Saturday, March 25, 2023



Robert A. Townsend, 80

Bob will always be remembered for his warm, open conversation and sense of humor. He seemed to get to know everyone he met, wherever he went, and his booming laugh will be missed by all.

Bob is survived by his children Christopher Townsend, Susan Neill and Katherine Rose, his sister Patricia Townsend of Cape Coral, Florida, his sister and brother-in-law Gail and Roger Crake of Fayetteville, North Carolina, his sister and brother-in-law Laura and Bruce Allen of New Milford, and his seven grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, his wife Betsy, and his daughter Spring Law. Bob’s legacy will live on in the many lives he has touched.

Lori S. Bigelow, 66

She was instrumental in the Bigelow family’s purchase of the Charleston Tea Garden in South Carolina in 2003. Today it is a thriving destination spot.

Lori deeply loved her niece and nephew with all her heart and was so very proud of them. She was also a wonderful and loving mother of many dogs over her lifetime.

One of her favorite events was dressing up with her dog on Halloween and distributing candy to the kids in downtown Wilton.

Lori is survived by her parents, Eunice and David Bigelow, her sister Cindi Bigelow, her niece and nephew, David Bigelow O’Hara and Meghan Campbell O’Hara. She also leaves behind her partner, David McDonald.

The wake will be held on Friday, March 13 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home in Fairfield. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 14 at 10 a.m. at Greenfield Hill Congregational Church in Fairfield followed by inurnment in the Memorial Garden.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Lori’s memory to the ASPCA, P.O. Box 96929, Washington, DC 20090, Lori will be missed by all of us who were blessed to know her.

Clement Onyemelukwe, ‘Father of Electricity’ in Nigeria, 86

His wife Catherine was president of the library board in 1999-2000, prior to becoming the director of development for the YMCA. She is an active member of TEAM Westport and The Unitarian Church in Westport.

Clement Chukwukadia Onyemelukwe was born April 1, 1933, in Nanka, Anambra State, Nigeria.

After graduating from Dennis Memorial Grammar School, a premier colonial-era boys’ secondary school, Clement attended the University College Ibadan for two years before being sent by the British colonial government to Leeds University.

He received his B.Sc. engineering degree in 1956 and worked in the power sector in UK. He acquired a second degree in economics from London University.

He had nearly abandoned any intention of returning to Nigeria when the Electricity Corporation on Nigeria, ECN, recruited him as part of the drive to fill civil service and parastatal positions after Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960.

In 1961, he became deputy chief and the following year was made chief engineer, taking over from the British man who had run the operations. It was on his desk that the first outline of what is now the NEPA grid was formulated.

All the chief executives of NEPA, the renamed national electricity corporation, since its inception up to 2001 were his former staff.

Although his parents had rejoiced that he had returned from the UK without a foreign white wife, in 1963 he met a white Peace Corps volunteer in Lagos and married her in 1964 after the conclusion of her Peace Corps service.

“Peace Corps Worker to Wed Nigerian Engineer,” was the headline for a brief article in The New York Times from Lagos, Nigeria on Dec. 23, 1964. The couple “went through last-minute preparations today for their wedding Saturday at St. Saviour’s Church,” the piece said.  

A second article on Dec. 27, Lloyd Garrison’s “Special to The New York Times,” announced the wedding with bios of the couple.

The marriage in 1964 aroused international attention. “Nigerian Marries Peace Corps Girl” was the headline on the second NY Times article referenced above. Interracial marriage was illegal in Kentucky which was still Catherine’s U.S. residence while she was in the Peace Corps.

When her parents returned to Kentucky after the wedding they had to change their phone number because of hate calls. The couple received telegrams from people all over the world, mostly supportive but a few critical.

A photo of the wedding appeared in Life Magazine in January 1965 and was also noted in Ebony Magazine. 

With the Nigerian civil war looming in 1967 Clem left ECN to take up leadership of Biafra’s Coal Corporation and electricity utility. He was also made executive chairman of the Biafra Airports Board.

Late in the war he became chairman of the Panel on Post-War Reconstruction. He returned to Lagos and the Electricity Corporation after Biafra’s surrender in January 1970.  

He left the electricity industry to found Freeman Engineering in Lagos in 1973. In 1976 he founded Colechurch International Ltd, a project management and promotion company, in UK.

Onyemelukwe was the author of five books: ”Industrial Planning and Management in Nigeria (Longmans UK) 1964;” “Men and Management in Contemporary Africa (Longmans UK) 1973;“ “Economic Underdevelopment: An Inside View (Longmans UK) 1974;” “Science of Economic Development and Growth: The theory of Factor Proportions (M. E. Sharpe Publishing US) 2004.” His last book, “The Decline of the American Economy”, is due out in spring 2020.

