Julie Foster, lawyer, child advocate
Julie Irene Foster, an attorney and child advocate known for her openhearted enthusiasm, died unexpectedly on Wednesday, May 11, 2005. She was 49, the wife of Dr. Craig R. Foster, and the mother of three grown children, Cheryl, Matthew and Mark.
Police went to the family's home off North Salem Road last Wednesday, and the state medical examiner's office said later that the cause of death was drowning by accident.
Ms. Foster had 'a warm and electric personality and embraced all who came through her door,' the Rev. Dr. Roy Hassel told a crowd of mourners who filled Jesse Lee Methodist Church and spilled out into the garden Monday afternoon at services for her.
She was born in Billings, Mont., June 4, 1955, daughter of Robert H. Asher of Denver, Colo., and the late Sheila Dunstan Asher. As a young woman she lived in Wilton and had graduated from Wilton High School.
Ms. Foster graduated magna cum laude from Central Connecticut State University and from Western New England Law School and earned her master's of business administration from the University of Connecticut.
For many years she practiced law with the firm of Jowdy & Jowdy in Danbury and for the past 10 years was in private practice at her home in Ridgefield. She remained active in the Danbury Bar Association. Her legal work included frequent service as a court-appointed representative for children in family disputes. Often, she did the work for free, and in 1997 she received the Danbury Bar Association's Pro Bono award for her achievements in child advocacy.
'An attorney can be strong and effective without being harsh,' her friend, Sheila Holzbach, told the crowd at Jesse Lee.
In Ridgefield over the years Ms. Foster was involved and well known. She coached Pop Warner cheerleaders, choreographed the dancing for a Ridgebury Elementary School play, and taught aerobics -- for free -- at Jesse Lee Methodist Church.
She opened her family's home on North Salem Road to a number of Republican events, including a visit by Senator John McCain in 2000.
She and her husband, a Danbury orthopedist, attended President George W. Bush's first inauguration in 2000. But the Fosters didn't leave for the weekend of balls and socializing until after her son Mark's Ridgefield High School basketball game that Friday night. 'We slept a few hours. We got up at 2:30 and drove down,' she told The Press at the time. '...We just didn't want to miss the basketball game.'
Her dedication to her family was renowned.
'Craig and the children were the loves of her life,' Dr. Robert Reiffel said at Monday's service.
The Rev. William Pfohl, Jesse Lee's pastor, shared with the crowd something of Ms. Foster's approach to life, as she had told it to an Emmaus gathering: 'I would make the absolute best of myself, and then if God blessed me with a husband and children I would shower them with love every single minute of every day.'
She was known for her personal warmth and positive energy.
'I cannot recall a time when she wasn't smiling,' Dr. John Wilson said Monday.
Her Christmas cards were legendary. She sent out hundreds, with long personal notes N and they always seemed to arrive as the season's first.
Besides her husband and children, Ms. Foster is survived by her father, Robert Asher, and her brother, Michael H. Asher and his wife, Carolyn, and their sons, Nicholas and Peter; her mother-in-law, Eleanor Foster; her brothers-in-law Bradley Foster and Robert Foster and his wife, Betty, and their children, Christine and Tara.
After the funeral services at the Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Monday, May 16, she was buried at Hillside Cemetery, in Wilton.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Danbury Hospital Development Fund, 24 Hospital Avenue, Danbury, CT 06810.
Green Funeral Home in Danbury was in charge of arrangements. --M.K.R.
Elizabeth Ruigrok, school employee
Elizabeth Matthews Ruigrok, a former longtime Ridgefielder who worked for the school system, died after a long illness on May 4, 2005. She was 81 years old and the widow of Albert J. Ruigrok, who died in 1985.
She had been living with her son, Albert Jr., and his family in Pennsylvania for the past few years.
Mrs. Ruigrok was born and raised in Richmond, Va., the daughter of Mary and Leslie Matthews. In 1960 she and her husband moved to Connecticut. They moved their family to South Shore Drive in 1962.
She was a former employee of the Ridgefield school system, working at Ridgebury School, and a member of St. Elizabeth Seton Church.
Mrs. Ruigrok enjoyed bowling and playing card games.
Surviving are a son, Albert J. Ruigrok Jr., and his wife, Kim, of Willow Grove, Pa.; a daughter, Gayle Ruigrok Garcia of Torrington; three grandchildren, Andrew Garcia, Albert E. Ruigrok and Anton Ruigrok; and three great-grandchildren, Antonio, Andy and Katie.
Burial services will be held on Saturday, June 11, at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's Cemetery, Ridgefield.
Robert J. Keefe, grew up here
Robert J. Keefe, 43, of Bethel, formerly of Ridgefield, died on Wednesday, May 4, 2005 at his home.
