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Those we’ve lost

(Mohammad reza Fathian, Pexels)

Updated, May 18 with additional tributes.

NORWALK, Conn. — Most days, the story of the coronavirus pandemic is a story told largely in numbers: The number of confirmed cases. The number of hospitalizations. The number of those who’ve been tested.

The number of those who have died.

But numbers, at best, are abstractions — frightening to be sure, but hard to picture, and easy to distort. They’re also of little solace to those whose loved ones were lost, those for whom numbers mean little compared with the details that sum up a life: A marathon run by a man with one leg. A bedazzling Christmas display. A lifelong — and “long-suffering” — affinity for the Mets.

A deep-seated love of family. Humor. Flowers. Athletics. Bingo. The accordion. The drums.

These are among the bits and pieces that have emerged from the obituaries of some of the Norwalk residents — past and present — who’ve died; the men and women, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends whose lives were cut short by the virus that threatens us all. We think they’re worth sharing, for their families, of course, but also for all of us who realize that lives are best measured by deeds, not abstractions; by the passions and struggles, some successful, some not,  that make us the people we are. Such are what we choose to celebrate here: The lives they led; the lives they touched.

 

D’Andrea, a patriotic mother who helped her community

Ruth Margaretha D’Andrea

Ruth Margaretha Dolan, 91, was the devoted wife to the late Anthony D’Andrea for 58 years, who worked out of her home as a licensed hairdresser while raising their four children here, her obituary states. “In the early 1980’s she was hired by the City of Norwalk where she worked as the finance director secretary until her retirement in 1991.”

Dolan died May 4 in Greenwich Hospital. In addition to her children, she left behind four grandchildren.

Nicknamed Peggy by her Irish father, was born in Guttenberg, N.J. and grew up in New City, N.Y. She went to secretarial school at Packard Business College in New York City and met D’Andrea in 1956, when they were both cast members of a community theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

They married one year later, settled in Norwalk “and were very involved in community life.”

When her children were grown, she went back to work as an executive secretary; she worked at Bigelow Tea, then at Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, her obit states. “During her time at Norwalk City Hall, Peggy was instrumental in the early efforts to establish the Maritime Center in 1988.”

It continues:

“Peggy and Tony spent many happy years at their vacation home in Newfane Vermont, where they retired in 1991.  She loved the Vermont life and spent many happy hours traveling around Vermont searching for finds at flea markets, tag sales, and craft fairs. She was an avid collector of antiques and had many beloved treasures and collections in both of her beautiful homes.

“Peggy was fiercely patriotic, proud to be an American. She often spoke of her Irish and Swedish heritage.  She was a member of the VaSa order of America.

“Her happiest times were the times she spent with her husband Tony, and her four beloved grandchildren and her ‘grand-dogs,’ who were a big part of her life.”

 

Mathews, once named Woman of the Year

Gloria Matthews

Gloria Matthews, 84, was married for 55 years to her childhood sweetheart before passing away April 21. They had a daughter and two grandchildren, along with numerous nieces and nephews, her obituary states. She was born in the Bronx.

“Gloria was not only a loving and caring wife and mother, she spent numerous years as the asst. director of the Tower Nursery School in Stamford,” it states. “She continued to take care of children in her home on a regular basis until the birth of her grandsons who both became her ultimate joy in life on a daily basis for over 12 years. Gloria was generous with her love and with her time. She was named Woman of the Year by Hadassah of Stamford years ago highlighting her hard work and dedication.”

 

Nandori, meticulous craftsman

Laszlo V. Nandori,

Laszlo V. Nandori, 74, a Hungarian immigrant, “worked endless hours creating beautiful stone structures and custom homes for many in Fairfield County,” according to his obituary. “His meticulous work has been done on the homes of Keith Richards, Loretta Swit, Ace Frehley, Michael Bolton, Frank and Kathy Lee Gifford and J.P. Morgan Jr. to name a few.”

Nandori died April 14 at Sharon Hospital, four days after his birthday. He left behind his wife, three children, 12 grandchildren and two siblings.

“He loved to spend his days off fishing and clamming the shores of Connecticut, tending his beautiful garden of vegetables and flowers, and making fresh sausage, prosciutto and salami,” his obituary states. “Laszlo enjoyed his Scotch and Heineken and most especially his time spent with family. Laszlo taught his children ‘No one can take away your honor, integrity, morals or ethics unless you personally give them away yourself.’”

