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Year In Review: Transitions 2017, Newtown Remembers

Published: December 30, 2017

With each passing year, Newtown faces the deep loss of dear family, friends, and community members. All were cherished by those who knew them. Among the many, here we remember just a few of those connected to town who died in 2017.

George E. Mattegat, Sr, moved to Newtown from Monroe when he was 21 years old. He spent the next 66 years of his life here, before moving to The Villages in Florida in 2014. On January 6, at the age of 87, Mr Mattegat died at Leesburgh Hospital in Florida, surrounded by his family.

He was a Life Member of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, former president of Newtown Lions Club, past master of Hiram Lodge in Sandy Hook and a Shriner in Connecticut, a member of the Nunnawauk Meadows board of directors, a member of the VFW of Newtown, and co-chair of the 1975 Newtown Labor Day Parade. Mr Mattegat was also the animal control officer in Newtown for many years and owned/operated school bus #17 in Newtown, driving children for more than four decades.

On January 26, former Newtown resident Carol Sims, 59, of Southbury died after a brief illness. Ms Sims joined the editorial staff of Antiques and The Arts Weekly, a Bee Publishing Company publication, in 1999.

At Antiques and The Arts Weekly, she contributed informed reports on the arts and antiques market. She conceived, developed, and sustained the publication’s semiannual Gallery Guide. She took an avid interest in the creation of the paper’s website and was eager to improve it with the latest technology.

Ms Sims never stopped creating. In what little free time she had, she completed an original book trilogy, Candlewax, and published another book, Invasion of The Shrews, under the pen name Yuri Whiskerin. She also painted, exhibiting her work in several galleries before gradually devoting more time to writing.

Colleagues recall the vitality, imagination, acute visual sense, and boundless enthusiasm that distinguished her work at Antiques and The Arts Weekly.

Oscar Berendsohn, 92, a resident of Newtown since 1968, died February 7. Born June 26, 1924, in the small northern-German village of Altenwerder, Mr Berendsohn, his siblings, and his parents, Mabel and Paul, were forced out of their native land by the Nazi government, having survived Kristallnacht. They came to the United States aboard a banana boat from Honduras, arriving in New York City shortly before the outbreak of World War II.

After serving in the US Army during the Korean War, Mr Berendsohn graduated from the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now New York University Tandon School of Engineering) with a degree in metallurgical engineering.

While in Newtown, Mr Berendsohn and his wife were members of Christ the King Lutheran Church, and he was also a member of the Newtown Lions Club.

On March 9, Jeanne Marguerite Craffey Honan, 92, of Newtown died peacefully at the Regional Hospice Center for Comfort Care and Healing in Danbury while surrounded by her loving family. She leaves behind many survivors, including her son Dan Honan, director of Honan Funeral Home in Newtown.

She was a tireless advocate for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and worked with other families with special needs children, the Connecticut Legislature, and then-Governor John Dempsey to establish the Connecticut Department of Mental Retardation and a class for children with special needs in Newtown. In addition, Mrs Honan was a volunteer for Meals On Wheels, the Visiting Nurse Association, and Danbury Hospital. She served for many years on the Board of Trustees of Southbury Training School, as well as on the Board of the C.H. Booth Library. She was also a longtime member the Newtown Woman’s Club and a communicant of St Rose of Lima Church.

At just 16 years old, Zoe DaZhi McMorran of North Attleboro, Mass., died on March 19, spending her final days surrounded by love from family and close friends at her home.

Zoe was the inspiration behind The Great Pumpkin Challenge, a special event that has brought hundreds of unique carved pumpkins to Main Street in Newtown for Halloween since 2011, while also raising funds for the McMorran family, the American Cancer Society, and The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp.

The project was launched by Mackenzie Page, a family friend of Zoe, when Mackenzie was an eighth grade student at Newtown Middle School. Mackenzie was inspired after Zoe had asked everyone who knew her to be an opZOmist in the days, weeks, and months following her diagnosis with brain cancer.

Lifelong Newtown resident Donald Earl Lewis, 84, died March 25, following illness. Mr Lewis was a carpenter and he had owned his own garbage business, Newtown Refuse, for many years before retiring.

