Friday, January 08, 2016

The obituaries this year included Mom's civic accomplishments...Go Mom!

The Day 

We will miss them

I lost a wonderful friend in 2015, and so it is hard, as it is for so many others who experienced loss in the last year, not to remember those who sadly won't start a new one with us today.
My friend Clare Peckham, The Day's retired librarian, was celebrated in November during a grand Saturday afternoon tea party thrown by her children. It was a great way for her to say goodbye, entertaining her many friends once again.
Funerals, memorial services, and, of course, obituaries, are all ways to mark our loss, to help us move on.
I find In Memoriam newspaper tributes especially heartbreaking, a signal that sometimes it's impossible to let go.
I can't imagine the power of the loss still haunting the widower who placed two In Memoriams in The Day in 2015, in memory of his late wife, who died at 83, two years ago. One, using his term of endearment for her, appeared on their anniversary, "the most treasured day of my life."
I spent a little of the end of 2015 reviewing some of the lives lost this year, as they were remembered on The Day's obituary pages, often some of the most interesting and informative in the newspaper.
These included pillars of the community, those whose names were often in the newspaper long before they died. And there were many remembered for their more private lives, hard to summarize in a few short paragraphs.
Sometimes it is some small achievement or event that lingers to help define a life.
Juliet Cafaro of Groton, for instance, was remembered in her obituary for her service as a young girl, helping to unveil the statue of Christopher Columbus in New London, during a celebration and parade in 1928.
There was Ronald A. Jackson, once of East Haddam, who was remembered for his work on the design team for the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. Irene Catherine Anderson of Waterford, who lived to be 97, was remembered for singing soprano in the choir of the Ledyard Congregational Church.
Helen Nasiatka of Mystic was remembered as a woman ahead of her time, founding, in 1967, Helene's Healthport, offering natural and healthy hair and skin treatments. No doubt her early emphasis on natural and organic foods and treatments, before they became fashionable, led to her long life. She died in December at the age of 97.
How great was it that the family of Esther R. Cain, who died at home in Waterford, at 90, recalled that "Essie," known for her laugh and "award-winning smile,"  danced her way through life. In her obituary picture she is wearing a bejeweled tiara.
We lost a lot of veterans in 2015.
It's hard to single any one out, but I was struck by the line in the obituary for Lawrence Lacerte of Groton, which said he enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17, serving in both World War II and the Korean War. John Umrysz enlisted at the age of 20, after Pearl Harbor was bombed. He also served in two wars.
Umrysz was probably more well known here, though, for his Yetter Road Christmas Tree Farm in Groton, which he first planted in 1962.
David H. Padgett Sr., who died at home in Groton, at 75, was a retired master chief torpedoman, whose 30-year Navy career included sea tours aboard eight different submarines.
The obituaries this year were full of long lists of civic accomplishments. One of the longest lists was in the obituary for Anita "Ann" Den Tex of Mystic, who for four years served as president of the Visiting Nurse Association of Stonington and for three years as board chairwoman of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Connecticut.
It took a lot of ink to print the very long list of civic and charitable accomplishments of Shirley Alloway of New London. Some of my favorite statistics in her obituary included the 80 elections at which she served as a poll worker and the more than 1,000 couples she married as a justice of the peace.
She is pictured for her obituary as a young woman, wearing her Navy uniform, as she served as a WAVE.
New London last year lost former two-time mayor Carmelina Kanzler, who was 93.
Another prominent woman from New London politics and civic life also died in 2015. Dorothy Leib, an ophthalmologist on the medical staff at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, was the Republican Town Chairman and served several terms on the City Council.
The region is rich with experienced sailors and one who died in 2015 was Larry Jacobsen of Mystic, who built his first boat at the age of 6. He served in the Navy in World War II and went on to design ships as a naval architect for Electric Boat.
For a retirement marine encore, he volunteered in ship restoration at Mystic Seaport.
For all of us who may think from time to time we have obstacles to overcome, remember the life of Arthur W. "Rolling Thunder" Ihloff Sr., who was paralyzed in a car accident at the age of 24 and spent the next 55 years of his life confined to a wheelchair.
Ihloff, a member of the Mohegan Indian tribe, was lead usher in the tribe's vast casino arena before being elected to the Elder Council.
Despite his handicap, he loved sports, skied Mount Snow and went white water rafting and parasailing.
Another of our World War II veterans who died last year was 93-year-old Robert F. Radway of New London, who served for many years as general manager of Radway Dairy, founded by his parents. He also played the trumpet for the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, taught his kids to sail aboard his small sailboat and kept his Piper Pacer plane at the former Waterford Airport, for aerial excursions.
I can't help but think Radway's death in December might have been related to the April death of his college sweetheart, Virgina C. Radway, 91, who had a distinguished career as an academic librarian.
This list is by no means complete.
We will miss them all, as 2015 has turned to 2016.
This is the opinion of David Collins
d.collins@theday.com
Twitter: @DavidCollinsCT

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