Maria Cisyk, concert pianist
Maria Cisyk of 76 Minuteman Road, a concert pianist, died at Danbury Hospital on Dec. 6 after a 15-year battle with breast cancer.
Ms. Cisyk was born in 1945 in a Displaced Persons camp near Bayreuth, Germany of Ukrainian parents and emigrated to the United States when she was four years old. Her father, Wolodymyr Cisyk, a concert violinist, provided early music studies at their home in Brooklyn, which led to enrollment at the High School of Performing Arts, Juilliard Preparatory College, and Juilliard College.
Ms. Cisyk also held postgraduate degrees from both Yale University and Juilliard, where she was also a teaching fellow in Music History and Literature and Materials of Music. During her undergraduate career, she was a student of M. Munz and Rosinna Lhevine and as such could trace her musical lineage directly to Franz Liszt.
Ms. Cisyk was a former director of the Preparatory and Extension Divisions of the San Francisco Conservatory and served at various times on the faculties of Juilliard, Yale, SUNY Binghamton, New York University, Lone Mountain College, and Western Connecticut State University.
For the past 25 years Ms. Cisyk maintained private teaching studios in The Carnegie Hall Building in New York City, and at her home in Ridgefield. She was known among her colleagues and students for her work as a teacher, performance coach, and performing arts medicine consultant.
An active soloist and chamber artist, Ms. Cisyk performed by invitation both abroad, such as in Lviv and Kiev, Ukraine; and in numerous places in the United States, including Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Hartford, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, and quite frequently in New York City. In 1993 she appeared in a recital at the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium at the United Nations.
Ms. Cisyk was also in demand by professional teaching associations as a lecture-recitalist in piano pedagogy, piano literature, and performing arts medicine. Some of her more popular lecture-recitals included The Color Theories and Music of Scriabin, researched and first performed during her time at Yale University; from Bach to Schoenberg: Passion and Reason Through the Centuries, given at Vassar College in 1999; and The Impressionist Aesthetic in Music and Art, the subject of a 1997 lecture-recital at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
She is survived by her daughters, Samantha Merley of Redding, and Alexandra Merley of Northampton, Mass., and Jeffrey Baker, her companion of 20 years.
Donations may be made in Ms. Cisyk's name to Because Life is Beautiful, a breast cancer awareness program that is purchasing mammography equipment for Ukraine. Checks should be made out to Public Education International, for account number 101303-000 and mailed to Self-Reliance Ukrainian Federal Credit Union, 2332 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622. Please note with your donation that it is being made in memory of Maria Cisyk.
Friends will be received, Sunday, Dec. 14, at Kane Funeral Home, in Ridgefield from 1 to 4 p.m.
Roy Deeks, 71, was active here
Roy Douglas Deeks of Wailuku, Hawaii, a former Ridgefielder who had been active in the community, died Monday, Oct. 20. He was 71 years old.
A longtime Ridgefield resident, Mr. Deeks grew up in Branchville, attended the old Branchville Schoolhouse and graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1950. He attended Hamilton College.
Mr. Deeks was active in the Jesse Lee Memorial Church Choir, and in local musical theater as well as sports and scouting.
In 1971 he and his family moved to Hawaii where he worked for Hawaiian Cane and Sugar Company as a radio technician.
He is survived by his wife, Joan Baxter Deeks; two daughters, Diana Cerizo and Linda DeWitt; a son, Steven; a brother, Roger; and six grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Wednesday, Oct. 29, at Ala Lani Methodist Church, Kahului, Maui.
Marion Ellis, 96, fed the foxes
Marian Ellis, who had lived in Ridgefield most of her 96 years, died at her home in Rowayton on Wednesday, Dec. 10. She was a former longtime resident of the Branchville section of Ridgefield where she was born and raised. Mrs. Ellis was the widow of E. Joseph Ellis.
Mrs. Ellis was a daughter of the late Pasquale and Catherina Mariani DeBenigno. While growing up, she assisted her parents in running the Branchville General Store.
Before her marriage in 1947, she was employed at the Bullard Company in Bridgeport.
Mrs. Ellis was a member of Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown for more than 75 years and had been involved in many activities of the parish. She was known as an avid vegetable gardener and animal lover and enjoyed feeding breakfast to the many foxes who inhabited her wooded property.
