The Newtown community lost a number of residents in 2021 who left their mark on town, whether it be through their time in politics, organizations, or schools.
Among them was Kathryn “Kay” Ozanne who passed away on January 3. During her time in Newtown, she was a member of Newtown Garden Club, Newtown Women’s Club, Newtown Business and Professional Women’s Club, Rotary Club’s Ladies Auxiliary (called the “Rotary Annes”), and St Rose of Lima parish.
Thomas Lawrence Capozziello, who was a Newtown High School graduate, class of 2011, passed away unexpectedly January 5. According to his obituary, “In 2007, Thomas and his mom, Lori, started ‘Donate to Skate’ to jump-start a Newtown skate park. With many fundraisers and local events, they raised over $100,000. In 2011, their dreams came to fruition and the Newtown Skate Park became a reality.”
Newtown Parks and Recreation hosted a ceremony for Capozziello to unveil a special monument created in his honor at Dickinson Park’s skate park on September 4.
John A. Cochran, of Newtown, passed away peacefully on January 21. He was a lifetime member of the Dodgingtown Volunteer Fire Department and served as department chief for several years. Cochran was also known for volunteering as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army in Newtown during Christmastime.
Also a volunteer bell ringer with the Salvation Army was Newtown resident Robert Blythe Shaw, who passed away January 29. Additionally, he helped organize Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinners and served on various town committees and boards, including as president of Newtown Housing for the Elderly.
On February 21, Daniel John Cruson III — historian, educator, and author — passed away. He was a fixture in the community, who served on a number of boards and committees. Among his many contributions to Newtown was his volunteered role of first official Town Historian for more than 25 years. He did everything from lectures to walking tours to publishing a variety of his writings.
Newtown resident Margaret A. Imbro dedicated her life to serving people and passed away on February 26. She was on the board of Newtown Commission on Aging, Visiting Nurse Association, and Social Concerns Ministry at St Rose of Lima Church, and was also a member of Newtown Friends of Music.
In March, the obituary of Stephen Denny Whiting, a resident of Newtown for almost 40 years, was published. He volunteered for organizations such as Newtown Historical Society and Newtown Jaycees, cochaired the Newtown Labor Day Parade, and was an organizer of the Christmas basket program with the Newtown Fund.
Catherine Cooke Lux was a former 36-year Sandy Hook resident who died on March 22. She was a member of C.H. Booth Library’s Board of Directors, president of Sandy Hook Elementary PTA, led a Girl Scout troop, raised money for the Fun Space Playground, and worked with Save Our Schools to educate voters about the school budgeting process.
Lifelong Newtown resident Bridget Tara Seaman-Walker, who graduated Newtown High School in 1981, passed away April 16. She was a fixture of The Newtown Bee’s front office for nearly 14 years, which led her to form bonds with many customers and coworkers.
According to her obituary, “After 12/14, Bridget wanted to give back to her community. If there was a connection to be made, Bridget found a solid one by joining a group of old friends helping organize the 2013 Great Newtown Reunion, a Day of Healing. Panacea, Newtown’s ‘70s-era rock band, returned that summer, and continues to return to perform every year Labor Day weekend at Dickinson Memorial Park. At those shows, Bridget was instrumental in helping to raise awareness for the need of food donations for FAITH Food Pantry of Newtown. Concertgoers brought the goods, and then Bridget and friends delivered the collection to the pantry, promoting a successful drive every year.”
The Panacea & Friends reunion show at Dickinson Memorial Park on Labor Day weekend this year honored her with the first Bridget Seaman Memorial FAITH Food Drive taking place on site.
On April 16, Douglas Murdoch Jeffrey passed away. For more than 35 years, he taught in the Newtown school system, mostly 5th and 6th grade at Newtown Middle School. He also worked at Newtown Post Office for nearly two decades and coached Newtown Little League.
John P. O’Byrne, Jr, known as Jack, passed away May 27. He was a volunteer at St Rose of Lima Church, board of directors member for the Newtown branch of Connecticut National Bank, board of trustees member for Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and served on the board of Newtown’s Housing for the Elderly (Nunnawauk Meadows).
Sandy Hook resident George Albert Kozak died on May 29. He worked for 24 years at Fabric Fire Hose in Sandy Hook and retired as a custodian from the Newtown Board of Education.
On June 3, Michael Lucas II passed away. He attended Newtown schools and was employed by the State of Connecticut at Fairfield Hills. He was also a member of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department in his younger years.
