Dave Nichols, 61, active Democrat
David Edward Nichols of 81 West Mountain Road, an IBM executive and an active political worker whose Democratic Party Web site has been widely praised and imitated, died Saturday, June 19, 2004, of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.
A 21-year resident of Ridgefield, Mr. Nichols was an active member of the Democratic Town Committee and served the town as a member of the Charter Revision, Wetlands, and Annual Town Meeting committees, among others. He also served as a board member of A Better Chance.
The son of Lee and Eleanor Nichols, Mr. Nichols was born in New York City on Oct. 17, 1942 and grew up in Rockville, Md.
From 1961 to 1965 he served in the United States Air Force as an intelligence analyst, stationed in Bedford, England. In 1963, he married Jacqueline Bruce, to whom he was wed for 40 years.
Upon leaving the Air Force, he completed his bachelor’s degree in government at Harvard University, working nights for the post office to support his family. In 1968 he began a long career for IBM, first as a salesman, then as a manager and executive in Somers, N.Y.
“He was incredible,” said Edward Hatch, for whom he worked at IBM for the past few years in a server systems technology group. “We’re just devastated.”
“He was just excellent, just a wonderful person,” he added. “We’re all kind of in shock.”
In his 36 years with the company, Mr. Nichols and his family moved from Massachusetts to New York, Virginia, New Mexico, and Maryland, before settling in Ridgefield in 1983. Mr. Nichols continued to travel for IBM in the 1990s, attending business functions in India, Russia and Brazil.
Mr. Nichols was a lifelong Democrat, who began his service to the party as a volunteer for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign and later worked on the Johnson campaign. In Ridgefield he was a 20-year member of the Democratic Town Committee, serving as its secretary and vice chair.
“One of Dave’s proudest accomplishments was his development and stewardship of the Democratic Town Committee Web site, launched in August 1997, which quickly became the envy — and the model — of political organizations throughout the state,” said Democratic Town Committee member Mark Robinson.
“Dave was a regular at party caucuses, represented the town at state party conventions, worked as a photographer at political functions, and was widely acknowledged as one of his party’s ‘wise men,’” Mr. Robinson added.
Mr. Nichols first became involved in town government in 1987 when he was appointed to the Charter Revision Commission. “I’m tired of sitting around,” he said at the time, adding that he was educated in government and had once worked in government service.
Mr. Nichols was devoted to running, biking, and swimming. He ran more than two dozen marathons, including the Washington Marine Corps Marathon and Boston Marathon, and completed several triathlons in the 1980s. Hip replacement surgery slowed him somewhat, but he remained physically active to the end of his life, which came as he was bicycling on early Saturday afternoon on West Lane.
Mr. Nichols is survived by his father Lee, his brother Michael, his daughter Corinna, and his sons David Andrew (RHS ’88) and Patrick (RHS ’89).
The Rev. Dale Rosenberger will lead services Saturday at 11 a.m. at the First Congregational Church. First Selectman Rudy Marconi will deliver a eulogy.
A reception will follow in the church’s Lund Hall.
His remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery this summer.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Rotary Park for Children of Special Needs, P.O. Box 41, Ridgefield, CT 06877.
Peggy O’Neill, 60, cancer volunteer
Margaret “Peggy” Stewart O’Neill, a former Ridgefielder who had been active in volunteer work here, especially with cancer patient support, died Monday, April 5, 2004, in Sarasota, Fla. She was 60 years old and the wife of Warren B. O’Neill of Sarasota.
A native of Plainfield, N.J., Mrs. O’Neill was born on June 24, 1943, a daughter of Elizabeth Hurst Stewart and the late Riggs T. Stewart. She graduated from Smith College in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and had been named to Sigma Xi honor society. She obtained a master’s degree in education from Columbia University.
Early in her career Mrs. O’Neill had been an elementary school teacher in New York City. She later became an executive assistant, spending most of her career with Kraft-General Foods in Rye Brook, N.Y., and retiring in 1991.
The O’Neills moved to Ridgefield around 1988 and within a year, their house had burned. In 1991, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a mastectomy. She spent more than a month in the hospital for a bone marrow transplant in 1992, missing the graduation of her daughter, Lauren, salutatorian at Ridgefield High School that year.
