coveted were these cookies that during Mr. Marconi’s first week as first selectman, she brought them to Town Hall where they were quickly devoured.
Sister-in-law Dora Cassavechia couldn’t recall just one good time the two friends had together. "We met when I was dating her brother," said the former town clerk whose late husband Quinto was Lena’s older brother. "I have so many memories and all of them are good. She was more than a sister to me."
Old friends say that while Mrs. Marconi always placed her family first, she made being a good friend a priority. Pauline Moylan, former Republican registrar of voters, grew up with Mrs. Marconi and recalled that during the war the two would work all night at Raybestos in Bridgeport and then go on to horseback ride in the mornings. "We were up all night so we slept during the day," said Mrs. Moylan.
Mrs. Marconi also loved to sing and dance and as a young woman she sang in a band with the "Tulipani Brothers."
"I’m going to miss Lena a lot," said longtime friend, golf buddy and fellow traveler Carol Ancona. "We used to take great trips together with her Nano and my Nano. She was a great lady and always with a great smile."
Mrs. Marconi was well known for her infectious smile, though friends and family say it faded somewhat when her husband died in 1995. When asked how she was doing, she would often say, "I miss hearing him say ‘I love you’ every morning — he did that every day we were married."
Mrs. Marconi was a member of the Italian Ladies Society for Mutual Aid. She was an active member of St. Mary’s Church where she was baptized, confirmed, married, and where a mass of Christian burial was said in her honor on Monday, April 7. She was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery and a luncheon was held to celebrate her life at the Italian club where more than 150 people gathered to share warm stories of a woman they say represented the heart of Ridgefield.
Besides her two children and her daughter-in-law, survivors include five grandchildren, Amanda Marconi of Ridgefield, Andrew, Jason and Alex Marconi of Massachusetts, and Kimberly Rose of Illinois. Also surviving her are siblings, Edith D’Agostino of Ridgefield, Rico Casavechia of Clearwater, Fla., Reno Cassavechia of Charleston, R.I. and Rena D’Agostino of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and numerous nieces and nephews. A brother, Quinto Cassavechia, predeceased her. Her first great-grandson is due in August.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association, 90 East Ridge; St. Mary’s Parish, 183 High Ridge Avenue; or to any Ridgefield charity of choice, especially the police and fire departments.
Joseph Marino, 75, inventor for TV and Broadway stage
Joseph T. Marino of 52 Barry Avenue, an inventor who created projection devices for television and Broadway, died Saturday, Jan. 18. He was 75 years old and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
A native of New York City, Mr. Marino was born on Nov. 14, 1927, and grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was involved in the atomic bomb tests at Operation Crossroads in Bikini Lagoon.
After the war, he studied internal carving, a method of sculpture using plastics. He became a television stagehand during the medium’s early days, working for such programs as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, and The Gary Moore Show.
An inventor who was always tinkering with new ideas, Mr. Marino eventually developed a system for projecting large-scale images for the television and Broadway stage as well as for theme parks across the country. He founded the Spectra Company, which made the high temperature projection slides for the entertainment industry.
“He saw what they needed and developed this,” said his wife, Alma Marino. Although he retired 10 years ago, “they are still calling up to order this.”
Mr. Marino also invented “Flame Coat,” a flame-resistant coating for quartz slides, and “Spectra,” a light-refracting film used to make jewelry and decorative items.
He had been a Ridgefielder for 30 years.
Besides his wife, Mr. Marino is survived by four children, Lois, Joseph, Stephen, and Robert; and by one grandchild, Stefan.
Services will be private.
Contributions in Mr. Marino’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, Connecticut Chapter, 607 Main Street, Norwalk, CT 06851.
James A. May, 89, lifelong Ridgefielder
James A. May of 265 Main Street, a Ridgefield native and retired heavy equipment operator, died at his home on Wednesday morning, March 19. He was 89 years old.
Mr. May, nee Ciro Mei, was born in Ridgefield on June 14, 1913, a son of Antonio and Albina Manoni Mei. He attended Ridgefield schools and graduated from Ridgefield High School with the Class of 1931. He was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army.