 

 

Swist, sat in the front row at church

Diana G. DeVito Swist, right

Diana G. DeVito Swist, referred to as “Deede,” was born in Stamford as the oldest of four children. She got married in 1963 and worked for Clairol until her first daughter was born in 1965.

She worked various part time jobs until her second daughter came of school age and then began a career at Olin Corporation where she was employed until retirement, her obituary states.

Swist died May 13 at age 80.

Diana G. DeVito Swist, right.

“She filled her life by caring for her children and grandchildren, as well as being around family and close friends,” her obit states. “Later in life she returned to, and found great joy in, her church, St. John R.C. Church in Darien, CT. She sat in front to hear mass and the choir, as well as joining the choir and friends for breakfast after mass every Sunday. After her health deteriorated and she was unable to leave Cassena Care nursing home, she would celebrate mass monthly, thanks to the Legion of Mary in Norwalk, who assisted Rev. Fr. Cippola and/or Fr. Kloster.”

 

Buchetto, a polished gem

Alfred F. Buchetto. (Contributed)

Alfred F. Buchetto, 88, was described as a “humble, honest man with a humorous funny bone” who was very proud of the role he played in a church production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum.”

“He was a gentleman that would help you before he helped himself. Everyone who met Alfred later would say, ‘What a wonderful man,’” his obituary states. “He was a watch maker and precious stone setter, but he was the polished gem.”

Buchetto, who died March 31 at Norwalk Hospital, had a “family so large that it took hours for him to call wishing them a Happy New Year thru Merry Christmas,” according to his obituary. The Norwalker was “from Stamford’s Westside and he never forgot his lifelong buddies Mo and Andy, speaking of their times together frequently,” it states. “…To some he was Al, hey man, or hey buddy. Always answering to the question, Al what side is the best side? Westside.”

“He was the youngest in his family, a family that served in Patton’s army and the 82nd Airborne receiving numerous metals and a Purple Heart,” it states. “His brothers told stories of combat and Al told stories of Europe and proudly would say with one brow up he witnessed Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation while serving in the United States Army or as he would say ‘as I travel the world!’”

He was predeceased by his wife Roseann, his parents, six brothers and four sisters. He is survived by his son, daughter, daughter in-law and his grandchildren. The “man with immense faith” and was a member of the Knights of Columbus and dedicated to Stamford’s Sacred Heart Church, later a member of Saint Matthew’s in Norwalk.

“Al had plenty of stories to tell but as time went on, they started to fade,” the obituary states. “He enjoyed just being with his family. Al’s Earthly chapter has ended by Covid-19. We had no time to say goodbye. He will always remain in our hearts and his name will bring a smile to our face.”

 

Swindler always had turtles and lizards

John Leland Swindler. (Contributed)

John Leland Swindler, 69, died May 4 at Norwalk Hospital. He had also battled Parkinson’s Disease for 32 years.

Swindler was born in Virginia and lived in 12 different places as the son of a Marine Corps Major. He was “naturally entrepreneurial and began running businesses at a young age,” operating a coin shop while in high school in Minneapolis.

“John joined the U.S. Airforce ROTC while attending the University of Maryland but was honorably discharged in 1972 after suffering two gunshot wounds in a hunting accident on his 21st birthday. After 9 months of convalescence, much of it at Walter Reed Army Hospital, John asked that his left leg be amputated so he could get back to playing sports,” his obituary states.

He graduated the University of Maryland’s College of Business in 1975. His obituary continues:

“He worked as an executive in charge of all aspects of home and commercial construction, and in real estate for nearly a decade with Long & Foster Real Estate and Suthard Construction in Gaithersburg, MD.  In 1984, he created and became President of Arrow Enterprises, which developed, built, and marketed upscale homes across southern Maryland for many years.  In later years, John was a broker and consultant in Hensley Associates, LLC, financing commercial real estate projects.

“As his Parkinson’s Disease progressed, John took part in several Parkinson’s clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health in Washington in hopes of advancing treatment protocols and drugs for Parkinson’s and related diseases.

“John was always a sportsman and loved camping, fishing, hiking, bow hunting and collecting a wide range of reptiles and amphibians.  There were always turtles and lizards in his house, and the occasional snake.  He was also a competitive track athlete in high school and college, running sprints, long jump, and triple jump.   He even ran one marathon for charity a few years after his leg was amputated.

