Friday, December 09, 2011
By James Lomuscio
As Westport and state police crime units continued their investigation today into the Thursday night shooting death of jeweler Yekutiel “Kuti” Zeevi, 65, and the wounding of colleague Ronen Konfino, 48, friends described Zeevi as a man who loved his family, America and life.
“We couldn’t even talk when we heard about it this morning,” said Tommy Ghianuly, owner of the Compo Barber Shop within walking distance from Zeevi’s YZ Jewelry Manufacturing on the second floor of 431 Post Road East in the Compo Shopping Center.
“He was a friend,” Ghianuly said. “We’ve known him over 30 years.”
“He was like a brother, forget about a friend,” said Felice Pagliuso, who used to cut Zeevi’s hair like clockwork every month.
Beyond his monthly haircuts, Zeevi would stop in at the barber shop to talk and have coffee at least three times a week, even treat the workers to dinner, Ghianuly said.
“Kuti loved America, he loved this country, and he expressed it all the time,” Ghianuly noted about Zeevi, a native of Israel. “He was full of song when he came in here. It was like music.”
Pagliuso said Zeevi would sometime treat him to Italian dinners and pasta fagioli. Ghianuly described Zeevi as athletic, a man who loved soccer and recently had his knee operated on so he could continue playing.
At Gold’s Delicatessen, Karen Alexis said Zeevi had been a customer for 30 years.
“He was a very nice man, and we all feel sorry for him and the loss to his family,” Alexis said.
As she spoke, a convoy of Connecticut and New York television news trucks filled the parking lot and the cool December air with exhaust in front of the deli, a stone’s throw from where Zeevi’s shop had been cordoned off by yellow police tape.
“It’s a very dangerous business, and he was an honest man trying to make a living,” Alexis added.
She noted that Zevi was excited about the upcoming birth of a grandson in two weeks to his son Neeri Zeevi.
“It’s so sad that that child will never know his grandfather,” Alexis said. “Even the unborn was affected by this.”
Lori Yanell, who owns The Textile Store of Westport at 415 Post Road East, described Zeevi as “a man with a huge heart,” and speculated that perhaps it was his trusting nature that allowed the suspect for whom police are searching to dupe Zeevi.
According to police, Zeevi and his colleague had met with the suspect sometime on Wednesday afternoon, and the suspect was supposedly coming back to finalize a transacton.
“My dad called me this morning at 9 and told me as I was on my way to work,” said a shocked Yanell.
“He (Zeevi) used to come in here, and he would always make me laugh and call me Baby,” she added. “My dad (Martin Yanell) has known Kuti since the day he moved in here. How could you not like him?”
The Zeevi family had many friends in the Westport area. His wife Nava played the piano at the Staples High School candlelight concerts for many years, and family members were congregants of Temple Israel.
“He was a terrific guy,” said Temple Israel’s Rabbi Robert Orkand. “On one hand he could be viewed as tough because he was an Israeli army officer, and on the other hand, he could be a big Teddy bear.
“He loved his family and he adored his wife, and he was looking forward to the birth of his grandson in a couple of weeks,” he added.
In 2007, the Zeevis lost their daughter Tali Zeevi-Trager, 34, of West Hartford, who died at Yale New Haven Hospital after a long battle with leukemia.
“I remember the day he came in here after she died,” said Yanell. “It was the death of him.”
But afterwards, he rebounded, friends said, continuing to spread joy and a warmth incongruous with a strong, brusque, accented voice some likened to Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” character.
“He was a very wonderful human being,” Ghianuly said.
Posted 12/09/11 at 10:45 PM
I am deeply saddened at the loss of my friend Kuti ...
He was a beautiful human being who met me with a handshake and a hug every time we met over the past 17 years. We always talked about family and he always gave me some kind words or advice as we parted ... and he was always right ! I loved him as a friend and will miss him dearly ...
Thank you Kuti ... You made my life on Earth better for having known you !
I bought my wife’s engagement ring from him. I didn’t know what I was doing plus I was freaked out about getting married. He went out of his way to be honest and helpful and he didn’t have to. He had a very calming way about him. I had a great deal of respect for him based on the one meeting I had with him. I am very saddened by this. The man exuded dignity. Unfortunately we live in a world with evil people. I believe that he is in a better place with his daughter. My heart is with his family and friends.
Very sad for many of us who knew the man who devoted his time to creating something special for someone special. Kuti was the ideal “shoppe keeper” and his persona added such uniqueness to our town, touching everyone, customer or friend. May all the jewelry he made my wife and others shine brilliantly, for it was a true function of what was in his heart!
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