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Obituaries

Patricia Brown Bell

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Patricia Brown Bell, 91, of Houston, Texas, passed away peacefully on Nov. 24, 2020, at the Abbey Retirement Community. Memorial Services will be held at a later date.

Patricia was born on March 1, 1929 in Columbus, Ohio, to William B. Sharp and Barbara Georgiana Sharp. She attended New Concord High School in Ohio where she was a cheerleader, homecoming queen and played in the orchestra. She attended Muskingum College where she participated in choir, orchestra and was May Queen. Patricia graduated with a degree in elementary education and was a stewardess for a year with American Airlines. While at Muskingum she met Joseph Lewis Brown and they married after college in 1951.

She taught in numerous public schools in Texas, starting in Austin. She and Joe had three children: Steve, Barbara and Tim. Joe died in 1975 and after that Patricia attended Lamar University in Beaumont earning her masters degree in speech pathology. She continued to work in the public schools in Texas. She married Howard Bryant Bell in 1990 and they lived in Beaumont, Texas. Howard passed away in 2002. Patricia moved to Houston in 2009 and became a member of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church where she made many friends and participated in choir and several weekly activities. In 2015 Patricia moved to the Abbey Retirement Community and made several close friends, including Ed Yanoscik. Throughout her lifetime Patricia spent many summers at Chautauqua Institution and loved her time there with family and friends. Pat visited Chautauqua for 75 years and was thrilled to visit on her free pass in her 90th year, which was her last visit.   She served on the Presbyterian House Board, achieved Parnassian status in Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, and what she enjoyed most about Chautauqua were Morning Devotions, the morning lecture, and taking Special Studies classes.

Her cheerful smile and gentle spirit will truly be missed by all whose lives she touched.

Patricia is survived by her children; Steven Brown and wife Cyndy of Granbury, Texas, Barbara Calhoun and husband John of Houston and Timothy Brown and wife Kathy of Spokane, Washington; Grandchildren John Calhoun, Kristen Calhoun, Jennifer Calhoun; stepdaughter-in-law Nancy Bell, stepgrandchildren Adam Bell and wife Danielle, Joel Bell and wife Miryam, and John Bell.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, 12955 Memorial Drive, Houston, TX, 77079; or the Presbyterian Association of Chautauqua, P.O. Box 459, Chautauqua, NY, 14722.

Arthur Roy Ekstrom

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Ekstrom

Arthur Roy Ekstrom, 81, of Frewsburg, New York, took his last breath on Earth on Sunday, July 18, at UPMC Hamot.

He was born in Maple Plain, Minnesota, on Jan. 27, 1940, to Joseph and Minnie Ekstrom. One of 11 children, Art and his family moved to the family farm on the Peterson Road in Frewsburg in 1948.

A graduate of Frewsburg Central School, Art served his country in the U.S. Army and was especially proud of his participation in the launch of the first synchronous orbiting satellite. After working briefly in Arizona and being stationed in Paso Robles, California, Art returned to Frewsburg, where he spent most of his career working for Vac Air Alloys, serving as a vice president in titanium sales. His travel in the military and with Vac Air sparked a lifelong interest in geography, history, science and politics, which he loved to discuss with friends and strangers alike.

A generous soul, he and Kathy hosted many family celebrations at their home of many years. Inspired by others who had forged their own path, he became a trusted mentor to many.

He loved to garden, sharing his beautiful flower arrangements and growing tips throughout the community. In his retirement, he loved nothing more than spending time with his family and taking daily walks, with multiple stops, around his beloved Frewsburg.

He was a member of Zion Lutheran Church, the Frewsburg American Legion and the Jaycees.

He is survived by his wife, Kathryn, also of Frewsburg; his sons, Matthew and Scott, both of Jamestown; his daughter Karen (Geoff) Sherman, of Indianapolis; his grandchildren Skylar and Hunter Ekstrom and Victor Sherman; his sisters and brothers, Elvera Classon, Ardell North, George Ekstrom, Frances Babyak, Emerson Ekstrom and RoseMary Carvella; as well as many nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and his AFS daughter, Norie Othman of Malaysia. Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers Leonard, John, Myron and Kerm, and many other loved ones.

Family received friends at the Peterson Funeral Home in Frewsburg on July 21. A celebration of life was held on July 22 at Zion Lutheran Church in Frewsburg with Pastor Phil Roushey officiating.

Memorial donations may be made to a charity of your choice.

The Benatoviches

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Lorelei Fox Benatovich

No ordinary woman, beautiful inside and out, funny, warm, loving, generous, smart with a little bit of kookiness — and forever 39, Lorelei Fox Benatovich (Feb. 13, 1935 – April 29, 2021) will be missed by her family more than imaginable. Anyone lucky enough to have known her, was quickly engulfed in her world — whether you wanted to hear about her daughters or her granddaughters or not!

Although born in the north (Minneapolis), she was raised in Houston and always identified as a Texan, even if sometimes “misplaced” in New York or Rhode Island. Lorelei was a true Southerner — complete with a hint of an accent (especially after a phone call with her parents or other Texas friends), Southern hospitality and a few confederate dollars. 

She attended Sophie Newcomb Memorial College (the women’s college of Tulane University) in New Orleans and was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. While visiting family in Buffalo, New York, during the summers away from Houston, she met her husband of 62 years, Harvey Benatovich, and lost most of her accent during her first Buffalo blizzard. At parties, the Benatoviches were always the first couple on the dance floor and the last to leave it! Lorelai’s favorite dance spot, however, was in the back of the Amphitheater at Chautauqua. 