“After entering a nursing home in the last couple of years, John was known for his exceptional trivia prowess, and high spirit.   Despite his health challenges, John’s strikingly exuberant attitude set a strong example for others with humor, enthusiasm, and a consistently positive outlook.”

 

He is survived by four siblings and six nephews and nieces. His mother, Helen Cunningham Swindler, passed in 2018 at the age of 95 in Norwalk.

 

 

Sanchez valued family and friends

Marcia Louise Sanchez. (Contributed)

Marcia Louise Sanchez, 81, died April 8 at Norwalk Hospital.

“Marcia was a loving wife, mother and grandmother who enjoyed spending time with her family and friends,” her obituary states. “She had a long and successful career that included positions at the Greenwich Country Club, Stanwich Country Club, and Rockrimmon Country Club. She also worked for G.E.C.C. before retiring as a merchandising manager for Compass Group. She was very creative and in her spare time enjoyed cooking, decorating and creating beautiful flower arrangements for her friends and family.”

Sanchez, formerly of Stamford, “is survived by her loving daughters, Debby Faust and her husband Al, Robin Vitanza and her husband Mike, her grandchildren, Michael Vitanza and his wife Courtney, Nick Vitanza, Jackie Smith and her husband Sean and Michael Faugno as well as several nieces and nephews,” it states. “Besides her parents, Marcia was predeceased by her husband Ramon Sanchez and her former husband, Roy Smith.”

 

Fallo, popular at the Wine Basket

Mark J. Fallo. (Contributed)

Mark J. Fallo, 57, died April 10. “He was a past employee of Stew Leonard’s, Pathmark Liquors, the US Postal Service, and most recently the Wine Basket in East Norwalk, where he was beloved by customers for his characteristic wit and good nature. He loved being with people and rarely met a stranger who didn’t become a friend, and his kindness and generosity knew no bounds,” his obituary states.

Born in Norwalk, he “was the much doted-upon and often harassed little brother of Kathy, Chuck, and Pat,” it states. He graduated from Norwalk High School in 1981 and attended Norwalk Community College, the University of Bridgeport, and Western Governors University.

“Mark was a long-suffering fan of the New York Mets and much happier fan of the New England Patriots, and we’re pretty sure Tom Brady left the Pats in no small part because Mark wouldn’t be around to cheer for them anymore,” his obituary states. “He was the proud owner of a ridiculously large baseball card collection. A talented musician, he played the accordion before Weird Al made it cool, studied piano for many years, and rocked a mean air guitar. He was a huge fan of Kansas and the Doobie Brothers and loved seeing them in concert with his sister at every opportunity.”

“The two very best days of his life were when he married his wife, May, and when his daughter, Maekaella, was born,” it states. “He was an incredible Mr. Mom and was never happier than when he was attending school trips and other activities with Maekaella. He was also very active with her Girl Scout troop.”

 

Vota worked for NPS

Barbara Mary Vota. (Contributed)

Barbara Mary Vota, 79, died April 29 at Norwalk Hospital.

Born in Stamford, “She worked for the Norwalk Public School system for over 15 years. Barbara often volunteered at the Norwalk Senior Center where she helped run the gift boutique and enjoyed playing bingo with her friends,” her obituary states.

She is survived by two siblings and a sister-in-law, five children and five grandchildren.

“She was a very religious woman who spent a lot of time attending mass and volunteering at functions at St. Phillip’s Church in Norwalk,” he obituary states. “She loved spending time with her grandchildren and walking her dog, Henna. Barbara loved talking to everyone and had an uncanny ability to connect with others.”

 

Cornwell, a natural athlete, wore wingtip shoes

Douglas Stephen Cornwell. (Contributed)

Douglas Stephen Cornwell, 77, died on April 24 in Norwalk Hospital.

“An Air Force veteran, he served in Sevilla, Spain as an air traffic controller; one of his favorite stories from that time was of being one of the last to communicate with the plane that accidentally dropped a bomb into the Mediterranean, eventually discovered by a toothless Spanish fisherman after professional searchers had failed to locate it,” his obituary states.

He was born in California but “spent most of his life on the East coast.” His educational resume includes a master’s in business administration from Columbia University. He had a career in finance.

