Lester Selnick, 80, electrical engineer
Lester L. Selnick, a Ridgefield resident since 1961, died on Tuesday, June 15, 2004, at the age of 80.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Mr. Selnick became an electrical engineer and his work took him around the world from Japan to Germany where he met his wife, Erna in 1956. They were married for 48 years and were founding members of the Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield.
Mr. Selnick had a number of hobbies and watching the Yankees was one of his favorites. While frequently complaining about their performance, he never failed to miss a game.
“He never lost his interest in computers, and would frequently have to explain the basics to his sons in — between his daily crossword puzzles,” his family said.
“Full of love for his grandchildren, he would always ensure he had a special gift to give them when they came to visit.”
Besides his wife, Mr. Selnick is survived by his children Larry and Diane Selnick and their son Stephen; Hal and Melissa Selnick and their sons Aaron and Matthew; Susan Henderson; Norma and Ray Ledan and their children, Meghan and Nicholas; Arnold Selnick; Ken Selnick; Alexandra and fiancé, Alfie Peters. Also surviving are his brother Alfred and his family, wife Phyllis, daughters Barbara and Gail and her son, Brian.
Cantor Penny Kessler of the United Jewish Center will lead graveside services on Thursday at 2 in Ridgebury Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association, 90 East Ridge, Ridgefield, CT 06877.
The Kane Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Edith Eilertsen Sharnik, 48, artist
Edith Lynn Eilertsen Sharnik of Stamford, an artist and a 1974 graduate of Ridgefield High School, died on Saturday, May 8, at Stamford Hospital. She was 48 years old and the wife of John R. Sharnik.
Born Oct. 13, 1955 in Greenwich, Ms. Sharnik was the daughter of Nancy Richardson Eilertsen of Corinth, Vt., and the late Herbert A. Eilertsen.
Mrs. Sharnik spent her early childhood years in Corinth until 1965 when she moved to Ridgefield with her family. She graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1974 and after living here, moved to Rowayton. She had lived in Stamford for the past 18 years.
Like her mother, Mrs. Sharnik was an artist and had showed her art work at many local art shows. She was employed for 14 years through Mulqueens Arts & Custom Framing as a framer, handling the work of many local artists and doing the framing for some significant art collectors and art shows.
She was a member of the Rowayton Art Center and the Old Greenwich Art Society. She had also been a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Darien since 1973.
Besides her mother and her husband, Mrs. Sharnik is survived by three brothers, Herbert A. Eilertsen Jr. of New Milford, Eric Raynor Eilertsen of New Fairfield, and Benjamin Richard Eilertsen of Corinth; and six nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 471 Mansfield Avenue, Darien, on Sunday, May 23, at 3. Burial is private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to Pivot House, 17 Quintard Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854.
Stephen Shay, longtime policeman
Stephen J. Shay Jr. of Ridgefield, who had been a Stamford police officer for nearly half a century, died Saturday, June 19, 2004, at Danbury Hospital. He was 77.
Born March 19, 1927, in Bridgeport, he was a son of the late Stephen J. and Mary Long Shay Sr. He lived in Stamford until 1973, when he came to Ridgefield.
Mr. Shay was a Stamford policeman for 46 years before retiring in 1997. For five years he held the “No. 1” badge, signifying his senior status among the force.
He graduated from Stamford High School in 1945. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Stamford.
He followed local and national politics, was an avid reader and gardener, and was a catcher for the Bull’s Head Hardball Baseball Team.
Mr. Shay is survived by his wife, Marie-Claire Shay of Ridgefield; four sons, Terrence P. Shay of Ridgefield, Stephen T. Shay of New Milford, Sean J. Shay of Darien and Marc Shay of Southbury; a daughter, Monique Shay Baker of Woodbury; and 18 grandchildren, eight nephews and three nieces.
A daughter, Francoise San Fan Andre, and a brother, Eugene Shay, died before him.
A procession will leave the funeral home at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, June 24, for Holy Spirit Church, 403 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford, where a Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10.