Surviving is her sister, Alice Bacchiochi of Rowayton; and several nieces and nephews.
Mrs. Ellis was predeceased by her three brothers, Emile, Dominick and John DeBenigno.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday in Sacred Heart Church. Burial was in the family plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Contributions in memory of Mrs. Ellis may be made to Sacred Heart Church, P.O. Box 388, Georgetown, CT 06829.
Richard Foote, 78, investments leader
Richard L. Foote of Ridgefield, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Connecticut Investment Management Inc., died of respiratory complications on Dec. 17, 2003, in Palm Beach. He was 78 years old.
Mr. Foote graduated from Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., where the gymnasium was named in honor of his family, which provided the project’s funding. He also was a graduate of Columbia University and The New York Institute of Finance, and he attended the School of Management at Yale University.
He began his career in advertising, becoming an executive vice president and director of John Blair & Co. at age 29. He changed career direction with a stint on Wall Street with W.E. Hutton & Co. and R.W. Pressprich & Co.
In 1970 he founded Connecticut Investment Management of Essex, in reaction to what he felt was the unfair disadvantage mutual funds placed on its clients in terms of hidden and excessive fees. Mr. Foote believed it was far better for the investor to own common stocks directly in their own name, rather than on a pooling basis, especially as they developed considerable wealth. As such, he became one of the nation’s pioneers of large capitalization growth investing, taking a long-range holding view. He built his firm on the philosophy of giving close attention to the needs of entire families.
Mr. Foote was considered an outstanding leader, his family said. “He was always kind and generous but steadfast to his proven investment style and was never swayed by trends. His company ranks among the top money management firms in America in terms of investment performance, always outstripping the S&P Index.”
Mr. Foote was born in 1925 in Grosse Pointe, Mich., where his father, Walter Douglas Foote, served as executive vice president of Alcoa Aluminum and pioneered the introduction of aluminum in car manufacturing.
His mother was Lydia Helen Mann of Philadelphia. Her ancestors came to America with William Penn and belonged to the Philadelphia Assembly. Lydia Mann Foote was an active member of the Society of Colonial Dames’ New York Chapter until her death.
Mr. Foote’s great-grandfather, Charles Alexander Silver, settled in Brooklyn in 1845 and became, as a building contractor, a major force in the development and settlement of Brooklyn Heights.
An avid sailor, Mr. Foote began sailing at age eight when he received his first boat. He always kept one or more boats moored nearby his offices and residences. He was a member of the New York and Essex Yacht clubs, among others.
“His love of the water and all things water-related included always residing on or nearby the water and collecting marine prints,” his family said. Among his collection, John Mecray’s Reliance was his favorite. Mr. Foote’s ashes were scattered by boat 50 miles out from his Palm Beach residence.
He is survived by his wife, Daniele Hampton of Ridgefield, Old Lyme and Palm Beach, an entrepreneur; a son, Richard of Scotland; a daughter, Elizabeth of Oregon; four stepchildren, Shenandoah of Vermont, Stephen, Shawn and Christopher of Connecticut; four step-grandchildren, Hope, Ashley, Joshua and Joel; and a sister, Helen Foote Knowlton of Falls Village and Jupiter, Fla.
John F. Fossi, 62, business leader
John F. Fossi of Danbury, a Ridgefield native and longtime business leader in town, died on Saturday, Dec. 13, at Bethel Health Care Center. He was 62 years old and the husband of Patricia Gorman Fossi.
A founder of Century 21 Landmark Properties, Mr. Fossi had long been active in the community, both as a businessman and an athlete. “He had a knack for making anyone he came in contact with feel special,” said State Rep. John Frey, his business partner. “He had a tremendously huge heart.”
Mr. Fossi was born April 5, 1941, the sixth of seven children of the late Dominic and Ida Montanari Fossi. He grew up in Ridgefield, and lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Ridgefield High School. When he began football in 1956, Ridgefield still fielded six-man teams. He was on the school’s first 11-man squad in 1957, and a year later was quarterback and co-captain of the team. He was a member of the 1957 baseball team that won the conference championship.
He graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1959 after having been voted “most popular” and “most athletic.” He went on to attend Miami University in Ohio.
