Obituary: Mary Rogers Hillas, 93, volunteer, mother of Darien resident

Mary Rogers Hillas, the mother of a Darien resident, died Thursday, March 1, surrounded by her family at Meadow Ridge Health Center in Redding. A longtime resident of Glenview, Ill., she was 93.

Born in Germantown, Pa., in 1918 she was the daughter of the late H. Albert and Mary Rohner Rogers. Mrs. Hillas was the wife of the late Roland A. Hillas, to whom she was married for 64 years.

“Mary and Rollie were a wonderful team,” their family said.

Mrs. Hillas spent her childhood in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Tulsa, Okla., graduating from Dean Academy High School in Massachusetts and then Cornell University in 1939. Out of school, she worked in the insurance industry in Philadelphia. Mr. Hillas, a pilot, and Mrs. Hillas were married during World War II and followed the U.S. Navy south and west.

As civilians with four children the family lived in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois, where they settled for 34 years. Mrs. Hillas was an active volunteer with the Visiting Nurse Service during the Vietnam War, working at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital. She was a 40-year survivor of cancer.

Mrs. Hillas is survived by her daughter Wendy Miller of Darien; her three sons, Roland A. Hillas III and his wife Chuenchit of Fort Worth, Texas, Robert S. Hillas and his wife Cynthia of Princeton, N.J., and James R. Hillas and his wife Arlene of Woodbridge; 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Besides her parents and husband, she was predeceased by three siblings and her grandson, Roland A. Hillas IV.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 17, at 3, at the Congregational Church of Darien. Burial will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Meadow Ridge Scholarship Fund, Attn: Sally Dimon, Meadow Ridge, 100 Redding Road, Redding, CT 06896

The Hoyt Funeral Home of New Canaan is in charge of arrangements.

For online condolences and directions to the church visit hoytfunerlhome.com.

Obituary: Alexander ‘Al’ B. McElwee, 81, Darien resident was Pitney Bowes plant manager, U.S. Marine

Alexander “Al” B. McElwee of Darien, who was a U.S. Marine and plant manager for Pitney Bowes in Stamford, died Monday, March 5, in Darien. He was 81.

Born June 1, 1930, in Stamford, he was the first American-born son of the late Daniel and Olive McElwee. In 1951, he married Beverly Curtis of Darien, and they were married for 50 years until her death in 2002.

Mr. McElwee graduated from Stamford High School in 1948 where he was the junior class president. He attended Bridgeport Engineering Institute where he studied mechanical engineering and also took business courses at the University of Connecticut.

He was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps and served from 1952-54. Mr. McElwee was stationed in Miami Beach, Fla., and while he was in the service, he was an air traffic controller. After his service in the Marine Corps, Mr. and Mrs. McElwee returned to Darien and he returned to work at Pitney Bowes where he went from the position of factory worker to plant manager. He retired after over 30 years of employment.

Mr. McElwee was an avid sports fan and enjoyed coaching youth football and baseball for 20 years, his family said. He was also the assistant treasurer at Union Memorial Church in Glenbrook, where he was an active member. He loved to work in his yard, fix things, and tend to his garden, his family said.

Mr. McElwee is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Donna McElwee of Rye, N.Y.; daughter and son-in-law, Joy and Richard Hamernick of Darien; son and daughter-in-law, Todd and Mary McElwee of Easton; daughter and son-in-law, Amanda and Mark Waters of England; and grandchildren, Blake and Scott McElwee, Peter, Tim, Steven, Chris and Will Hamernick, Alex, Meghan, Paige and Katie McElwee and Bethany and Abigail Waters.

Besides his wife, Mr. McElwee was predeceased by an infant daughter and his brother, Bill McElwee.

Calling hours are Friday, March 9, from 5-8, at the Edward Lawrence Funeral Home, 2119 Post Road. A funeral service will be held at Union Memorial Church, 58 Church Street, Glenbrook, on Saturday, March 10, at 10. Burial will follow at Spring Grove Cemetery, Darien

Memorial donations may be made to Union Memorial Church, 58 Church Street, Glenbrook, CT 06906 or Darien EMS-Post 53, PO Box 2066, Darien, CT 06820.

