Earl Sturges, 94, longtime firefighter
Earl H. Sturges of Sandy Spring, Md., a Ridgefield native who had been a volunteer fireman for a half century and was responding to calls well into his 70s, died Sunday, April 24, 2005, in Sandy Spring. He was 94 years old and the husband of the late Rita Polverari Sturges.
In 1999, when the Ridgefield Old Timers Club honored him, Mr. Sturges was called 'The Firemen's Fireman.' He had by that time been a volunteer firefighter for 68 years.
He was 'always the first guy at the door at a fire,' said then Chief Richard McGlynn at a 1983 banquet honoring his more than 50 years of service. And though he had bowed out of active duty by his 80s, Mr. Sturges still participated in departmental events N including riding in the Memorial Day Parade N until recent years.
Earl Hull Sturges was born on Haviland Road on July 24, 1910, 13 years after the creation of the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department. He was the son of John and Ella Hull Sturges. His father, a carpenter, died when he was seven.
He attended the one-room Limestone Schoolhouse on Danbury Road and graduated from Hamilton High School on Bailey Avenue in 1929.
He had a long career as a house painter, starting out with his brother, Ernest, and his assistant, Peter Grommes. When his brother retired, Mr. Sturges and Pete Grommes formed Sturges and Grommes Painting Company.
In 1931, the year he turned 21, Mr. Sturges became a volunteer fireman. At the time, the department had three divisions; he joined the hook and ladder company.
Over the years he fought countless fires including a Peaceable Street blaze in which leaking gas exploded as he and Jack Leary were trapped in a basement, almost killing them both. He was burned on his hands and legs.
They fought fires with what today would be considered primitive equipment and without oxygen masks. 'Often in fires, we had to crawl on the floor so we could breathe,' Mr. Sturges recalled in a 1983 interview.
'Half the time when I answered a fire call, I didn't even put on a raincoat or boots, just went in my painter's overalls.'
Mr. Sturges held every office in the department, including chief from 1948 to 1951. When he was honored in 1983 for over a half century of active service, Mr. Sturges was one of only two people to have volunteered that long with the department.
Many have sung his praises, including both President Ronald Reagan and Gov. William O'Neill, who sent personal congratulations for his service. But his achievement was perhaps best expressed by the late Elizabeth Leonard, who was first selectman in 1983: 'How do you say something to someone who has given 50 years of his life to an ideal''
Mr. Sturges was an avid hunter and fisherman, and had been a member of the Ramapoo Rifle and Revolver Club. He had attended the First Congregational Church.
In January 2004, he moved to Maryland to be closer to family.
Mr. Sturges is survived by two sons, Robert H. Sturgess correct spelling of Glenelgalso OK, Md., and David A. Sturges of Glenwood, Md.; four grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; several nieces; and his longtime friend, Nina H. Principi, of Hood River, Ore.
The Rev. Mark D. Allan of the First Congregational Church will conduct services Friday at 11 in the Kane Funeral Home, 25 Catoonah Street.
Burial will follow in St. Mary's Cemetery.
Friends may call at the Kane Funeral Home on Thursday from 5 to 8.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Ridgefield Fire Department Ambulance Fund, 6 Catoonah Street.
Mary Nevins, 96, retired teacher
Mary Nevins of Ridgefield Crossings, who had been a teacher for many years, died on Sunday, April 24, 2005, at her home. She was 96 years old and widow of Dr. Milton Nevins, who died in 1968.
A native of Woodbine, N.J., Mrs. Nevins was born on Oct. 20, 1908, a daughter of Abram and Fannie Siegel. She grew up in Woodbine, and was an elementary school teacher there for many decades. She retired in 1979 but spent the next five years as a permanent substitute teacher in Woodbine.
Twenty years ago, she moved to Ridgefield, living at first at Casagmo. She was active in local senior citizen organizations such as the OWLS, in which she had served as secretary. She had been a volunteer teacher at Scotland School until she was 83.
Mrs. Nevins is survived by three sons, Bruce Nevins of Ridgefield, Richard Nevins of Sussex, N.J., and Myron Nevins of Swampscott, Mass.; six grandchildren, Matthew, Jeremy, David, and Douglas, all formerly of Ridgefield, and Michael and Marc; and three great-grandchildren.
Services took place Wednesday in Woodbine, N.J.
Bill Nazzaro, 90, Ridgefield native
William G. Nazzaro, a resident of the Branchville section of Ridgefield for most of his life, died on Thursday, April 21, 2005, at Norwalk Hospital. He was 90 years old.
Bill Nazzaro was born in Ridgefield on Oct. 12, 1914, a son of the late Carmine and Vincenza (Anna) DeBenigno Nazzaro.