Mr. Fossi served in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 until 1967, and had worked for a short time at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in the Mohave Desert. He and Patricia Gorman were married in 1967.
Early in his career, Mr. Fossi had worked at Craig’s Jewelry Store on Main Street. During the 1970s and 1980s, he owned and operated the Ridgefield Deli at 590 Danbury Road. In 1992, he co-founded Century 21 Landmark Properties with his brother, Louis J. Fossi, and Mr. Frey, and he later became the principal partner with Mr. Frey.
“He was a truly all-around great guy, a salt-of-the-earth man,” Mr. Frey said. “He had a very loud infectious laugh and a cheek-to-cheek smile.”
In 1998, when Mr. Frey was considering running for the office of Ridgefield’s representative in Hartford, he approached his partner about the idea. “John would have had veto power over my running for state representative,” Mr. Frey said. “Instead, he encouraged me to run, even though it would mean a sacrifice for him. He was very supportive, right from the start.”
“There is going to be a huge void in my life without John around,” Mr. Frey added. “He was a great partner and an even greater friend.”
Active in the real estate profession, Mr. Fossi was past president and treasurer of the Century 21 Connecticut Broker’s Council, an organization representing the 90 Century 21 offices in Connecticut, and was a past director of the Ridgefield Board of Realtors.
He belonged to the Ridgefield Downtown Committee, and was a past director of the Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the Fairfield County Easter Seal Committee.
His longstanding interest in youth sports led him to serve as a member of Finance Committee of Tiger Hollow, which recently built the athletic stadium at the high school. He was a founding member of the Danbury Athletic Youth Organization’s Pop Warner Football program, and had coached the Bissell’s Pharmacy team in Ridgefield Little League.
At their annual banquet in 2001, the Ridgefield Old Timers honored him for his athletic and civic accomplishments.
Mr. Frey said that although Mr. Fossi was active in his business and community work, “his family was number one.” In recent years, “when one of his grandchildren visited the office, he just dropped everything. To see him with his grandchildren was just really touching.”
An avid golfer, Mr. Fossi was a member of the Ridgefield and Richter Park Men’s League and the current golf champion of the “Fossi Family Annual Pennsylvania Golf Tournament,” a yearly gathering of his siblings. He had earlier been active in local softball leagues.
Former First Selectman Louis Fossi said his brother “was the most light-hearted of all the children, well known for his many pranks. He laughed often, in a wonderful horse laugh, and no one laughed more loudly at his own jokes — or at himself — than did John.”
“He was a genuinely happy human being, who found the good in others very easily.”
Besides his wife of 36 years, Mr. Fossi is survived by three sons, Darrell D. Fossi and his wife Lois of Hershey, Pa., Devin Fossi and his wife Kathy of Kenley, N.C., and Donald D. Fossi and his wife Julie Anne of New Milford; three sisters, Dorothy Marconi of Wallingford, Elsie Craig and her husband Norman of Ridgefield, and Norma Contessa of Danbury; three brothers, Robert L. Fossi and his wife Jean of Shillington, Pa., Louis J. Fossi and his wife Ann of Pawleys Island, S.C.; and Thomas D. Fossi and his wife Jeanette of Harrisburg, Pa.; 11 grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
The Rev. Jude Fay celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial Wednesday in St. Peter’s Church, Danbury.
Burial was in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Ridgefield.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Southbury Training School, Farm-I, Southbury, CT 06488, or to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 6931 Arlington Road, Bethesda, MD 20814.
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Jane Gabbianelli, former Ridgefielder
Jane Katherine Crozier Gabbianelli, a former Ridgefielder who had been active in church work and scouting, died on Dec. 3, in Maine.
She was born Sept.. 9, 1918 in Montpelier, Vt., the daughter of James and Jane Muir Crozier.
Mrs. Gabbianelli graduated from Lancaster Academy, Lancaster, N.H. and received her nursing degree from Sacred Heart Hospital School of Nursing in Manchester, N.H. in 1939.
She worked in Maine, New Hampshire, Florida, and Connecticut, where she met and married Peter Gabbianelli, a native of Ridgefield. She lived in Ridgefield for over 30 years and while raising their family on New Street, Mrs. Gabbianelli was a member of The Rosary Society; St. Mary’s Mother’s Club; president of Cana; and active in Girl Scouting, receiving the St. Ann’s medal. She also was a nurse in area hospitals and in the community for many years.