Obituary: John Francis Coyne Jr., 90, ran Darien insurance office, World War II veteran

John Francis Coyne Jr., a World War II veteran who opened and managed an insurance office in Darien, died Tuesday, Feb. 28, surrounded by his children, at Naples Community Hospital in Florida. He was 90.

Born in Hartford on June 29, 1921, to the late John F. and Marjorie Gordon Saxton Coyne, he attended schools in South Windsor, Hartford and the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Coyne served in World War II as a fighter pilot of the Luscious LuLu, a P-47 Thunderbolt, in the European Theater and was a proud member of the 366th Fighter Pilots Association, his family said.

A career casualty insurance agent, Mr. Coyne established and managed the Darien office of the J.M. Layton Insurance Co. until his retirement in 1990. He was also past president of the Connecticut Agents Insurance Association.

An avid golfer, Mr. Coyne scored two holes-in-one, was a member of the Highpoint Country Club in Naples, Fla., and a past member of the Pocassette Golf Club on Cape Cod and the Silvermine Golf Club in New Canaan. He was a lifetime Elk and actively involved with the Darien Chamber of Commerce, Red Cross, and Kiwanis for years.

“He shall long be remembered in our hearts for his fabulous sense of humor, great story telling, generosity, many volunteer years at NCH hospital, and his ‘love of dancing the nights away’,” his family said. “John will be deeply missed by family and friends, many who were lifelong.”

Mr. Coyne was predeceased by his wife of 62 years, Mary Lou Fister Coyne; son, John F Coyne III; and life-long best friend, Col. Frank Gionfriddo.

He is survived by his son, Thomas A. Coyne, and wife Susan, of Longboat Key, Fla., and Nantucket, Mass.; daughter, Susan C. Johnston of Tucson, Ariz.; grandchildren, Erin A. Coyne and Brendan M. Coyne, both of Tampa, Fla., and Lauren R. Benedict, and husband Whit, of Darien; and great grandchildren, Bruce W. Benedict III, Thomas Jackson “Jack” Benedict and Braydan Riley Coyne.

Services were private.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105; the American Cancer Society, PO Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK, 73123-1718; or a charity of your choice.

For online condolences, visit fullerfuneralhome.com.

Obituary: John W. ‘Jack’ Balentine, 60, grew up in Darien

John W. “Jack” Balentine of Medford, N.J., a Darien High School graduate, died Thursday, Feb. 23, at home surrounded by his family. He was 60.

Born in Port Chester, N.Y., Mr. Balentine grew up in Darien. He lived in Medford since 1985. Balentine worked with Gannett Flemming and the Fluor Corporation for many years. He was a parishioner at St. Mary of the Lakes R.C. Church in Medford. He was a member at the Little Mill Country Club, and enjoyed golfing, sailing, boating and fishing, his family said. He loved being around family and friends.

Son of the late William Balentine; he is survived by his wife, Christine Balentine; two daughters, Brittany and Alyssa Balentine; two sisters and brothers-in-law, Kathleen and Thomas Gunn of Darien, and Jan and John Mello of Westport; several nieces and nephews including Max, Alex and Samantha Gunn and Kaitlyn, Colby, and Hannah Mello, his mother, Mary Balentine; and his brother, Keith.

A funeral Mass took place on Monday, Feb. 27, at St. Mary of the Lakes in Medford. Burial was private.

Memorial contributions may be made to Samaritan Hospice, 5 Eves Drive, Suite 300, Marlton, NJ 08053; or to a charity of your choice.

Arrangements were handled by the Mathis Funeral Home in Medford.

Obituary: Teresa Casciari, 84, mother of Darien resident, taught at St. Al’s

Teresa Casciari of New Canaan, a teacher at St. Aloysius and mother of a Darien resident, died at home Wednesday, Feb. 20, surrounded by her family. She was 84.