Mr. Keefe was born in Binghamton, N.Y., June 26, 1961, son of Raymond E. Keefe of Ridgefield and the late Marion (Slachta) Keefe.
Mr. Keefe attended Ridgefield schools and graduated from Ridgefield High School. He was employed by food and beverage services of the area. He enjoyed cooking, hunting and fishing.
Besides his father, he is survived by a sister, Susan M. Keefe of Ridgefield; two brothers, Brian W. Keefe and his wife Frances of Tarpon Springs, Fla., and Raymond E. Keefe and his wife Heidi of Ridgefield; a sister-in-law, Pamela Keefe of Apalachin, N.Y., and seven nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by a brother, Michael.
A pivate entombment service will take place in Riverhurst Cemetery, Endicott, N.Y. There will be no calling hours.
Kane Funeral Home, 25 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield is in charge of arrangements.
Mark A. McCluskey, financial executive
Mark A. McCluskey, 49, a financial services executive who coached youth basketball and managed soccer in Ridgefield, died of a heart attack on Wednesday, May 4, at Christ Hospital, Jersey City, N.J. He was the husband of Sharon McCluskey for the last 18 years, and leaves a son, Mac, a freshman at Ridgefield High School, and daughter, Kate, a sixth grader at Scotts Ridge Middle School.
'He's been a basketball coach for both my kids since they've been old enough play basketball in town,' his wife said. 'Third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, he's either coached or been assistant coach. 'He managed my daughter's travel soccer team last season when the manger stepped down - he stepped up and did the managing.' 'He loved working with the kids, absolutely,' she said. He especially had fun coaching the younger girls teams his daughter was on, his wife said. 'They really loved him. He always made basketball practice fun. When they're that age, they don't want to do the drills, but he always made it fun.'
Mr. McCluskey was born in Rockville Center, N.Y., Jan.17, 1956, son of Mary (Donovan) McCluskey of Pelham Manor, N.Y., and the late Robert A. McCluskey Sr.
He grew up a Pelham Manor resident, attended Pelham schools and Pelham Memorial High School and graduated from Southampton (N.Y.) College with a bachelor of science in business administration. It was there he met his wife, then Sharon Roy.
After graduation, he entered the banking and financial investment business. A former president of E.F.G. Capital of Miami, Fla., Mr. McCluskey was vice president of Lorac Financial Services of Summit, N.J., at the time of his death.
The McCluskeys came to the area in 1990, moving from New York City to South Salem, N.Y. They moved to Ridgefield in 1996. From about 1995 to 2001 Mr. McCluskey was a long distance commuter, with a job in Florida and a family in Ridgefield.
'He was very lonely there. It's hard to be away from your family,' his wife said. '...He had it worked out pretty good toward the end. He'd leave early Monday morning and he'd be back Thursday evening, so we pretty much had him all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, he didn't miss many of those soccer games.'
Mr. McCluskey also enjoyed horse racing, going each year to races at Saratoga, and was a cigar aficionado. He had fun with computers and helped both middle schools in town set up Web sites. 'He was always Mr. Technical with his computer. He was always the first person to get DSL and all these gadgets,' his wife said.
'He was on a first-name basis with just about every member of the support group at Dell Computer because he was always on the phone with them for one thing or another.'
In addition to his wife, son, daughter and mother, Mr. McCluskey is survived by a brother, Robert A. McCluskey Jr. of Springfield, Va.; two sisters, Lynn A. McCluskey of Rye, N.Y., and Martha A. Winchester of Tucson, Ariz.; and his mother-in-law, Virginia R. Roy of Taunton, Mass. His father and one sister, Stella F. Hill, died before he did.
Funeral services took place on Monday evening in the Kane Funeral Home, 25 Catoonah Street, with the Rev. Harold Quigley officiating. The family received friends then.
Burial will be private.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Mac & Kate McCluskey Fund for Education, The Ridgefield Bank, 150 Danbury Road, Ridgefield 06877.
Theodosia D. Lesh, former OWLS president
Theodosia Danisher Lesh of Ridgefield, a former president of the OWLS, died at Danbury Hospital on Friday, April 29, 2005. She was 81 years old and the wife of Edward G. Lesh.
Mrs. Lesh was Russian, born on Oct. 16, 1923, daughter of John and Pauline Danisher. She emigrated to the United States at the age of five, first settling in Yonkers, N.Y., where she attended local schools.
Mrs. Lesh was a retired administrative assistant to the president and CEO of The Bank of New York. She moved from Bronxville, N.Y., to Ridgefield in 1984.
Mrs. Lesh was active in the OWLS senior citizens organization, and had served as secretary and four years as president. She was also a member of St. Mary's Church.
She enjoyed reading, traveling and playing bridge.