Burial will follow in Queen of Peace Cemetery, Rockrimmon Road, Stamford.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Stamford Police Widow’s Fund, c/o Stamford Police Department, 805 Bedford Street, Stamford, CT 06901.
Howard Silverman, romantic artist
Howard Allen Silverman, romantic painter of French and English landscapes long active in Ridgefield’s artistic and literary circles, died April 23 at the Wilton Meadows Health Care Center. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for many years.
Mr. Silverman was born on May 8, 1919, in Pittsburgh, Pa., the youngest of six children of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. Growing up in the Depression, he held a number of jobs — one of them making kosher pickles for a brand his brother Alvin named “Howard’s Pickles” and another, selling Good Humor ice cream on the beaches near New Haven.
Named an All Scholastic player in 1937, Mr. Silverman went to Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship. When World War II broke out, he signed up to become a pilot, but his red-green color blindness kept him grounded. He attended Yale Engineering School and was assigned to aircraft design and safety inspection.
In 1946, Mr. Silverman obtained a degree in industrial design from the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie-Mellon, then known as the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he spent a lot of his spare time at the drama school. He then went to France, intending to become a playwright or a novelist.
Mr. Silverman studied painting and drawing at the Académie Julien and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. It was during a master class with the painter Chaplain-Midy that he experienced a memorable, if not life-threatening, incident with his red-green color-blindness. The students were painting a still life of a large loaf of bread with a shiny crust. He worked for hours to render the odd shape and subtle reflections. When the maître finally came to his easel, he took a long look at the painting, then ventured a question, “Very intéressant, Monsieur, but why was it covered with green mold…?”
By 1948, the Count Robert de Cazeneuve gave Mr. Silverman the first of four successful one-man shows in his Left Bank Gallery. In 1951, the City of Paris commissioned five views of the city from the artist. His romantic sensibility, exquisite and colorful palette and thick impasto technique appealed to the French, coming out of the cold and dreary years of German Occupation and rationing. The French National Tourist Office even chose one of his watercolors of Montmartre for its advertising campaign, “If you love life, you’ll love France!” which appeared in Time, Newsweek, and The New Yorker.
Recognized as the “most promising young American painter in Paris,” he was awarded a two-year Fromke Scholarship from the U.S. Embassy in France to develop his work in Segovia, Spain, from 1952 to 1954.
Mr. Silverman traveled widely in Europe, but his favorite subjects included the ports and seascapes of Normandy, Brittany and the Riviera. Another source of inspiration was the classical ballet and to capture its magic, he developed an unusual technique. Wet paper allowed the rich background colors to swirl and blend into each other, while several flicks of white captured dancers in movement or at rest.
His work was often compared to the French Impressionists, but Mr. Silverman used to say, “Impressionism is light for light’s sake. I’m not interested only in light. I’m interested in atmosphere…the poetic and the romantic.”
The Paris edition of The Herald Tribune said, “There is an unidentifiable quality in his work — it might very well be that rare combination of ability and good taste,” while the revue Les Arts wrote, “it is marvelous that, in so little time, this American artist has understood and translated so beautifully all the aspects of Paris.”
Anxious to return to the U.S. late in the summer of 1956 to be with the woman he loved, Mr. Silverman begged his agent to change his steamship booking. He had already been relaxing in Massachusetts when news came that the boat he had been scheduled to take, the Italian ship the Andrea Doria, had sunk off Nantucket.
Returning to Pittsburgh in 1957, Mr. Silverman married Rhoda Lobel, and they remained devoted to each other for more than 45 years. His taste for adventure and new sources of inspiration sent the couple, with Rhoda’s eight-year-old daughter Peggy, to Mexico. They stashed all their belongings on the roof of a second-hand Nash Rambler station wagon and headed for the Texas border. Later that year, the artist began exhibiting the work done in Mexico at shows in Pennsylvania and New York.