Born in Mammola, Italy, on March 29, 1927, she was the daughter of the late Nicola Raschella and Maria Elisabetta Immacalata Fuda Raschella. Mrs. Casciari came to the U.S. with her parents in 1932, and lived the rest of her life in New Canaan.

Mrs. Casciari was a life-long parishioner of St. Aloysius R.C. Parish in New Canaan and a member of the Catholic Daughters of America. She taught gym class at St. Aloysius for many years when her children were students at St. Aloysius School.

Mrs. Casciari is survived by her three sons, Joseph Dominick Casciari II of New City, N.Y., Dino Casciari of Darien and David Casciari of Ridgefield; seven grandchildren, Kristine, Joseph Dominick III, David Jr., Meredith, Emily, Nicholas, and Elizabeth; and a sister, Carmela DeMichiel.

She was predeceased by her husband of 58 years, Joseph D. Casciari, who died in August.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 10, at St. Aloysius in New Canaan. Burial will follow at Lakeview Cemetery.

Hoyt Funeral Home in New Canaan is handling the arrangements.

Obituary: Dr. Edward Stewart Holcomb, 92, father of Darien resident

02-23-darien-Edward-S.-Holc

02-23-darien-Edward-S.-HolcDr. Edward Holcomb, father of a Darien resident, died Sunday, Feb. 12, in Charleston, S.C. He was 92.

Dr. Holcomb was born May 11, 1919, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He graduated from Cornell University in 1939 and Cornell Medical School in 1943. During World War II he served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, 63rd Field Hospital. In 1947 he married Nancy May Eggleston. They were married for 61 years.

Dr. Holcomb moved to Gloversville, N.Y., where he practiced medicine for more than 48 years. He was chief of medicine and chief of staff during his tenure at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.

Dr. Holcomb was an avid sailor and former member of the Mayfield, N.Y., and Charleston, S.C., yacht clubs. At he time of his death, he was the oldest active fencer with the United States Fencing Association. Dr. Holcomb was a former captain of the Cornell University fencing team and recently served as a volunteer coach with the East of the Cooper Fencing Program

“He was a kind, intelligent, generous man of integrity, wit and wisdom — a true gentleman,” his family said. “He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”

Dr. Holcomb is survived by his sons, Cary Holcomb of Darien, and his wife Heather; and RIchard Holcomb, and his wife Jacquie, of Christchurch, New Zealand; and grandchildren Taylor and Ben Holcomb of Darien.

Obituary: Charles ‘Chet’ William Gerdts III, 58, Darien resident, New York attorney

Charles W. GerdtsCharles “Chet” William Gerdts III, a long-time resident of Darien, died peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 16, in New York City. He was 58.

He was born to Charles W. Gerdts Jr. and Catherine Marie Jaicks on March 30, 1953, in New York City. He graduated from the Cranbrook School in 1971 before attending the University of Michigan, where he joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and was also a member of the honor society Michigama.

While studying in Ann Arbor, he met and fell in love with Elizabeth Hume, his future wife. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1975, followed by his juris doctorate in 1978 from the Vanderbilt University Law School, where he was a member of the Law Review.

Mr. and Mrs. Gerdts married and moved to Manhattan, where he began his legal career with the firm of Donovan Leisure Newton & Irvine and became a partner of the firm in 1986. After 20 years with Donovan Leisure, he joined Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, serving as the managing partner for the litigation department and as a member of the firm’s executive committee. In 2002, Mr. Gerdts became the PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S. firm’s General Counsel, serving as the U.S. firm’s Chief Risk Officer and advisor to the Board of Partners and Principals.

He was a member of the New York City Bar Association’s 2006 Task Force on the Lawyer’s Role in Corporate Governance, served on the ABA’s Presidential Task Force on the Attorney-Client Privilege, was a member of the Vanderbilt University School of Law’s National Council and the Board of Directors for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.

“Chet was a loyal friend and was driven by a belief that everyone should strive to reach their greatest potential,” his family said. “He combined this drive with a sharp intellect, a keen sense of humor, kindness, and a deep love for his family.”