The Gabbianellis moved to Maine in 1977, and Mrs. Gabbianelli remained active in a number of organizations. In 1987 her husband died.
“Jane’s most precious gifts were her grandchildren,” her family said.
“Jane was an avid reader, card player, knitter and quilter. She loved to be with people and was always baking for every occasion. She touched many lives and will be dearly missed.”
Her survivors include her children and their spouses, Mary Jane and Gregory John Coleman of Waldo, Maine, Frank and Joanne Gabbianelli of Dixmont, Maine, Edward and Ann Marie Gabbianelli of Ridgefield, and Anne and Paul O’Reilly of Hampden, Maine; her grandchildren, Christopher Coleman of Brooks, Maine; Michael Gabbianelli of Ridgefield, Erica Gabbianelli of Boston, Mass., Nicholas Gabbianelli of Dixmont, Maine; and Donovan O’Reilly of Hampden, Maine; a sister in-law, Clara Cirone of Brookfield; several nieces, nephews and cousins.
The Rev. Andre Houle celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial Friday at Sacred Heart Church in Winn. Burial was at Woodlawn Cemetery in Lee.
Donations in her memory may be made to: Ronald McDonald House, State Street, Bangor, Maine 04401, the Ridgefield Fire Department, 6 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield, or a charity of your choice.
Joseph Gulick Sr., stock executive
Joseph J. Gulick Sr., retired senior vice-president of the American Stock Exchange, died Monday, Dec. 22, in Washingtonville, N.Y. He was 92 years old.
Survivors include his son, Joseph J. Gulick Jr. of Ridgefield.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday at 10 a.m. in St. Mary’s Church, Ridgefield. Burial will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
There will be no calling hours.
The Kane Funeral Home of 25 Catoonah Street is in charge of arrangements.
Fritz Houser, 78, wounded on D-Day
Francis X. “Fritz” Houser, who won the Purple Heart for wounds he received off Omaha Beach on D-Day, died Thursday, Dec. 29, in Marco Island, Fla. The former Ridgefielder was 78 years old and the husband of Mary Houser, to whom he had been married for 52 years.
On June 6, 1944, Mr. Houser was crewman aboard a naval landing vessel approaching the Normandy shore. “I was talking with the guy standing next to me on the LCI when we hit a teller (water) mine and the explosion killed him,” he told an interviewer in 2001. “That’s when the war started for me.”
A native of Philadelphia, Mr. Houser grew up there and joined the Navy when he was 18, much to the chagrin of his mother and father. “My parents didn’t like it when I enlisted, but I knew I had to go,” Mr. Houser said.
He became a member of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion that would play an important role in the D-Day landing, a short time after Mr. Houser’s 19th birthday.
Though the mine that killed his comrade ripped a hole in the landing craft, the boat continued in and quickly ran into other problems. Anti-aircraft guns “were zeroed in on us from the word go,” Mr. Houser told the Marco Island Eagle two years ago. “Small-arms fire and machine-gun fire kept raking the beach.”
Mr. Houser was wounded several times in the legs and was rescued before the landing craft sank from the mine and anti-aircraft damage. Many of the soldiers being transported were killed before they could even leave the boat.
Mr. Houser was brought to a hospital in England to recuperate. He was later sent to the Pacific Theatre, where he took part in the invasion of Okinawa.
Mr. Houser won the Purple Heart for his injuries, but his battalion’s heroism on D-Day went largely unnoticed until 57 years later. President Bush commended Mr. Houser and more than 100 other “Forgotten Sailors” in 2001, presenting them with a unit citation, the Normandy Medal of the Jubilee of Liberty, for their valor at Omaha Beach.
Mr. Houser and his family moved from Philadelphia to Ridgefield in 1962. He had been a photo engraver with Graphic Colorplate in Stamford for many years. The Housers moved to Marco Island in 1984.
Besides his wife Mary of Marco Island, Mr. Houser is survived by two sons, both from Ridgefield: Richard Houser, and Francis Houser Jr. and his wife Mary Jane; and four grandchildren, Jimmy, Danny, Jennifer and Andrew.
Services took place Jan. 2 on Marco Island.