In 1958, the Silvermans settled on Limekiln Road in Ridgefield. He became a member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists, hoping to re-create the animated discussions of art he had experienced with fellow artists in Paris. He designed the striking costumes, reminiscent of the famous Ballet Russes, for the Christmas Pageant of the Ridgefield Girl Scout Choir.
Mr. Silverman used to like to quote one of Bert Lahr’s lines in the S.J. Perelman play, The Beauty Part: “Lay-off the Muses, kid. It’s a tough buck.” But he never seemed to follow his own advice. After dozens of exhibitions from Palm Beach to Madison Avenue, he tried his hand at a humorous novel on the gallery scene entitled, ‘...But I know what I like…’ and a book to introduce children to contemporary art called The Art Apple.
Dissatisfied with the way drama was being taught to high school students, he and a friend devised a way to film professional productions of Shakespeare, staged by The Roundabout Theater of New York, and modern plays, which Mr. Silverman directed himself. Their Drury Lane Productions created sets of slides and teaching guides to bring the plays alive.
In 1963, Mr. Silverman staged a memorable production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller at the Brookfield Country Playhouse. During the 60s, he introduced local residents to the work of Murray Schisgal and Harold Pinter in productions given in a converted barn on the Hines’ property on Limestone Road.
During the late 1960s, Mr. Silverman started experimenting with collage techniques using his own recycled watercolors and photos from fashion and travel magazines. He embarked on a series of extremely large paintings, reminiscent of Monet’s waterlilies, expressing his love of color and his romantic sensibility. He expanded this technique to three dimensions in a series of iconoclastic diptychs and triptychs during the 1970s.
Returning to a classical mode, Mr. Silverman used his extraordinary skills to pay homage to a self-made man, his father-in-law Samuel Lobel. The result was a set of larger-than-life-sized portraits, from birth to old age, set against a stark, white background.
Mr. Silverman and his wife Rhoda enjoyed traveling in Europe. In the 1980’s, they discovered Cornwall, whose quaint seaports and lush countryside inspired many of his late landscapes and elegant ink drawings.
Mr. Silverman often quoted his friend, the Southern novelist Max Steele: “Don’t talk about your ancestors, be an ancestor!” He lived up to the aphorism.
“Howard was anything anyone could ever wish for in an ancestor,” said his daughter, Peggy Frankston of Paris. “He shared his sense of humor and his kindness, his love of all living things and his humanistic view of the world with all who knew him. He bequeathed to me, his daughter, his love of France, his commitment to the arts and his passion for the theater. My mother, Rhoda Silverman, and I miss him more than words can say.”
Eileen Swartout, teacher, farmer
Eileen May Tavenner Swartout of Brockport, N.Y., a farmer, teacher and mountain climber, died at Lakeside Hospital in Brockport on Wednesday, July 7, 2004, after a brief illness. She was the widow of Dr. Sherwin Swartout and had lived in Ridgefield from 2000 to 2003, with her son Torin and his family.
Mrs. Swartout was born in Pennsylvania, and raised in Colorado. She attended Western High in Denver and met her husband during his Air Force Flight Training at Colorado Springs during World War II.
After their marriage, they lived in North Dakota, where she learned about country living and farming. In 1950 the Swartouts moved to Brockport where Dr. Swartout would be a professor of education at the State University of New York at Brockport until his retirement in 1980.
In 1956 the couple bought a working farm in Brockport where they grew cherries, apples, and wheat and raised chickens (which she had often joked she would write a book about).
In Brockport, Mrs. Swartout returned to school to graduate summa cum laude from SUNY Brockport. She went on to obtain her master’s degree and taught at the university and at the Campus School.
All this was accomplished while raising three children and helping on the family farms in New York and North Dakota. She later managed all the family farming operations.
“A vivacious redhead all her life, she was an avid mountain climber,” her family said. “Eileen was an adventurous, warmhearted, free-spirited person, appreciated by all around her for her generosity, sense of humor, stylishness and her sharp intellect which she maintained to her dying day.”