“One of his special memories was being able to donate tax preparation services to several of the 9/11 victims,” his obituary states. “He loved telling jokes and stories, and was always appreciative of an audience!”

“A natural athlete, for much of his life he enjoyed actively participating in sports, from his days as a soccer goalie for the team at Kent School to the weekly games with the Over-35 ‘Late Knights’ in Westport, CT. In later years he became a spectator for his sons’ and grandchildren’s games and a fan of televised sports,” his obituary states. “Always a meticulous dresser, he rarely left the house in anything other than Brooks Brothers attire and wingtip shoes unless suiting up for his favorite sports, soccer and tennis and in later years golf.”

He is survived by his wife of 49.5 years, Diane Wilder Cornwell, three sons and six grandchildren. “Also left to mourn his loss are many good friends from the Norwalk Rotary, Hope Church, and his monthly poker group.”

 

Porter, made people laugh

Sandra Mae Porter. (Contributed)

Sandra Mae Porter, 73, died April 28 at Lord Chamberlain Nursing Home in Stratford.

“A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, she excelled at camping (really was “glamping”), playing Bingo, and making others laugh while still driving them crazy. Sandra enjoyed her life the best she could {with illness}, and her wishes were for people that knew her, to celebrate her life and enjoy their lives to the fullest,” her obituary states.

She is survived by two sons and their wives, and a daughter and her husband, as well as six grandchildren. Also siblings, nieces, nephews and two children she considered to be granddaughters.

 

Thifault, 1973 NHS grad

Karen Robidoux Thifault. (Contributed)

Karen Robidoux Thifault, 64, died April 14 at Norwalk Hospital.

“Karen graduated from Norwalk High School in 1973 and then worked at the offices of Clairol and FAG Bearings in Stamford. Her varied hobbies included writing, stamping and scrapbooking,” her obituary states.

She is survived by two sons, an aunt, three siblings, five nephews and one niece, a great-nephew and a great-niece and many cousins.

 

Williams, a hospitality specialist with a big family

Flossie Mae Williams. (Contributed)

Flossie Mae Williams, 70, died April 25 at home. She was born and raised in South Carolina, moving to Norwalk after graduating high school in 1967.

“She was a CNA for 10 years at Westport Manor and finished her career as a Hospitality Specialist at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Norwalk,” her obituary states.

Surviving her is a husband of 47 years, Andrew Williams, two daughters, four grandchildren, six sisters, a sister-in-law and two brothers-in-law, a daughter-in-law and “a ton” of nieces and nephews.

 

 

‘Flash’ lit up Flax Hill Road

George L. Engel . (Contributed)

George “Flash” L. Engel, 92, died April 26.

“Flash loved jazz music and his favorite artists were Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Louie Armstrong, and loved singing Frank Sinatra songs at his parties. He played drums at local clubs of Norwalk in the late 50’s. Even in his last days he kept a good rhythm on his drum pad,” his obituary states.

Engel was born in the Bronx, enlisted in the Army during the Korean Conflict and served in the transportation and explosives divisions. For the following 30 years, he was a truck driver for L.J. Gardella Transportation where the late Louie Gardella dubbed him “Flash.”

“Flash was also known for his holiday spirit as his Christmas decorations on the corner of Flax Hill Road, which made families stop and admire his winter wonderland, that people still remember to date,” his obituary states. “He also loved to exercise and spend time, poolside with family and friends during the summer months at the family home with great fun and great food prepared by his late wife Rosemary Damato Engel.”

He is survived by two sons, a daughter and their significant others, as well as two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

 

DiScala founded Silvermine Realty

George Anthony DiScala Jr. (Contributed)

George Anthony DiScala Jr., 89, died April 9.

“George had a strong work ethic and aspired to expand his real estate interest, and started Silvermine Realty at 126 East Avenue, in 1966, where his business stayed for the next 30 years, with the help of his secretary Lee Santo,” his obituary states. “George was an {integral} part of his family’s lives. He was a counselor, encourager, motivator, and friend. Incredibly magnetic and charming, And, he was ‘Cool’. George was an avid bowler, and was a member of the Striped Bass Anglers Club of Norwalk, and enjoyed playing bocce with family and friends at the home of his Uncle Mike and Aunt Theresa.”

DiScala had moved to Virginia and then New Jersey, where he died.

 

 

Mintz volunteered widely

Lenore (Lea) Chaice Mintz, 94, died April 21 in Redding.