Clem was well loved by the community at the Unitarian Church in Westport and others. His warm smile, easy laugh, and joy in recounting stories of Nigeria made him an engaging conversationalist. He loved to discuss politics and economics with any and all.

He is survived by his wife Catherine, their three children, Chinakueze, Elizabeth, and Samuel, and five grandchildren, Kenechi, Nkiru, Teya, Bruche and Ikem. His brother Professor Geoffrey Onyemelukwe and three sisters also survive him. He was predeceased by one brother and one sister.

His life will be celebrated on March 7, at 1 p.m. at The Unitarian Church in Westport. He will be buried in the family compound in his ancestral village beside his parents in April.

Margaret C. Cannistraro, 77

In 1982, they moved to Potomac, Maryland when Nick joined The Washington Post and subsequently to Annapolis where she was again an active member of the community joining organizations like the New Annapolitans, Historic Annapolis, Maryland Hall of the Creative Arts in Annapolis and London Town Public House and Gardens in Edgewater.

Buzzi is predeceased by her parents Wilfred and Gladys Clark, her sister Shirley Clark Warden and her husband Nick. She is survived by her daughters, Missy and her husband Fredrik Salvesen, Maggie and her husband Rob Hallbach, and five grandchildren: Amanda Sherman and her husband Michael, Lilla Salvesen, Nicholas Salvesen, Samantha Hallbach and Kate Hallbach.

Nick and Buzzi sponsored several midshipmen who they remained close to including Troy Cable, Lieutenant Colonel, USMC (ret.) and Cory Stapleton Secretary of State for Montana.

Funeral services will be held Friday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. at St. Anne’s Church of Annapolis..

Memorials may be given in lieu of flowers to Hospice of the Chesapeake at

Marion Grebow, ‘River of Names’ Artist, 66

By senior year, having exhausted the high school’s art curriculum, she received special permission to commute daily to afternoon classes at the League, then earned admission as a Sculpture major to highly competitive Cooper Union College of Fine Arts.

There, she focused exclusively on sculpture and drawing, and her signature work was abstract. At graduation in 1975, Cooper Union presented the Alumni Sculpture Award to Grebow for her exceptional achievement.

Meanwhile, Grebow was finding that painted forms, art in public places and art with a useful purpose all appealed to her. She admired the fusion of painting, sculpture and architecture in the European Middle Ages and the sculptor-architects of Italy’s early Renaissance and Baroque eras, especially Ghiberti, Michelangelo and Bernini.

She developed an interest in painting, calligraphy and the use of art to illuminate complex ideas in ways that the public could readily understand.  By her own account, she found the educational dioramas at New York’s Museum of Natural History as compelling as the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Between 1975 and 1984, she continued to produce and exhibit sculpture; meanwhile, beginning in 1976, to ensure steady income, she established a side business, designing and manufacturing custom porcelain dinnerware and Judaica, including Passover plates, menorahs and mezuzahs. 

By 1986, married now and a mother, she found that demand for her products was so great that it precluded attention either to serious sculpture or her children, so she closed the business.

Instead, in 1987, she began sculpting and painting custom ceramic tiles for fine homes in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Westchester County, New York, and New York City.

This work caught the attention of philanthropist Erica Jesselson, who was searching for a way to showcase donors at Manhattan’s 92nd Street YMHA, where her grandchildren were members. Grebow’s custom tiles provided a solution.

This resulting project’s success led quickly to an invitation to design and produce a donor tile mural at nearby Temple Emanu El.  The theme for Grebow’s first commission there was “life on Fifth Avenue through the eyes of a child.” 

Subsequent mural themes include “animals from around the world” and “children’s games and pastimes,”. As evident in this work, Grebow, the sculptor and ceramist, had also mastered painting and calligraphy. Word of her ability to meld art, fundraising and public education for worthwhile causes began to spread.

More donor tile commissions followed, including ones for a community nursery school in New Canaan, and then, for the Westport Public Library, where the “River of Names”  became her first historical mural.

Since 1998, the popular, artistic and financial success of these projects has prompted strong interest in her work.  Her mural for the Connecticut Audubon Center in Fairfield portrays the four seasons in the Connecticut woodlands. For the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook and for SoundWaters in Stamford, she again chronicles the history of Connecticut towns. 

For New York’s Diller-Quaile School of Music, she features musical instruments and scores.  In two 23-foot murals at Brooklyn’s Jewish Community House of Benshonhurst, Grebow assembles a colorful scrapbook, an animated pictorial celebration of nineteenth and twentieth century neighborhood life, including memories of Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Marion maintained her studio in her West Redding farmhouse. She is survived by her husband, Gustav Olsen, and their two sons, Sam and Harald.

