Saturday, March 25, 2023



Well-Known Westporter Sheila Hehmeyer Dies at 77

Sheila M. Hehmeyer, a British-born Westporter known for her outspokenness at brown bag luncheons held by First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell where she was a regular, died today, according to a family friend. She was 77.sheilahehmeyer.jpg

Hehmeyer, who was made a member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in June 2000 for her services to British cultural services, had been undergoing treatment for cancer in recent weeks. She died at Greenwich Hospital.

“I am devastated to hear the news,” Farrell told WestportNow. “Sheila had been sick for a while and we had been speaking in hospital and at home.

“But she never complained and managed to run her affairs and run her life despite her illness.

Ed Mitchell, Founder of Westport Clothing Store, Dies at 98

Edwin William Mitchell, who with his wife Norma founded Mitchells of Westport clothing store in 1958 and saw it grow into a multi-million dollar regional retail powerhouse, died today after a brief illness. He was 98. edmitchell100.jpg

His death at a Fairfield residence for the elderly two months short of his 99th birthday was announced by the Mitchell family.

Mitchell, whose retail expertise drew attention from universities and business groups but was best known locally for his devotion to his community,  had recently been hospitalized at Norwalk Hospital. He was a resident of Westport and Pompano Beach, Fla.

A framed picture of him was placed in the store on Post Road East where arriving customers saw it upon their entry and flags outside were lowered to half staff.

Westport Bartender Died of Pneumonia

Missing Westport bartender David Bargmann, identified by a cyber sleuth almost 10 months after he died as a “John Doe” in Florida, succumbed to bacterial pneumonia, a family source said today.

The 44-year-old Fairfield man was identified only after a 52-year-old disabled woman in Georgia, who searches Web sites of missing persons and unidentified bodies in hopes of finding matches, cracked the case, the Connecticut Post reported today.

Bargmann, who worked at Westport’s V Restaurant & Wine Bar on Post Road East, disappeared without a trace last March 24, leaving behind his wallet and identification.

A family member told WestportNow today they had no idea how he ended up in the Key West, Fla., area but had been told by authorities there that he died from bacterial pneumonia.

Former Westport Resident Leonard Kaminsky Dies

Leonard P. Kaminsky, a former Westport resident who served on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Assessment Appeals, has died in Hawaii, friends said today. He turned 76 last Wednesday.

Kaminsky, who moved to Shelton several years ago, had undergone bypass surgery in the past and his death early Sunday was apparently caused by a heart attack, according to the friends.

Kaminsky, a retired vice president of Cone Mills Marketing Co., was last seen by friends in Westport at a recent Y’s Men meeting.

Westport Author Douglas Anne Munson Dies

Westporter Douglas Anne Munson, an author who wrote three books about the hard edges of Los Angeles, has died. She was 54.

Munson died Dec. 22 of cancer at Norwalk Hospital, Lucas Crown, a writer and friend, told The Associated Press.

In her first stark novel, 1990’s “El Nino,” Munson explored the underworld of child abuse and abusers in the criminal court system in Los Angeles.

She drew on her experience as an attorney for more than a decade in dependency court to write the book, which was well regarded by critics.

Longtime Westport Resident Ellen Street Ritter Dies at 91

Ellen Street Ritter, a longtime Westport resident who was among the founders of the Westport League of Women Voters in 1949, has died at the age of 91.

Family members said she died Sunday at the home of a son, Nicholas Street, in Gastonia, N.C.

Ritter, a former teacher at the Bedford Elementary School, lived for many years in a house on Myrtle Avenue opposite Christ and Holy Trinity Church.

Friends said it was in Ritters home in 1949 that several Westport women discussed forming a local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

ғSix women got together and started a provisionalђ League, according to an account in the LeagueԒs member handbook.

They were required to write a handbook about Westport before being accepted as a League with full status.

Helen Kowalsky McCoy Dies at Age 83

Helen Kowalsky McCoy of Westport, a longtime employee with her late brothers of the well-known Westport construction firm Kowalsky Brothers, has died at the age of 83.

McCoy, wife of the late Robert A. McCoy, Sr., died Monday in Norwalk Hospital, family members said.

Born in Westport, McCoy was the daughter of the late Joseph and Mary Cherub Kowalsky and had been a lifelong town resident.

Prior to retiring, she was the office manager for Kowalsky Brothers for 40 years. A graduate of Staples High School, she was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Joseph J. Clinton VFW Post 399 and an avid gardener.

In addition to her husband Mrs. McCoy was also predeceased by three brothers, Paul, Joseph and John Kowalsky and one sister, Joan Gallo.

Survivors include a son, Robert A. McCoy, Jr., of Fairfield, three daughters, Carole MacIntyre of Weston, Susan Kokoska of Newtown, and Robin Burns of Sugar Run, Pa.; a brother, Edward J. Kowalsky of Westport, and a sister, Nan Petraskos of Boca Raton, Fla.

She is also survived by five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Friends may attend the funeral Friday at 9:20 a.m from the Harding Funeral Home, 210 Post Road East, and 10 a.m. at St. Luke Church, 84 Long Lots Road, for a Mass of Christian Burial.

