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Denise Davidoff Memorial Service Set for Feb. 3

The memorial service for Denise Ellen Taft Davidoff will be conducted on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. at The Unitarian Church in Westport.

She died Dec. 7, 2017 in her Bridgeport home at age 85 from complications of cancer. (See WestportNow Dec. 15, 2017) The family provided the following obituary:

Retired as owner of a Connecticut advertising agency, she was an important voice for half a century shaping liberal religion in North America and international interreligious dialogue.

Raised in a Jewish home and synagogue in Belle Harbor, Queens, New York, she moved to Fairfield County in 1959.

She lived three decades in Westport and then made her home in Norwalk followed by Bridgeport. Her advertising business was founded in Fairfield and later relocated to Westport.

For 50 years, she was an outspoken, persistent and popular leader within Unitarian Universalist, a small denomination with outsized influence on the left wing of American religion.

From 1992 to 2000, as the elected moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the denomination’s highest position for volunteers, she presided at annual national assemblies and chaired the board of trustees.

She held other leadership positions and worked until her illness for Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, a UU seminary, where she fostered formation of new ministers.

She was a board member and founder of The Interfaith Alliance as well as its foundation. She had been a director of the Alban Institute, which provided organizational development consulting for congregations of many denominations.

Through organizations including the International Association for Religious Freedom, she interacted with religious leaders globally.

She and her late husband, Jerry, were members of The Unitarian Church in Westport. She was one of the congregation’s longest continuously active members and held many congregational leadership posts.

Her husband, a Westport attorney who died in 2009, also became a national UU lay leader.

She was a leader in Connecticut business and Democratic politics. She was an innovator in advertising for banks. Banks and savings and loan institutions across Connecticut were the bulk of her agency’s clientele.

Other clients included utilities, professional services and retailers. An association with Mitchells, the Westport clothier, lasted many years.

She volunteered for not-for-profits including the mental health association, NEON, and the Westport Public Library.

Her longest community service, beginning in 1992 and lasting to her death, was as a director and executive committee member of The WorkPlace Inc., which creates and manages workforce development programs in Connecticut and nationally.

The WorkPlace has dedicated the main conference room at its Bridgeport headquarters in her honor.

She served on the Westport Democratic Town Committee and ran advertising campaigns for Democratic candidates in Westport and other Fairfield County communities.

She provided advertising for the first gubernatorial campaign of Ella T. Grasso, the Connecticut congressional representative who in 1974 became the first woman nationally to win the office of governor without being the wife or widow of a past governor.

It was while living in Norwalk that the Davidoffs most enjoyed their passion for sailing. They cruised the New England coast many summers on their 38-foot sloop, “Civil Liberty.”

Their home always had a piano; she enjoyed playing show tunes and classical compositions.

She attended the School of Performing Arts in Manhattan and graduated from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, and from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

She is survived by her sons, Douglass Taft Davidoff of Bridgeport and John Davidoff of Evanston, Illinois; daughter-in-law Jacki Davidoff of Evanston and four grandchildren: Robert Davidoff of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sarah Ellen Davidoff of Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Beloit College, Wisconsin; Joshua Davidoff of Evanston and Wesleyan University; and Jasper Davidoff of Evanston.

The celebration of life, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. at The Unitarian Church in Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road, will be followed by a reception.

Memorial contributions may be made to The WorkPlace Inc. in Bridgeport (workplace.org), or to the Denny and Jerry Davidoff Fund for Lay Leadership at the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston (uua.org) or to Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago (meadville.edu).

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