Click HERE for a look at the Westport Library “River of Names” before it was removed for the transformation project.

Claudine Siegel, 84

Following law school, she worked as an associate at Amen, Weisman & Butler. Early in her career, she represented the Carvel Corporation in an antitrust case that reached the United States Supreme Court.

Serving for 35 years with Connecticut Legal Services, Claudine managed the Stamford office and represented innumerable clients in court, including the Supreme Court of Connecticut. She trained dozens of attorneys in family law and created a guide, later adopted statewide, enabling parties to represent themselves in family court.

She leaves behind her husband Allen, with whom she enjoyed a loving 62-year marriage, children Jonathan Siegel and Tamra Lichtman, daughter-in-law Michelle Girvan, son-in-law Scott Lichtman, grandchildren Eli and Kayla Lichtman and Zara Siegel, and sister and brother-in-law Nadine and Manny Schultz.

Claudine and her husband Allen lived in Westport for 40 years. She served on the board of the Westport Public Library. She and Allen supported the CT Alliance for Music and hosted musicales in their home. They retired to Florida in 2012 and continued to summer in Westport.

Throughout her life, Claudine was ever curious and a voracious reader. She immersed herself in literature, art, music, and travel. She had a fine eye for design, was an artist and sculptor herself, and loved theater, ballet, and opera.

Claudine was embraced by her family and a wide circle of friends who were drawn to her vivacity, intelligence, creativity, and warmth. She will be greatly missed.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Parkinson’s Foundation at

Linda S. Bergquist, 78

Linda was predeceased by her husband: Donald Bergquist and parents: John and Loraine Schramm. She is survived by her daughter: Christina (Geoff) Kibby; her sisters: Judith (J. Lee) Westrate, Christie (Sherwin) Day; and three grandchildren.

A service of remembrance will be held Friday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, 49 Weston Road Westport,

Those who wish to remember Linda in a special way may gift in her memory to the ASPCA at (800) 628-0028 or or a donation to the Weston Volunteer EMS at P.O. Box 1163 Weston, CT 06883.

Gretchen M. Paretzky, 81

In addition to her husband , she is survived by one daughter, Brianna, of Sydney, Australia and one sister, Suzanna Stammer, and her wife Mary Brainard of Kentucky, grandchild Tyler Jordan of Stafford, and Frank Marcroft her first husband of Norwalk. She was predeceased by her daughter Amanda Jordan, and her husband Phillip Jordan, USMC, and one sister Gloria Thacker.

We would be remiss if we didn’t add that Gretchen was a beautiful person inside and out and she had a great sense of humor.

Friends are invited to attend a gathering to celebrate Gretchen’s life on Sunday, March 29 from 2 to 5 p.m. in Hoskins Hall. Enter from the rear-parking lot in the lower level of the Saugatuck Congregational Church, 245 Post Road East.

Memorial contributions may be made to either the American Cancer Society, 38 Richards Ave., Norwalk, CT 06854 or the Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service, 50 Jesup Rd. , Westport, CT 06880.

Remembering Woody Klein

He once blurted that his epitaph would say, “This man wrote, and he taught.” He was also an adjunct professor journalism.

Klein, his birth name Elihu, a name he once boasted he could hide behind if he ever made the police blotter, died Feb. 11 at his Regent’s Park home after a brief illness. He was 90, and his career spanned more than 65 years.

In Westport, he may be best remembered as author of the town’s history. “Westport, Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence,” sponsored by the Westport Historical Society and published in 2000 on the 165th anniversary of the town’s founding.

This writer, who became editor of the Westport News upon Klein’s retirement, would from time to time meet him for lunch on Main Street, a welcome break for Klein, a people person who was spending the bulk of his days holed up in the Westport Historical Society’s archives room.

Months into the project and with boxes of research, Klein admitted one day he was having a hard time getting started. Perhaps it was stage fright since it wasn’t a national audience that would be watching him, but his hometown, one he felt so passionately about, one he revered.

When I replaced him as editor, he said the paper’s audience would include a lot of high-powered movers and shakers, and that our stories in some way might influence the makers.

As we walked along Main Street, I told him to relax, that the book’s opening would come to him. I said were were on the cusp of the millennium, and that maybe he could start there and go back to the Colonial period. He wanted to go further back.

“How about if I start with, ‘In the beginning?’” he asked. “Or would that be sacrilegious?”

I thought it was too ambitious, if not arrogant.

But sure enough in typical Woody fashion, one of boosterism for his friends and the town, one that always put Westport at the center of the universe, the opening paragraph on page 15 reads, “In the beginning, of course, there was no Westport.”