“I told her, ‘I’m missing this graduation to see you graduate from college,’” Mrs. O’Neill recalled some years later. She in fact attended her daughter’s graduation from Harvard in 1996 and from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001. She was also able to attend her daughter’s wedding in San Francisco last November.
As a survivor of breast cancer, Mrs. O’Neill became very active in efforts to support cancer patients. She was a local leader of Reach for Recovery, an American Cancer Society program in which cancer survivors meet with cancer patients, offering emotional support, cosmetic advice, and physical assistance.
“Encouragement and hope, that’s what Reach to Recovery is all about,” she told The Press in 2001. “Encouragement, support and hope.”
In 2000, the American Cancer Society gave her the Terese Lasser Memorial Award, a national commendation presented to “an individual of outstanding contribution to the Reach for Recovery program.”
“Peg O’Neill has proven herself worthy of this honorable recognition,” the society said. “She personally ensures every patient is cared for and looked after, matching him or her with someone who has endured a similar diagnosis and life situation.”
Mrs. O’Neill had been involved in other cancer society efforts, including daffodil sales, car raffles, the Relay for Life, Making Strides, and the Look Good, Feel Better cosmetic program.
Both she and her husband had also been active in the Danbury chapter of Literacy Volunteers of America, teaching English to the foreign-born.
She was a member of the First Congregational Church in Danbury and of its Mission Committee.
In Florida, to which she had moved in 2001, Mrs. O’Neill had been a volunteer at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, and was an American Cancer Society volunteer.
Besides her husband and mother, Mrs. O’Neill is survived by her daughter, Lauren Krotzer Seilnacht of San Francisco; and a brother, James P. Stewart of Roselle Park, N.J.
A memorial service will take place on Saturday, May 1, at 11 a.m. at the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, 716 Watchung Avenue, Plainfield, N.J.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, 372 Danbury Road, Wilton CT 06897, or to Ann’s Place - The Home of I CAN, 103 Newtown Road, Suite 1B, Danbury CT 06810.
The Good Earth Crematory in Bradenton, Fla., was in charge of arrangements.
John Occhuizzo, veteran, family man
John J. Occhuizzo of Ridgefield, a longtime Ridgefielder who served in France during World War II, died on Thursday evening, June 17, at Danbury Hospital after a battle of more than 10 years with leukemia. He was 83 years old and the husband of Sylvia Barker Occhuizzo.
Mr. Occhuizzo was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on Feb. 8, 1921, a son of the late Frank and Angelina Occhuizzo. He attended New York City schools and served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, mostly in England. While stationed there, he met Sylvia Barker and the two were married in May 1944. A few weeks later — two weeks after D-Day — Mr. Occhuizzo was reassigned to France supporting the troops at an air base.
Mr. Occhuizzo worked for more than 25 years at Pitney-Bowes in Stamford. After his retirement, he managed his son’s John’s Best Pizza restaurant in Stamford.
Mr. Occhuizzo and his family moved here from Norwalk in 1964. He enjoyed woodworking, tinkering, Italian cooking, and traveling — particularly to England, where his wife was born, and to Maine, which the family visited each year.
He especially enjoyed his family and his grandchildren. “He just loved his family,” said his daughter, Lisa Scala. “He would do anything for his family. He went to every single game game or play his grandchildren were in. He never missed anything.”
Besides his wife, Mr. Occhuizzo is survived by a son, Chris Occhuizzo and his wife Anna of Danbury; his daughter, Lisa Scala and her husband William of Ridgefield; a brother, Anthony Occhuizzo and his wife Helen of New Rochelle, N.Y.; two sisters, Francie DiFiore and Catherine Mayhew, both of Long Island, N.Y.; and four grandchildren, Matthew and Kate Occhuizzo, and Brian and Eric Scala.
The Rev. Dale B. Rosenberger, senior pastor, led services Monday in the First Congregational Church.
Interment will take place in Maine.
Contributions in his memory may be made to The Whittingham Cancer Center, 24 Stevens Street, Norwalk, CT 06851 or to the Ridgefield Fire Department Ambulance Fund, 6 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877.
The Kane Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Eugenia Passarelli, high-fashion dressmaker
Eugenia M. Passarelli, a resident of Ridgefield, formerly of Hawthorne, N.Y., died on Friday, June 25, 2004 at the age of 76. She was a dressmaker who in the course of her career worked for fashion designer Norman Norell and later locally in retail for L.A. Schulman and then Saks Fifth Avenue, from which she retired in 1993.