Newtown resident Marjorie H. Campbell was very active in the community and died on July 7. She was a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, past president of the Sandy Hook Elementary School PTA, founded the Jolly Green Giant Fair, and served on the Head O’ Meadow Elementary School Specification Committee. She also was a former deputy Republican Registrar of Voters and moderator, a founding member and officer of Newtown Spay and Neuter Association, as well as a member of St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church and Trinity Episcopal Church.
Also involved in Newtown was resident Ellyn Buehl Gehrett who passed away on July 18. She was a member of Newtown Woman’s Club, Newtown Congregational Church, sponsor for the Regional Hospice of Western Connecticut Newtown breakfast, and supported Meals on Wheels for more than 40 years as driver, meal coordinator, and board member.
Longtime Sandy Hook resident Robert Mitchell, who owned Mitchell Architectural Group, passed away on October 6. He not only loved his work, but also his family and breakfasts at Sandy Hook Diner. Mitchell was the chairman of Newtown Public Building and Site Commission during the new Sandy Hook Elementary School building project. He also lent his expertise to the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission when they were selecting a memorial design and during pre-construction, as well as contributing guidance on the new Community Center, police headquarters, the Newtown High School expansion, and Hawley School HVAC renovations.
Donald “Bud” Frank Lewis, Newtown High School graduate class of 1972, died on October 9. He worked for his family’s business, Newtown Refuse, as well as many years at Fairfield Hills Hospital Police Department in Newtown — where he received a Medal of Valor for saving a man from the second story of a burning building.
Longtime Newtown resident Joseph Grasso, Sr, was a beloved music educator, husband, father, and accomplished musician, who passed away on October 9. While teaching music in the Newtown Public Schools, he created the high school band program in the late 1960s and later became the director of music for the Newtown school system. His legacy not only lives on through the individuals who remember him, but also through the Annual Joseph P. Grasso Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.
On October 12, Esther Cable Nichols passed away. She processed sweepstakes entries for Promotion Mechanics, Inc, in Newtown, served as a receptionist at the Homestead in Newtown, and was a member of Eastern Star, TOPS, and Newtown Hiking Club. She was also a Cub Scout den mother, a lifelong Girl Scout and leader, and member of Newtown Congregational Church.
James Joseph Smith, a Newtown resident for more than 60 years, passed away on November 2. He was an active member of the community, serving as a selectman for the Town of Newtown, member of Newtown’s Legislative Council, and chairman of Newtown Zoning Board of Appeals. Smith also was instrumental in forming the Newtown Health District. He served as chairman on the Board of Health, was a member of the Fairfield Hills closing advisory board, member on the town’s committee for tax relief for the elderly, member of three separate Charter Revision Commissions for Newtown, was a coach/president of Newtown Pop Warner Football League, and was a Scout Master for Boy Scout troop 770.
Former Sandy Hook resident Louise Irene Ingram Andrews passed away on November 4. For many years, she served FAITH Food Pantry and was a founder/lifetime member of the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Ladies Auxiliary.
Artist Charles “Chuck” Fulkerson, Jr, of Newtown, died on November 6. He found inspiration throughout town for his watercolor landscapes. He created postcards and calendars featuring Newtown’s historic Main Street. Additionally, his original artwork is on display in the lobby of Newtown Savings Bank.
Longtime Sandy Hook resident Virginia “Ginny” Chion passed away on November 12. She taught as a full-time sub at Sandy Hook Elementary School and full-time at Middle Gate Elementary School. She was also involved with St Rose Church Women’s Club and Book Clubs.
On November 14, Richard C. Barillari, of Newtown, passed away. According to his obituary, “Rich consistently gave back to his community, where he coached youth sports, hosted many pregame pasta parties, and donated to countless organizations. In 1999, he was named The Newtown Bee Sportsman of the Year after he successfully cochaired a campaign to fully fund the installation of field lights and the concession/press box building at Blue & Gold Stadium.”
Krishnalal “Kris” Nanavaty was a 25-year resident of Newtown who passed away on November 15. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts, NHS Boosters, Newtown Little League, Hiram Lodge No. 18 in Sandy Hook, and served as president of Newtown Lions Club.
These community members — and so many others — may no longer physically be here, but their legacy of service in Newtown will live on in the hearts of those who cherish their memories.
Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at [email protected]
In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”
In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.