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Neil M. Adato, 96

Neil Mony Adato of Westport died Oct. 23. He was 96.

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Neil Adato: construction engineer. Contributed photo

Adato touched all who knew him with his extraordinary integrity, charm, generosity, and a personality that radiated warmth and love.

As a family friend wrote last week “He was one of the most generous individuals I have ever met, empathetic, worldly, fair, and very, very accomplished.” 

Mony was an affectionate and sensitive man, always ready to talk with his friends and family about any problem, decision, or interest.

He had refined taste and style, and a great eye for design and art. He was passionate about world affairs, reading The New York Times daily, often cover to cover.

He loved histories and biographies, the theater, ballet, art museums, professional basketball and tennis. He and his wife Perry traveled the world, widely and frequently.

He was married to Perry Miller Adato for 62 years. He was a devoted, loving, generous husband to Perry and to his daughters, Laurie and Michelle Adato. 

Neil was born Hazmonay Adato in Istanbul, Turkey in 1921, where he lived through his early 30s. “Mony” as he was called, said of his childhood ‘I was extremely happy and loved by my family … I was playing in the streets by the age of 5, but when I came home, it was always to our house full of books.’

His family were Sephardic Jews; his mother, Sophie, and father, Aaron, were loving and generous people. His father Aaron was a Freemason, which included Jews, Muslims and Christians in a community devoted to helping families in need of food and medical care.

Sadly, his father died when Mony was in his early teens. Mony’s brother, Nissim Adato, became a lawyer and his sister, Mathilde Adato became a scientist and doctor.

Mony grew up speaking Turkish, Ladino, French, and Greek, and as a teenager learned English.

He attended the renowned Galatasaray Lycée from 6th to 12th grade. In high school he became a basketball star known as “Basketci Adato,” and also played with the Jewish team Bar Kokhba.

In university, he formed a basketball team that went on to win six consecutive national championships.

He graduated from Istanbul Teknik Universitesi with a Master of engineering degree, and began his military service in the Turkish army, after six months becoming an officer — and started another basketball team.

He then began his career at the Turkish government’s Bureau of Highways.

A major accomplishment was his work as the director of construction of the highway from Ankara to Istanbul.

This was one of Turkey’s most ambitious projects of that era, a highway through extremely difficult, mountainous terrain, visited by the president of Turkey.

Mony’s innovations included housing and dining facilities for 150 people, which whenever a stretch of highway was completed could be moved to the next.

His project was known for its exemplary treatment of workers, and this would be a reputation he maintained through his career.

One of Mony’s outstanding characteristics throughout his life was integrity. He was deeply honest, fair, and ethical in his professional and personal life. He always asked himself what was the right thing to do — and counseled others to do the same. 

In the early 50s, he immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Visiting his mother and sister, who had moved to New York City, he connected with a close Turkish friend, whose fiancee introduced Mony to her best friend, Perry Miller.

Perry was a former actress working as a film researcher at CBS. A romance bloomed quickly, and they commuted frequently between Montreal and New York.

In 1955, he accompanied her on a work trip for CBS in Europe for 10 weeks, and they got married within a week of their return to New York. She was Ashkenazi, he Sephardic, and they merged their traditions.

As a new U.S. citizen, he chose Neil as a first name, and kept Mony as his middle name. They lived on West 96th Street near Central Park, and had two daughters, Laurie and Michelle. 

Neil worked in high-rise construction — one of his most notable jobs was as chief engineer for the Time Life Building in New York. 

He eventually started his own business, building homes in Westchester and Connecticut. The family moved to Westport in 1968, into a new home that Mony designed and built for them, and where his wife still lives today.

He continued to build homes until he retired in his early 80s. He was also an ardent tennis player, playing through his 80s

Mony’s wife, Perry Miller Adato, was an award-winning producer-director and writer of documentary films since the late 60s, working mainly for PBS in New York.

He was always highly supportive of her career. Their love and romance was deep, affectionate, and passionate, throughout their 62-year marriage.

Over the years, strangers in restaurants would buy them drinks, inspired by watching a couple so in love after so many years together.

As a father, he was deeply engaged, generous, and always there for his daughters — a great listener, offering support, advice, and love in every way he could.

He adored his daughters and they him. He loved Laurie’s partner David Hawes and Michelle’s husband Steven Horowitz, with whom he felt very close.

A whole new dimension of joy arrived nearly six years ago when his first grandson was born, Alexander Aaron Adato Horowitz, and again last year, when his granddaughter was born, Sophia Perry Adato Horowitz.

He adored both grandchildren and they lit up his life — and likely extended it — in his last years. 

His life was long, and as well-lived as a life can be, full of family, friends, good work, adventure, and giving and receiving profound love. Whatever new adventure he is on now, he will make the best of it as he always did. Those left here on earth deeply miss him. 

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, 10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport.

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