Survivors include his brother, Louis Nazzaro of Georgetown, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
His brothers, Anthony, Gus, and Jerry and his sister, Domenica 'Minnie,' died before him.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Wednesday in Sacred Heart Church, Georgetown. The burial was in St. Mary's Cemetery.
Contributions in memory of Mr. Nazzaro may be made to Notre Dame Convalescent Home, 76 West Rocks Road, Norwalk, CT 06851.
The Bouton Funeral Home in Georgetown was in charge of arrangements.
Elizabeth Carpenter, 95, longtime Ridgefielder
Elizabeth Paulovic Carpenter, a longtime Ridgefielder, died Thursday, April 14, 2005, at Hancock Hall in Danbury. She was 95 years old.
Her husband of 69 years, Robert S. Carpenter, former owner of the Vista Market in Lewisboro, N.Y., died in 1996.
Mrs. Carpenter was born in South Norwalk Nov. 27, 1909. She came to Ridgefield in 1961 from South Norwalk.
Survivors include her son, Kenneth L. Carpenter Sr. and his wife Nancy of Spring Hill, Fla., formerly of Lafayette Avenue; two daughters, Marcia E. Dance and her husband, Chauncey, of Southbury, and Carol C. Hill and her husband, David, of Willington; 12 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and a great-great grandchild. A son, Robert Jr., died before her.
Services were held Tuesday, April 19, at the Magner Funeral Home in Norwalk. Burial followed at St. John's Cemetery in Norwalk.
Contributions may be made to The Hole in the Wall Gang Fund, 555 Long Wharf Drive, Dept. W, New Haven, CT 06511.
Frances Acocella, nurse, veteran
Frances C. Acocella, RN, of Ridgefield, a retired nurse whose medical career began during World War II, died on Tuesday evening, April 12, 2005, at Danbury Hospital. She was 80 years old and the widow of August C. Acocella, who died in 1985.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mrs. Acocella was born on Feb. 12, 1925, daughter of Michael and Polly Sara Garrity Constantine. She grew up and attended schools in Westchester County.
Ten days after she turned 20 years old, Mrs. Acocella joined the U.S. Army, serving as a medical technician from 1945 until 1947. Her last assignment was at Holloran General Hospital on Staten Island, N.Y.
After her service, she studied at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital School of Nursing in New York City, graduating in the Class of 1950.
During her 35 years as a registered nurse, Mrs. Acocella served at St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, Greenwich Hospital, United Hospital in Port Chester, N.Y., and after moving to Ridgefield in 1957, at Norwalk Hospital.
She later did private duty assignments and worked at the Filosa Convalescent Home of Danbury, retiring in 1985.
'Frances was the best darn nurse in New York and Connecticut,' her family said.
Years ago, Mrs. Acocella had been a member of St. Mary's Church where she sang in the choir. More recently, she attended St. Gregory the Great Church in Danbury.
An avid reader and fan of the opera, she also enjoyed bowling and had belonged to leagues at the old RidgeBowl on Danbury Road. She also loved animals, particularly cats.
Mrs. Acocella is surivived by three daughters, Kathryn Bonnell of New Milford, Carol Acocella of Ridgefield and Janet Cosentino of New Fairfield; three grandchildren, Rachele, Gregory and Damian; and two great-grandchildren, Greta and Caleb.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday in St. Gregory the Great Church.
Burial was private.
Contributions in her memory may be made to ROAR (Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue), P.O. Box 43, Ridgefield, CT 06877-0043.
The Kane Funeral Home, 25 Catoonah Street, is in charge of arrangements.
Fuzzy Keeler, 91, farmer with roots
Nehemiah Lyman Keeler, a descendant of the town's earliest settlers who had been one of Ridgefield's last native farmers, died Thursday, April 7, 2005, in the place of his birth, the 'Pink House' on Ridgebury Road. He was 91 years old and the husband of the late Janet Wixon Keeler.
Fuzzy Keeler, as most people knew him, had operated what was once the town's largest dairy farm. While he left farming in 1961, he continued to work, most recently at the Parks and Recreation Center, until he was 90 years old. An avid motorcyclist all his life, he rode regularly until last summer.
'He gives you a flicker of what Ridgefield used to be, and the uncommon people that made it what it was -- in a word, a pleasure,' fellow Ridgeburian John Katz once said of him.
Mr. Keeler was born on Nov. 28, 1913, son of the late Lyman and Mabel Hartwell Keeler. His ancestors, Ralph and Samuel Keeler, were among the first settlers of Ridgefield and, later, its Ridgebury parish. The house in which he was born N painted pink for as long as anyone can remember N is one of the town's oldest, dating from the early 1700s. It is believed to have been built by Jonah Keeler and has remained in the Keeler family for more than two and one-half centuries.