She was born on Nov. 21, 1927 in Grumo Appula, Bari, Italy, to the late Nicola and Gaetana (Campanelli) Romita and immigrated to the United States in 1948. She was the wife of Joseph D. Passarelli who predeceased her in 1985 and mother of five children: Ralph (wife Ginny Kuper) of Ridgefield; Joseph Jr. who predeceased her in 1964, Anthony (wife Sina) of Brewster, N.Y.; Geralyn Fanelli (husband, Ken) of Putnam Valley, N.Y.; and Janis Leni (husband Tom) of City Island, N.Y. She was also the grandmother to eight granchildren. A sister, Rosa Romita of Grumo Appula, Bari, Italy, as well as two brothers, John Romita of Port Reading, N.J., and Pietro Romita of Pleasantville, N.Y., also survive.
Memorial donations in her memory may be made to the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease, 630 West 168th Street, P&S Box 16, New York, NY 10032 or to Rosary Hill Home, 600 Linda Avenue, Hawthorne, NY 10532.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held Tuesday at St. Mary’s Church followed by burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, N.Y. Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Gary Petersen, 67, Norco manager
Gary Thomas Petersen of Pahrump, Nev., a former Ridgefielder and Norco manager, died on Friday, April 30, 2004, at his residence as a result of complications due to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He was 67 years old and the husband of Jacqueline (Devaney) Petersen.
Mr. Petersen was born in Stamford, Sept. 29, 1936, a son of Winfred Collins Petersen of Pahrump, and the late Alfred P. Petersen. He was raised in Rowayton, attended Darien schools, graduated from Fairfield University and the University of Bridgeport School of Engineering. Mr. Petersen was a U.S. Army veteran.
Mr. Peterson had been products manager for Norco Inc. of Ridgefield, retiring in 1998 after 37 years with the company. He had been a resident of Old Sib Road from 1964 to 1988, and lived in Bethel from 1988 until 1998 when he moved to Pahrump.
Mr. Petersen was an avid golfer and bingo player.
Besides his wife of 46 years and mother, he is survived by two sons, Christopher Petersen of Danbury and Brett Petersen of Newtown; a brother, Kevin Petersen and his wife Arlene of Stamford; a grandson Brian and granddaughter Rachel, as well as several nieces and nephews.
A brother Brian Petersen died before him.
Services took place on Wednesday in the Kane Funeral Home. Burial was at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Ridgefield.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 300 Research Parkway, Meriden, CT 06492.
Nancy McHardy Plaut, 67, educator
Nancy McHardy Plaut, recently of Foley, Ala., died on April 16, 2004 at age 67 after a long illness. She was a resident of Ridgefield for many years. A native of New Orleans, her home for 22 years, she was a graduate of the University of Colorado, class of 1958, where she majored in early childhood education and psychology. She taught in Boulder, Colo., for two years before moving to Connecticut where she taught second grade in Stamford, while working toward a master’s degree in education at The Columbia University Teachers College. She earned a master’s degree in guidance counseling and became certified as a psychological examiner. She served in those capacities in the Ridgebury School when she moved here in 1966.
While in Ridgefield, Ms. Plaut was active in local organizations. She was chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Ridgefield Community Kindergarten, with Director Dolores Robinson. In collaboration with Dr. Fran Roberts, she led an effort to more experiential teaching techniques in the town’s elementary schools. She produced a symposium to promote experiential teaching, featuring the principals at four schools from neighboring towns as well as demonstrations by teachers from those schools. Ms. Plaut also worked as supervisor of guidance counseling at several schools in the BOCES system of New York. In 1990 she returned to the South to be with childhood friends and family.
She is survived by two children, Dr. Shelley McHardy Plaut of Rome, Ga., and Gordon McHardy Plaut of New Fairfield, a physician assistant at Danbury Hospital; two sisters, Corrine Keefe of Covington, La., and Shelley McHardy of Foley, Ala. Her father, Dr. George Gordon McHardy, and mother Nancy McHardy predeceased her.
There are no calling hours. Memorial contributions may be made to any organization chosen by her friends or to Mid-Delta Hospice of Alabama Inc., 6750 Airport Boulevard, #5, Mobile, AL 36616. Phone: 251-341-1101 or fax: 251-341-1955.