Besides her husband of 60 years, Mrs. Lesh is survived by a son, Craig Lesh of White Plains, N.Y.; two daughters, Karen Burcaw Wilczak and her husband Ludwig Wilczak of Ridgefield, and Cheryl Quintus and her husband Roelof of Geneva, Switzerland; a brother, Andrew Danisher of Tacoma, Wash.; a sister, Julia Storms of Indialantic, Fla.; and four grandchildren, Johan Quintus, Alekcia Quintus, Lauren Burcaw and Brent Burcaw.
Services and burial were private.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Danbury Hospital Development Fund for Oncology Nursing, 24 Hospital Avenue, Danbury CT 06810 or to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 25 Third Street, Stamford, CT 06905.
The Kane Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Grace Bender, active in church
Grace Betts Bender of Cary, N.C., wife of a former Episcopal rector here, died on April 16, 2005. She was 80 years old.
Mrs. Bender was the wife of the Rev. Frederick Bender, rector of St. Stephen's Church from 1981 to 1988, and was active in church work.
She was born in Trenton, N.J., on Dec. 22, 1925 and grew up in Maplewood, N.J.. After attending The Washington School for Secretaries, she trained to become a nurses' aide during World War II, and served in Victoria, Texas. She then returned to New Jersey with her husband where she began raising their four children.
Later, Mrs. Bender became the executive secretary to the Darien chapter of the American Red Cross. She had lived in Darien before coming here.
'Above all, she was known for her quiet thoughtfulness and as a specialist at creating lovely needlepoint art and cut lampshades for countless relatives and friends,' her family said.
Besides her her husband of 60 years, Mrs. Bender is survived by four children, Joanne Growitz of Eagle, Idaho; Sarajane Diosi of Epping, N.H.; Robert Bender of Moorestown, N.J.; Cynthia Scam of Monroe; a brother, Robert Betts of Boise, Idaho; 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
A service of thanksgiving for her life will be held at Saint Luke's Episcopal Church, Darien, at 11 a.m.. on Saturday, May 28.
Memorial gifts may be sent to The American Indian Education Fund, P.O. Box 27491, Albuquerque, NM 87125-9847.
Eileen Barrett, 58, homemaker
Eileen Barrett of Georgetown, a homemaker and longtime area resident, died on Tuesday, April 26, 2005. She was 58 years old and the wife of Richard Barrett.
Mrs. Barrett was born in Queens, N.Y., on Feb. 26, 1947, the daughter of Kathleen and John Mahoney. Along with her family she moved to Ridgefield when she was 12. She attended Ridgefield High School and Americo's Academy of Beauty in Danbury.
In 1966 she married her husband Richard Barrett. They lived in El Paso, Texas, for a short time before settling in Wilton.
'There wasn't anything she couldn't do,' recalled her children. 'She was an incredible cook, seamstress, an avid gardener and an all around jack-of-all-trades. Her friends and family will mostly remember her for her gift of laughter.
'Always the aspiring actress, Eileen was an unforgettable character and always the life of the party.'
Her family said that, 'of her many accomplishments, she was most proud of the family. She was loved and adored by her husband and children.'
Besides her husband of 38 years, Mrs. Barrett is survived by her daughter, Lisa, of Wilton, and her son, Jason, of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Contributions in her memory may be made to Kids in Crisis, 1 Salem Street, Cos Cob, CT 06807.
Eunice Engelhardt, former resident
Eunice Belle Engelhardt of Huddleston, Va., a former longtime Ridgefielder, died Saturday, April 23, 2005, in Gretna Health Care Center, Gretna, Va. She was 82 years old.
Born May 4, 1922, in Brooklyn, N.Y., she was a daughter of the late Stanley Pawlick and Clara Helena Indorf Pawlick.
Mrs. Engelhardt, who moved to Old Washington Road in 1965, was a homemaker and had been a member of Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church here.
Her husband, Francis G. Engelhardt, died in January 2001. They had been married 56 years. After his death, Mrs. Engelhardt moved to Pittsville, Va., to be closer to family.
She is survived by a son, Stanley A. Engelhardt and his wife, Diane Bishop, of Lansdale, Pa.; two daughters, Robyn J. Geren and her husband, Russell, of North Fort Myers, Fla., and Leslie D. Boley and her husband, Dennis, of Huddleston; two sisters, Wanda Pederson of California and Joan Baumann and her husband, Warren, of North Fort Myers; eight grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; and one step-great-grandchild.
A memorial service will take place Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gretna Branch.
Memorial donations may be made to Solid Rock Baptist Food Kitchen, 380 Colony Road, Madison Heights, Va. 24572, or to the American Parkinson Disease Association Inc., 1250 Hylan Blvd., Suite 4B, Staten Island, NY 10305.
Colbert-Moran Funeral Home in Gretna is in charge of arrangements.