When he attended first through eighth grades in the one-room Ridgebury Schoolhouse at the corner of Ridgebury and Old Stagecoach roads, Mr. Keeler was known as a boy with an eye for the prank. He once filled a bag with leaves, climbed a ladder onto the school's roof, and stuffed the bag in the chimney. When the teacher lit a fire in the stove, the entire schoolhouse filled with smoke.
'They closed school for two days for that one,' Mr. Keeler, a twinkle in his eye, recalled in a 2002 interview.
From northern Ridgebury, Danbury was two miles closer than Ridgefield center, and Mr. Keeler attended Danbury High School N reached by horse and buggy.
After high school, he began working the family's 124-acre dairy farm. 'We were the biggest one -- milked around 40 head,' he said two years ago. 'I sold milk to Stew Leonard for 15 years.'
Back when he was a boy, Ridgefield was mostly an agricultural community. 'Every place was a farm, every place,' he said. 'I remember when there wasn't a car on the road, just horse and wagons.' He said occasionally a car might come along the dirt Ridgebury Road 'and everybody'd run out to see and see who it was.'
'It's like a city now,' he said two years ago. 'I waited for 51 cars to go by my driveway the other day before I could get out.'
'But you can't stop progress,' he added. 'You got to keep going.'
By 1961, when Mr. Keeler was having difficulty finding enough good help to keep the farm going, he decided to sell most of the pastures, some 120 acres. Jerry Tuccio eventually acquired the property, turning it into the Pleasant View Estates subdivision. Keeler Drive there recalls the land's past.
Over the next 30 years, Mr. Keeler held a variety of jobs, including car salesman, gun shop owner, assistant service manager for a Chrysler dealer, owner and operator of a trucking delivery business, and an auctioneer selling everything from cattle to go-carts.
In recent years he had worked at the Parks and Recreation Center, opening the building at 5:30 each morning -- the same time he used to milk the cows. He retired last year.
In the 1930s, Mr. Keeler began his lifelong interest in motorcycles, acquiring a four-cylinder Henderson. 'His true love was motorcycle riding,' said his son, Peter. 'He received many 'oldest rider awards' at rallies and rode up until the summer of 2004.'
He was also an avid hunter, gardener, and animal lover.
Mr. Keeler loved Ridgefield and had no inclination to leave. 'I've been to Florida a few times, but I won't go back,' he said in 2003. 'It's like a jungle down there with the heat and the noise. I said, 'What the hell kind of place is this'''
And while the farming community of his youth has disappeared, he accepted change. 'There is nothing you can do about it,' he said a few years ago. 'But it is good to think about the old times.'
Mr. Keeler is survived by his son, Peter L. Keeler and his wife, Lynn, of Ridgefield; his daughters, Polly K. Truzzolino and her husband John of Germany, and Penny K. LoValvo and her husband Ron of Danbury; and two granddaughters, Caitlin Keeler and Corrine LoValvo.
At his request, there were no services. 'Instead, in his memory, take a long ride the first nice Sunday,' his family said.
Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to Regional Hospice of Western Connecticut, 405 Main Street, Danbury, CT 06810.
The Cornell Memorial Home was in charge of arrangements.
Jack Mashman, WWII veteran, book distributor, poet, philosopher
Jack Mashman died on April 5 of injuries sustained in a fall in his home three days earlier. He was 89.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Aug. 13, 1915 to immigrant parents. His mother was a seamstress and his father a carpenter. He grew up loving baseball and writing. As a student he wrote short stories for the Overbrook High School literary magazine the Matrix. Upon graduation he worked as a sheet metal worker in the 'navy yard' building planes for World War II. He served in the infantry division in Germany until the war was over.
He returned to the U.S. and married Dorothy Dimondstein. With Dorothy and his brother-in-law, Herb, he built the Dimondstein Book Company into one of the three largest wholesale book distributors in the Northeast. He served as chief financial officer of the company until his retirement to Sarasota and London at age 55.
For the remainder of his life he studied and wrote poetry, a passion that consumed him until the week of his death. He and Dorothy were married 61 years until her death a year ago.
In the last year of his life he lived at Ridgefield Crossings where he made friends and prided himself on being the resident philosopher, poet and curmudgeon, the family reports.
Survivors include a brother, A.O. Mashman of Philadelphia; two sons, Dr. Robert Mashman of Del Mar, Calif., and Dr. Jan Mashman of Ridgefield; four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 518 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002, email@example.com.