NancyOnNorwalk has previously written about Mintz, but her obituary offers other details: “Though born in New York, Lea was a long time resident of Norwalk and was active in her community volunteering for educational and political organizations such as the Bayer Corp, the United Way and the Urban League of Southwestern, Ct . Lea served as chairman of the Norwalk Board of Education from 1966-1972 and was instrumental in starting Norwalk Community College. From 1953-1970 Lea ran the Welcome Wagon of Norwalk and then worked in human resources for the Golden Door, a personal placement firm. In 1992 she devoted her time to Family & Children’s Agency as their Community Relations Consultant.”

 

 

Ehrenthal, a Norwalk teacher for 25 years

Phyllis Ehrenthal. (Contributed)

Phyllis Ehrenthal, 84, died April 16 in Massachusetts.

“Phyllis touched the lives of many as a highly respected elementary school teacher for more than 25 years at Fox Run School in Norwalk, CT, and later helping families with emotional challenges live better lives,” her obituary states.

It continues:

“Growing up in The Bronx during the Great Depression, Phyllis was a serious and talented student, attending Music and Art High School as a budding visual artist. At 16, she completed her high school studies and attended Hunter College in New York City from where she graduated with a degree in English.

“During her marriage to Ken Ehrenthal, which ended in divorce in 1973, she mothered her two children, Debbie and David, who survive her. She worked closely with children with intellectual disabilities, and eventually became an elementary school teacher in Norwalk. During her years there, she always strove to maximize the authentic potential of every student, and by doing so, earned the respect of parents, her peers and school administrators. She always believed that children should be free to choose their own path in life, and she passed on this philosophy to both of her children.

“After her retirement as a teacher, she pursued a career in family therapy, working to improve relationships between parents and their young adult children. Many families expressed their gratitude to Phyllis for her valuable insights that led to healing. Later in life her passion for painting returned, and she produced dozens of beautiful oil paintings as part of a group of artists at Weir Farm in Wilton, CT.

“In addition to her children Deborah and David, she is survived by her grandchildren Catherine, Johanna, Margot and Alex.”

 

 

 

‘Brother priests’

Monsignor Roger Watts, 91, died April 21 in Stamford Hospital. His brother, the Rev. Canon Albert W. Watts, 88, died May 1 in Stamford Hospital, also of COVID-19, according to news reports.

Roger Watts was a priest of the Bridgeport diocese for more than 60 years, serving as Spiritual Director of the Catholic Family and Community Services, an office of Catholic Charities; a member of the Presbyterial Council; and moderator of the Stamford District Council of Catholic Women. “Early in his career, he was the principal at St. Mary School in Ridgefield, as well as a priest in the parish there. He also taught at Central Catholic High School in Norwalk from 1966 to 1973.”

“Writing about the gift of a vocation in 2014, Father Albert Watts recalled the day when he and his brother, Roger, were ordained to the priesthood. ‘It is like yesterday that Bishop Lawrence J. Shehan (later Cardinal) laid hands on us during ordination 55 years ago as we lay side by side on the sanctuary floor while our parents in the front pew watched and listened as the choir prayed the Litany of Saints. There are some families that are blessed with God having called two brothers to the priesthood. But it seems we were especially blessed because we were called and ordained as priests together on the very same day, June 5, 1959, at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport,’” Albert Watts’ obituary states.

It continues, “’Even at our age, we know God will bless whatever we give, and we believe we will then have even more left over to give, even to the next generation of priests to come. The message we give is that from the first moment of our ordination we have opened ourselves totally to him who was saying, ‘Follow me.’ And we have never lost anything by following. Do not be afraid of what Christ asks; he takes nothing away and he gives every-thing because the reality is that when we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return.’”

 

If you would like to memorialize a Norwalk victim of COVID-19, email [email protected]

3 comments

Frank Billowitz May 11, 2020 at 10:56 am

Nancy I congratulate you on the wonderful job you are doing . Your in-depth reporting on Norwalk is second to none. Please continue to get the story’s that others are missing.

Susan DeRosa DeRosa May 12, 2020 at 11:10 pm

My father Laszlo V. Nandori long time resident of Norwalk died in Sharon Hospital due to the Civid 19 virus on April 14th, 4 days after his 74th Birthday. He contracted the Virus while he was a resident at Autumn Lake Nursing Facility.

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