William "Tom" Reisen, 71, former Ridgefield resident and police volunteer
William “Tom” Reisen, age 71, of Grassy Plain Street, Bethel, died Friday, June 25, 2004 at Hartford Hospital of complications related to strokes. He was the husband of Rosamond (Visco) Reisen. A resident of Ridgefield for over 26 years, he moved to Bethel seven years ago to live closer to his beloved grandchildren.
He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Feb. 14, 1933, a son of the late William J. and Mary E. (Clark) Reisen. Tom attended Blessed Sacrament School and Chelsea Vocational High School in New York City. In 1952 he joined the U.S. Navy and became a Mineman 2nd Class, as well as a firefighter. He served in the Panama Canal Zone as well as Virginia and South Carolina stations during the Korean Conflict.
He attended the New York School of World Trade for marine and ground traffic. Corporations he worked for included Sinclair Oil Corp., Bowater Paper Company, Stauffer Chemical and Carl Zeiss Inc.
While living on Long Island he trained with the Nassau County Police Department Auxiliary force and served for several years. After moving to Connecticut he volunteered with the Connecticut State Police for one shift a week. When the town of Ridgefield started a supernumerary police force, he was one of the first volunteers and served the Ridgefield Police Department for over 10 years.
He was a member of St. Mary’s Church in Bethel and the American Legion. An avid reader and historian, he loved to visit historic sites and feel the sense of history. A lifelong admiration of the U.S. Navy guided him towards his career in maritime traffic. He visited and was familiar with ports in the U.S. and abroad. Tom’s greatest joy was his family and his home.
Besides his wife of 43 years, he is survived by two daughters: Theresa Kingsbury and her husband Douglas of Bristol and Jennifer Larsen and her husband Stuart of Bethel; a son William F. Reisen of Danbury; three grandchildren: Stefan, Claudia and Anna Larsen of Bethel, as well as several nieces and nephews. One of three children, he is survived by his sister: Margaret Morlando of Punta Gorda, Fla., and was predeceased by his sister Mary Booth of Florida.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Ridgefield PBA, East Ridge Road, Ridgefield, CT 06877 or to St. Mary’s Church, Dodgingtown Road, Bethel, CT 06801.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Mary’s Church on Tuesday, June 29. Cremation will take place at the convenience of the family.
Gina Rossini, Ridgefield native
Gina “Jean” Rossini, a Ridgefield native who had lived much of her life in Brookfield, died on Monday, April 5, 2004, at Laurel Ridge Health Care Center in Ridgefield. She was 88 years old and the widow of Orazio Rossini, who died in 1976.
Mrs. Rossini was the daughter of the late Joseph and Anna Genga Baldaserini. She was born on Nov. 19, 1914, on Col. Louis Conley estate, known as Outpost Farm, and now the Bennett’s Pond open space.
Mrs. Rossini was a lifetime area resident, settling in Brookfield in 1965. She was a parishioner of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Church in Brookfield.
She was a former member of the Italian American Mutual Aid Society of Ridgefield, the Brookfield Bowling Club, and the St. Gregory Senior Citizens Group.
She loved playing cards, cooking, baking, and spending time with her family and grandchildren.
Survivors include her son, Richard Ciuccoli and his wife Jennifer of Southbury; two grandsons, Mark McConkey of Danbury, and Capt. Vincent Ciuccoli, USMC, of Washington, D.C.; three granddaughters, Lori Mazzucco of Brookfield, Gina Ciuccoli of California, and Theresa Carley and her husband Matthew of Trumbull; two great-grandchildren, Anthony and Jena Mazzucco; two brothers, Gino Baldaserini of Ridgefield and Paul Baker of Southbury; her stepchildren Shirley Faynor of Danbury and Richard Rossini of Jupiter, Fla.; stepgrandchildren, Jacqueline Infurchia, Marlene Lane, Stephen Faynor, Caroleen and Skipper Rossini.
A daughter, Joan McConkey, and a brother, Primo Baldaserini, died before her.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Wednesday at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Church in Brookfield.
Burial followed in St. Peter Cemetery, Danbury.
Memorial contributions may be made in the memory of Gina Rossini to the American Heart Association, 5 Brookside Drive, Wallingford, CT 06492.