Mrs. Swartout enjoyed traveling, and her family said that “Eileen made lasting impressions on people everywhere she went, and her travels included all the states, Mexico, Canada, Norway and Japan. One of her favorite trips was a cruise to Alaska with her grandson, Jesse.” She was known as “Baba” to her grandchildren.
She was an avid reader, keeping an extensive reference library at home. She found “answers to the questions of friends and family at a moment’s notice, long before Google.” She enjoyed theater, crosswords and lively conversation.
Mrs. Swartout was a founding member of the Monroe Historical Society, and an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Brockport. While in Ridgefield, she worshipped at Wilton Baptist Church.
She is survived by three children, Kate Mitchell of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Kevin Swartout and his wife, Charlotte, of Brockport, N.Y., and Torin Swartout and his wife, Anne, of Ridgefield; by nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, and a sister, Laurel Novak of Pueblo, Colo.
A brother, Eugene Tavenner, and a grandchild, Jesse Swartout of Ridgefield, died before her.
A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Brockport on Aug. 7 at 11 a.m.
Mrs. Swartout will be cremated and buried beside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Anasazi Foundation, 1424 South Stapley Drive, Mesa, Arizona 85204.
Sister Barbara Topazio, teacher
Sister Barbara Topazio, CND, known in religion as Sister St. Mary Barbara, died at Danbury Hospital on May 19 at the age of 65.
Sister Barbara was born in Waterbury on Sept. 22, 1938, the daughter of the late Stella (Lagownik) and Nicholas Topazio. She graduated from Hopeville School and Waterbury Catholic High School in Waterbury and from Catholic Teachers College in Providence, R.I.
Sister Barbara made her first profession of vows in the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in August 1959 and final vows in August 1965. She taught in St. Albans, Vt., Providence, R.I., New Haven, Kankakee, Ill., St. Charles, Va., Children’s Community School, Waterbury, and Pharr and Edinburgh, Texas.
“For the past four years Sister Barbara has resided in Ridgefield and served the retired sisters in many wonderful ways,” said a spokesman for the Congregation of Notre Dame. “She organized activities for the sisters, provided music for religious and social activities, used her creativity in providing beautiful decorations for every season and occasion. Her presence was known throughout the Ridgefield community.”
She is survived by her sister, Patricia Topazio of Waterbury, her brother Donald and his wife Judy of Florida, her brother Lawrence and his wife Maureen of Waterbury and several nephews and their children.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on May 22 at St. Mary’s Church. Burial followed in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Danbury.
Sister Barbara has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made in her memory to the Congregation of Notre Dame, Ridgefield, or Emmaus House in Elberon, N.J., or Hospice of Western Connecticut.
Joan Watts, accounting supervisor
Joan Moll Watts of Bethel, a former Ridgefielder who had worked for Pepperidge Farm, died Tuesday, July 6, in Bethel Health Care Center. She was 68 years old.
Mrs. Watts was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., on July 25, 1936, a daughter of the late Theodore and Madeline Pasacreta Moll.
She came to Ridgefield around 1960, living at first at the Merrick Apartments on Peaceable Street, and then in a home on North Street. She had moved to Bethel some years ago.
Mrs. Watts was a supervisor of accounting with Pepperidge Farm before her retirement. She had been with Pepperidge Farm in Norwalk for 10 years and had earlier worked for Ridgefield Savings Bank and RichardsonVicks.
“Joan was a very loving and devoted friend, mother and grandmother,” her family said.
Survivors include a daughter, Karen Filkin and her husband Harry of Brielle, N.J.; one sister, Lynn Holmes of New York; two grandchildren: William and Grace Filkin; and her companion, Martin J. McDonough of Bethel. A son, William Watts, died before her.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated today, Thursday, at 10 a.m. in St. Mary’s Church, 669 West Avenue, Norwalk. Burial will take place in St. John Cemetery, Norwalk.
Contributions may be made to American Cancer Society, Southwest New England Region, 372 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897.