He was a longtime member of Newtown Fish & Game Club, a member of VFW Post 308 in Newtown, and a member of the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, having joined in January 1963.

He served as the company’s chief from 1976 until 1978, and was made a Life Member in August 1984.

Another active member in the Newtown community was Lawrence Jerome “Larry” Petershack, 57, of Sandy Hook, who died at home the evening of April 26.

Shortly after his son Aidan was born, Mr Petershack chose to become a stay-at-home parent. He gave his children and their friends the extraordinary blessing of a dad that was all-in for them, and he treasured every minute. He assistant coached, field announced, or simply showed up as a spectator for their youth sports endeavors. When the boys switched from sports to theater, he made the transition as well, moving to publicity and ticket sales and, again, showing up for every event. He also served as an officer for the Newtown High School Choral Parents Organization for four years.

Former Newtown resident Dorothy M. “Dot” Cavanaugh, 91, died June 28 at Bedford Hills Center in New Hampshire. She worked part-time at The Newtown Bee as a bookkeeper prior to marrying James “Jim” Cavanaugh in September of 1947. Mrs Cavanaugh had five children and was a stay-at-home mom while her children were young. As they grew older, she returned to work part-time at The Newtown Bee as a collating supervisor.

When all the children were enrolled in school, Mrs Cavanaugh began her 20-year career working for the US Postal System, first in Botsford and then in Sandy Hook. She enjoyed every year of this experience.
Mrs Cavanaugh was also active in the St Rose of Lima Church. She volunteered at the carnival every summer and at FAITH Food Pantry.

On October 27, Bardi McLennan, 91, of Newtown died peacefully surrounded by her family. She was a lifelong Connecticut resident and wrote a long-running column in The Newtown Bee.

For 18 years, while raising her children, she was the editorial assistant to etiquette queen Amy Vanderbilt. While working for Ms Vanderbilt, Mrs McLennan not only wrote many of the columns for McCall’s and Ladies’ Home Journal, she continued writing them for many years after Ms Vanderbilt’s death. Mrs McLennan also created and wrote a variety of etiquette pamphlets, soon finding herself writing a daily column, seven days a week, for 232 major newspapers across the country.

She achieved many personal and professional accomplishments in her life, including having helped with the White House Wedding December 9, 1967, of Lynda Bird Johnson; she teamed up with her son, Douglas, to write and produce a series of radio spots called the Canine Minute for WMMM 1260 AM in Westport; she was the author of more than a dozen books about dogs, puppies, children, and various terrier breeds; she was a winner of the 1991 Kal Kan Pedigree Award for outstanding journalism on pet care; she penned the advice column “Ask Dog Fancy” for Dog Fancy magazine for 15 years; and she helped form the Glyndwr Welsh Terrier Club in January 1977.

John Louis Lorenzo, 87, of Southbury died November 15. He was born July 15, 1930, in Bridgeport, the son of the late Mildred “Honey” (Drew) and Louis “Ono” Lorenzo. He was a graduate of Newtown High School. After proudly serving in the United States Army during the Korean War and swam for the Army team, he joined his father working at Lorenzo’s Pizza by the shores of Lake Zoar.

During this time, he earned an engineering degree from the University of Bridgeport. He worked for Pitney Bowes for much of his life, where he acquired 16 patents; his most successful patent was a computer-based timing device that is widely used to this day.

Sandy Hook resident Paul McCollum, 78, died peacefully November 25, following a longtime illness.

Following Mr McCollum’s successful car salesman job at Colonial Ford in Danbury, he also began working at the well-known Lorenzo’s Restaurant. He put in a handful of years before buying it with his then-wife, Jean Lorenzo, in 1968 where Louis Lorenzo, the original owner, proudly handed over the reins.

Although most recipes remained the same, as Mr McCollum brought forth a new generation, he also brought along his special touch. He took pride in crafting each dish to perfection, paying close attention to detail.

The impact these community members, and so many others, made on Newtown will continue as family and friends honor their lives moving forward.

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