Mr. May was a retired heavy equipment operator who had worked many years for the former Bacchiochi Construction Company. He was a member of the Operating Engineers Union.
A Main Street resident for many years, Mr. May enjoyed the outdoors and working on his yard and his garden. His section of public sidewalk was invariably one of the first cleared on Main Street after each snowstorm.
“He loved to help his neighbors and his family,” said his grandnephew, Bob Mei of Brookfield. “He lived a very quiet and simple life.”
Mr. May was a member of St. Mary’s Church of Ridgefield.
Surviving is a sister, Helen Leary George of Danbury, two nephews, three nieces and several grandnieces and grandnephews.
Two brothers, Frank Mei and Anthony Mei, and a sister, Inez Latanzi, died before him.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Monday in St. Mary’s Church. Burial was in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Ridgefield Library, 472 Main Street, or to the Ridgefield Fire Department Ambulance Fund, 6 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Vincent Mazzi, 95, stonemason
Vincent Mazzi of Olcott Way, a well-known stonemason who lived nearly 80 of his 95 years in Ridgefield, died Friday, March 7, in Danbury Hospital.
Mr. Mazzi was born on Aug. 14, 1907, in San Lorenzo in Campo, Le Marche, Italy, the only child of Antonia Peruzzini and Domenico Mazzi. In 1923, when he was 16, he and his father sailed aboard the Columbo to the United States to seek a new life. They arrived in New York and settled in Ridgefield where his uncle, Tony Mazzi, and other recent immigrants from his home town were living.
Mr. Mazzi’s first job here was at the Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill in Georgetown where he earned $15 a week.
In 1926, still a citizen of his native land, Mr. Mazzi returned to Italy to serve nearly two years in the Italian Army. When he returned to Ridgefield, he went to work for the Vincent Bedini Company where he apprenticed as a bricklayer. He subsequently developed a career in Ridgefield and area towns as a stonemason and craftsman and his work was held in such high regard that it was once featured in Architectural Digest.
“He loved Ridgefield and he left his stamp on a lot of houses,” said his son, Fred, who noted that Mr. Mazzi had built many fireplaces, chimneys, patios, walls, and swimming pools in town. Among the most often seen of his works is the stone wall in front of the Ridgefield Library on Main Street.
In 1931, Mr. Mazzi and Ida (Ada) Gasperini, a daughter of Teresa Bedini and Nazzareno Gasperini, were married in St. Mary’s Church. They had been married 66 years when Mrs. Mazzi died in 1997.
In 1953, Mr. Mazzi built his home, clearing two acres of woods at 348 Wilton Road West and erecting the house himself. He and his wife lived there until 1979 when they moved to Casagmo.
Mr. Mazzi, who became a U.S. citizen on June 28, 1935, was active in St. Mary’s Church where he had been a member of the Marquette Council, Knights of Columbus. He had also been a member and president of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen in the area.
He enjoyed getting outdoors and being active. Late in life he would often walk from Casagmo down to the front of the town hall, where he’d sit on a bench and chat with friends.
“Mr. Mazzi had a very strong work ethic, and he was an avid sports fan and a lively and fun-loving person,” his family said. “He brought great joy to his family, extended family and all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.”
Mr. Mazzi is survived by one son, Fred Mazzi and his wife, Miriam, of Roseville, Calif.; two grandchildren, Michelle and Vincent Mazzi of California; two sisters-in-law, Mary Paterniani of Ridgefield and Lena Franchino of Tom’s River, N.J.; five nieces and nephews, Lucille Paterniani of New York, Teresa Cooper of California, Christina Ranck of Ridgefield, Maria Franchino of New Jersey, and Nino Franchino of England; a cousin, Clem Finney of Ridgefield; 12 grandnieces and grandnephews; seven great-grandnieces and -grandnephews; and distant relatives in Italy. A nephew, Peter Franchino, died before him.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Tuesday in St. Mary’s Church. Burial was in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Contributions in Mr. Mazzi’s memory may be made to the Ridgefield Fire Department Ambulance Fund, 6 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield.
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.