Besides his wife of 32 years, Mr. Gerdts is survived by his children, Emily Eaton Gerdts and Charles W. Gerdts IV; five brothers, two sisters, and a number of nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 3, at 1, atNoroton Presbyterian Church, 2011 Post Road, Darien.

Memorial donations may be made to the Charles W. Gerdts, III Scholarship Fund. Visit CharlesGerdts.com for details.

Obituary: Susan Bathrick Fischer, 73, psychotherapist, grew up in Darien

Susan Bathrick Fischer, who grew up in Darien, died at her California home on Sunday, Feb. 12, surrounded by her family, after a battle against cancer and the lingering effects of childhood polio. She was 73.

Born Sept. 29, 1938, in New York City, she spent her childhood in Darien. “She contracted polio in 1945,” her family said, “an experience that significantly shaped her force of character and the intense drive that defined the way she grappled with life and engaged the people around her.”

She graduated from Darien High School in 1956, where she was active in student government. Mrs. Fischer attending Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y., followed by a year of study at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

In 1959 she married Bill Fischer, her husband of 53 years, then a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor. She continued her education at the University of Hawaii, moving to Berkeley, Calif., in 1960 where she completed her bachelor’s degree in French.

There she had two sons: Alex, born in San Francisco in 1964, and Nathan, now deceased, born in Oakland in 1966. At Berkeley she was an ardent participant in the student peace movement, her family said.

In 1967 she moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where her third son Matthew was born in 1969. Her family expanded later that year to include Jim Merigold who, over time, became her fourth son. She was a volunteer in the Head Start Program, counseled conscientious objectors at the Western New York Peace Center, and earned her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University at Buffalo.

She then pursued a 20-year career at Horizon Human Services, serving as a psychotherapist in a community mental health setting. She worked extensively with Vietnam War Veterans and created a program for people with physical disabilities. Mrs. Fischer and her husband retired to Oceanside, Calif., in 2002, where she was active in voter reform and participated in politics that she felt best served the common good.

“Her vivid temperament and gift for engaging people were shaped by three remarkable women: her mother, Margaret Holmes Bathrick; her aunt, Elizabeth ‘Bee’ Holmes; and her childhood caretaker, Julia Richardson,” her family said. “Her beauty and spirit were uncanny and inspiring, profoundly touching friends and family alike. She combined great strength with an engaging grace that inevitably drew people to her.”

“She lived life fully, devoting her last years to her family, especially her beloved grandchildren: Noah and Charlie, sons of Alex and Caryn, and Linnea and Skylar, daughters of Matthew and Kristin. May her new journey be filled with the guidance, light, and sense of adventure she has so abundantly conveyed to us all.”

Memorial donations may be made to the Susan B. Fischer Memorial Fund at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla, CA 92037.

Obituary: Michelle LaBranche Campbell of Darien, former Rowayton resident

Michelle LaBranche Campbell of Darien, formerly of Rowayton and Greenwich, died of natural causes in Darien on Feb. 14.

One of four children, Mrs. Campbell was born in New York City in 1929, the daughter of George M.L. LaBranche and Sara Jane Spahr. She attended Spence School, Westover, and graduated Sarah Lawrence College.

She married the late Edward A. Daly, and raised a family of four children in Greenwich, Dina Delaini of Costa Rica, Mindy Green of Rowayton, Mark Daly of Hood River, Ore., and Brooke Daly of Corvallis, Ore.

Mrs. Campbell had great sense of style, her family said. “She appeared in a 1952 edition of Vogue magazine as a country club symbol of athleticism and grace. She had a ‘green thumb,’ loved a good party and made beautiful art.” Her family and friends enjoyed her great sense of humor, quick wit and warm heart.

She is survived by her brother, Anthony LaBranche of Pittsburgh, Pa, her four children, her seven grandchildren, and her great granddaughter.

A service will be held at Atria of Darien, 50 Ledge Road, on Monday, Feb. 20, at 4:30.