Interment will follow in Assumption Cemetery, Greens Farms. The family will receive friends in the funeral home Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Westport Publisher Found Dead at Norwalk Marina

A Westport publisher died early today after apparently falling at Norwalk Cove Marina, police said.

William Schnirring, 65, was chairman and CEO of New York-based Associated Business Publications International, which publishes trade magazines for the aeronautics and exporting industries.

Police found Schnirring floating face down near his boat, Glad Spirit, at about 2:30 a.m., police reports said.

Paramedics spent at least a half hour trying to revive him before he was taken to Norwalk Hospital and declared dead.

Schnirring’s wife, Melissa, told The Hour newspaper that she does not know why her husband went to the marina so early in the morning. She said a friend had dropped him off at a Norwalk restaurant earlier in the evening.

Marina workers said they heard he may have been on the dock, fell and hit his head, and ended up in the water.

The Schnirrings live in the Saugatuck Shores area. They have been Westport residents 11 years after having spent 20 years in Weston.

Police said the cause of Schnirring’s death remains under investigation. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

In addition to his business ventures, Schnirring, who preferred to be called Bill, was passionate about railroad commuter issues affecting him and other riders of Metro-North.

In the early 1980s, he led a petition drive to preserve the bar cars on Metro-North.

Schnirrings outspokenness was clear in a posting in April on the popular Bar Car Web site dealing with bar car and commuter issues.

Addressed to the siteҒs editor, Westporter Tom Skinner, Schnirring wrote: As you well know, the bar cars are not just a more efficient use of space than normal cars, they actually contribute extra revenue to Metro-North.

ӓYou and I have tried to explain that to the twits who have done their best to ruin an institution that not only gives pleasure to many, but also contributes revenue and jobs.

Schnirring is also survived by his son, Luke, also of Westport, who worked with his father at the publishing company.

Update (9/29/03): The state medical examiner ruled Monday that Schnirring’s death by drowning was accidental.

Former Westporter Chaim Engel, Nazi Death Camp Survivor, Dies at 87

Chaim Engel, a Nazi death camp survivor who lived in Westport after emigrating from Israel, has died at the age of 87.

Engel, who operated a greeting card store in Stamford in the 1960s while living in Westport, died Friday in Branford, his daughter, Alida Engel Berger, told WestportNow.

She said he had been in declining health as a result of a recent automobile accident.

Engel used his story of suffering and escape from a Nazi death camp to educate children about the Holocaust.

He and his wife, Selma, whom he met at the Sobibor camp in Poland, told their tale in classrooms throughout the New Haven area.

Their story was depicted in the 1987 television movie, “Escape From Sobibor,” and at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington.

After the war, Engel sold men’s clothing in Holland. The couple then emigrated to Israel and from there to Westport in 1959, where they resided on Wilton Road.

The couple later moved to Oakwood Lane. Daughter Alida was a member of the 1964 Staples graduating class while son Fred was ‘66.

The Engels moved to Branford in 1970 after he bought a jewelry store in Old Saybrook.

In addition to his wife, daughter and son, Engel is survived by four grandchildren.

Update (July 9, 2003): A dispatch from the Jewish Telegraph Agency includes a comprehensive account of Engel’s life.

07/07/2003 17:56 pm Comments (0)Permalink

Former Westporter Briggs Swift Cunningham, Noted Racer, Dies at 96

Former Westporter Briggs Swift Cunningham Jr., the captain of the winning yacht in the 1958 America’s Cup and a longtime sports car racing figure, has died. He was 96.

Cunningham died Wednesday at home in Las Vegas from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Laura Cunningham.

Cunningham lived in Westport for many years before moving to California in the 1960s and then to Nevada in 1999.

His survivors include daughter Lucie McKinney of Westport, widow of Stewart B. McKinney,  the Republican congressman who represented the area for 17 years before his death in 1987.

Cunningham’s first wife was the former Lucie Bedford, daughter of Standard Oil heir Frederick T. Bedford, who died in 1963.

Now Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren, she continues to live in Westport as does her sister Ruth Thomas Bedford.

The Bedford family has a long history of philanthropy in Westport, having donated substantial amounts of real estate and development funds to build the YMCA and schools.

Cunningham pursued yachting and auto racing with a fortune inherited from his father, a wealthy Cincinnati financier and early investor in Procter & Gamble.

He was the captain of Columbia when it won the America’s Cup.

Later, he was active in competitive sailing at Westport’s Cedar Point Yacht Club and the Pequot Yacht Club in Fairfield.

Fellow yachtsmen recall the lavish parties Cunnigham threw at his Green’s Farms area home following the races.  They often included bagpipers, in accord with his Scottish heritage.

He helped found the Sports Car Club of America and the Automobile Racing Club of America.

His name became part of sailing terminology through his 1958 invention of the “cunningham,” a line controlling sail tension.

Other survivors include a son, Briggs Cunningham III, of Danville, Ky., and daughter Cythlen Maddock, of Palm Beach, Fla.

A funeral is scheduled Aug. 8 in Corona Del Mar, Calif.

07/04/2003 23:04 pm Comments (0)Permalink