Thursday, February 22, 2024



Lillian D. Stone, 92

Lillian Daeger Stone, a 54- year resident of Westport, died Sept. 14. She was 92.

She was born Oct. 29, 1926 in Chicago and was the daughter of the late Arnold and Myrtle (Tennyson) Daeger. She attended the University of Illinois.

She was a member of the Westport Woman’s Club, she loved to travel the world and had a wicked sense of humor.

Lillian has been married to her husband of 71 years Fred W. Stone and had three daughters: Marian, Julia and Claudia, one son: Elliot, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Peter L. Svanda, 85

Peter L. Svanda, 85, of Philadelphia, a retired Rohm & Haas executive who as a teenager struck up a friendship with Helen Keller in Westport, died Sept. 15, of respiratory failure. He was 85.

He was born in Easton and raised by his grandparents, who had left Czechoslovakia in 1906. They arrived at Ellis Island and were sent to Westport to dig reservoirs for water destined for New York City, he said in a 2009 lecture to the Stone Harbor Lions Club.

His grandmother, who did Keller’s laundry, introduced the boy to her. At age 12, he began to mow her lawn, wash windows, and garden. In 1946, Keller and her caregiver, Polly Thompson, lived on a five-acre Westport estate.

Keller hosted large dinner parties at the 12-room house. “Polly Thompson would talk to Miss Keller by spelling everything into her hand,” he told the Lions. “They were very good at this and could keep up with any conversation. Miss Thompson would then tell everyone what Miss Keller had said.”

William J. Klemish, Sr., 86

William “Bill” John Klemish, Sr. of Westport died Sept. 11. He was 86. Image
William Klemish: longtime Westporter. Contributed photo

He was born in Westport where he and his family have lived for generations. He was educated in Westport and was a star tailback for the Staples Wreckers where he and the team went undefeated in 1951.

He still holds many rushing records from his years as a Wrecker that have yet to be broken. He was a veteran of the Korean War and was very proud to serve his country.

Bill worked for Connecticut Light and Power/Northeast Utilities for 46 years and was president of the I.B.E.W Union.

Leo Levieff, 96

Leo Levieff of Westport, a noted ophthalmologist, died Sept. 20 at home. He was 96. Image
Leo Levieff: ophthalmologist. Contributed photo

He was born June 1, 1923 in Sofia, Bulgaria where he spent his formative years and attended an American Missionary school. During the height of World War II, his parents pulled him out of school and helped him get to Switzerland to escape growing anti-Semitic hostility.

While in Switzerland, he completed his schooling, and gained admission to the University of Lausanne Medical School. A committed and passionate student, Dr. Levieff received straight A’s and a perfect score in basic sciences.

Once he was granted his American visa, he arrived by ship in Hoboken, New Jersey via the New Amsterdam. Following a successful internship at Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Levieff decided to specialize in ophthalmology with an emphasis on cataract surgery.

Phyllis Groner, 90

Phyllis Groner, a longtime Westport resident, died Aug. 29. She was 90. Image
Phyllis Groner: photographer, artist. Contributed photo

She was born and raised in Los Angeles. She and her husband Stan Groner moved to Westport with daughters Helen and Hilary after living in Denver and York, Pennsylvania where they formed close lifelong friendships.

Phyllis was very active in the community serving on many boards such as the League of Women Voters of Westport, PTA Cultural Arts Committee, Y’s Women, and the Westport Center for Senior Activities.

Always fascinated by the beauty around her, she found expression in taking photographs. She was a contributing photographer for starting in 2005.

Rita Stitzer, 89

Rita Stitzer of Westport, a former member of the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting (RTM), died Sept. 22 at Norwalk Hospital. She was 89.

Active in town affairs, she served on the RTM from 1977 to 1981 and the Board of Finance from 1981 to 1989, including as vice chair. She later served on the Gifts Committee as well as a Charter Revision Commission.

She was born in Bronx, New York, a daughter of the late Hyman and Molly Bacher.

She is survived by her husband Carl Stitzer, her children Alan Stitzer (Jill), David Stitzer, and Jan Stitzer (Werner), her grandchildren Logan, Jason, Dylan, Chaim Shmuel, Yaakov Tzvi, Moshe Naftali, and Chana Shira, and her great-grandchildren Esther Bracha, Ahuva Yaffa Malka, Moshe Daniel, and Mordechai Binyomin. She was predeceased by her sister Harriet and and great-granddaughter Chava.

Betty L. Corwin, Pioneering Theater Archivist, 98

Betty L. Corwin of Weston, a former Westport resident and pioneering theater archivist in preserving New York off-Broadway and Broadway performances on film and tape, died Sept. 10. She was 98. Image
Betty Corwin: at the Senior Center in 2011. Phyllis Groner for

For her creation of the Theater on Film and Tape at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, she was recognized with a Special Tony Award in 2001.

After moving to Weston, Corwin maintained close ties to Westport friends and frequented the Westport Country Playhouse.

In 2011, she appeared in a documentary film, “Old Is …” created by local artist and author Tracy Sugarman and film producer Bill Buckley. The film demonstrated that seniors who stay active lead longer, productive lives.

Susanne Gravelle, 45

Susanne Marie Gravelle of Westport died Sept. 14 after a long battle with bvFTD. She was 45. Image
Susanne Marie Gravelle Contributed photo

Her natural beauty and signature laugh will not soon be forgotten.

Susanne “Susie” was born Feb. 10, 1974 in Garden City, New York to Philip and the late Nancy Rodilosso. Susie had fond childhood memories of family travel, especially a cross-country escapade, and great times with the Mahland family.

She often reminisced about her childhood summers, biking and boating around the North Fork of Long Island with her sister Lisa, cousins, and friends.

Jason D. Bernstein, 25

Jason D. Bernstein died Sept. 11. He was 25. Image
Jason Bernstein: composer, pianist. Contributed photo

A Connecticut-born resident, he was a brilliant composer, pianist, artist, filmmaker and actor. 

He will be deeply missed by his family: parents Brian and Lauren Bernstein of Norwalk, siblings Jessica and Cayla, grandparents Charles and Lynne Nagy, and Bob and Bobbie Bernstein of Westport, aunts, uncles and many cousins. 

Services will be held on Sunday Sept. 15 at 2:30 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 458 Lakeside Drive., Stamford.