A favorite nursery school teacher in her early career, she later opened Lorelei Graphics Gallery and was tempted to run for mayor of Buffalo. However, it was more important to her to never miss a match or game and to root for her kids’ sports teams. That tradition continued in the next generation, and she was a loyal, snack-providing fan of Classical High School Girls’ Tennis Team in Providence, Rhode Island. 

She is survived by her loving daughters, Penny Benatovich and Lisa Brosofsky, her son-in-law, Dan Brosofsky, and the loves of her life, her twin granddaughters Sarah and Jillian Brosofsky, as well as Eric Brosofsky, many nieces and nephews, cousins and countless wonderful friends. She was predeceased by her parents, Sam and Mary Fox, her brother, Myles Fox, as well as her husband, Harvey Benatovich. 

No one loved her family more than Lorelei. She lived for her “girls” and was a fierce Mombo/Mama Bear. A force of nature. Indelibly in our hearts and souls forever. A life full of love.

Harvey Benatovich 

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Harvey Benatovich (Sep. 25, 1933 – Dec. 11, 2020) was a true gentleman. A graduate of Nichols School and Yale University, he was known for his quick sense of humor; being able to do just about any accent; his love for acting, old movies, singing and dancing; and for making everyone feel his warmth and charm. 

He is survived by his family who loved him very much — at the time of his death, he was survived by his wife of 62 years Lorelei (Fox) Benatovich; daughters Penny Benatovich and Lisa (Benatovich) Brosofsky; son-in-law, Dan Brosofsky; and his beloved granddaughters, Sarah and Jillian Brosofsky; as well as Eric Brosofsky; sister, Roz Newman; along with many loving friends, in-laws, nephews, nieces and cousins. He was the devoted son of the late Eva (Schrutt) and Harry Benatovich; and brother of the late Ted Benatovich. 

After college and a brief stay in New York City, he served in the Army in Korea. Upon his return from Korea, he married Lorelei, and they settled in Buffalo. He acted in a number of plays at Buffalo’s Studio Arena Theatre, played some characters at the old Fantasy Island and landed a job in an advertising agency before too long. With the advertising experience, he took over all of the advertising for the growing family supermarket chain, Park Edge. Harvey ran the advertising and managed the Transit store (every Park Edge store had a Benatovich in it). Later on he enjoyed rewarding work managing the Broadway Market and with the Job Corps of Western New York. 

He will be remembered as the best Dad and Papa ever, a great joke teller, fabulous singer, dancer, snappy dresser and a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan. Anyone lucky enough to know him adored him. 

The Benatoviches

Carmela A. Clementi-Rizzi

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Carmela A. Clementi-Rizzi, 94 of Naples, Florida, passed away peacefully on March 18, 2021, surrounded by her loving family at Joanne’s House at Hope Hospice. Formerly of Tonawanda, New York, she had been a resident of Naples since 1993. Carmela was born March 29, 1926 in Buffalo, a daughter of the late Anthony and Santa Battaglia.

She was a devout Catholic and faithful parishioner at St. Agnes Catholic Church. In her younger years she enjoyed volunteering and was a member of many social groups. Carmela also loved playing cards and dominoes as well as listening to music, baking and spending time with family and friends.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her first husband, Louis L. Clementi in 1974; second husband, Sallustio “Sal” Rizzi in 2019; and sister, Sarah Battaglia.

Survivors include her loving children, Louis (Deborah) Clementi of Big Pine Key, Florida, Anthony (Lisa) Clementi of Naples, Florida, Michael (Christine) Clementi of Fort Lauderdale, FL, Nancy (Gary) Willis of Tonawanda, New York, and Sandra (Scott) O’Connor of Naples, Florida; 14 cherished grandchildren; and 12 adored great grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated March 23, 2021, at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Naples. Inurnment followed in the church columbarium.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Carmela’s name to Joanne’s House at Hope Hospice, 27200 Imperial Parkway, Bonita Springs, Florida, 34135.

James Dombey

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James Dombey, age 88, born Nov. 2, 1932, passed away Nov. 25, 2020. Jim was born in Cleveland and grew up there. When he graduated from Cornell University, he became Ensign Dombey and began flight training in Pensacola. He had met his wife of nearly 66 years on Christmas night, and one year later, they were married and drove to Pensacola via Point Clear. After he received his wings, they returned to Pensacola for helicopter training. 

On deployment from his squadron in Lakehurst, New Jersey, he flew plane guard on aircraft carriers. When his tour was up, they returned to Cleveland. Jim and Katie, always family first, shared all Cleveland’s great places to go and things to do with Jim, Carolyn, and John, including sailing, hiking, and Sunday visits to the museums in University Circle. He flew in the Navy Reserves until retirement, when they moved back to Pensacola where they felt truly at home. He was a Deacon and sang in the choir of Bay Presbyterian Church. 

He loved classical as well as big band and Dixieland music, and spent many summers at Chautauqua, New York, in a cottage only a few steps from the Amphitheater and the symphony and lectures there. He was an avid sailor, and enjoyed their trips to Europe, especially Italy and Venice, both on the Royal Clipper and a canal barge. Pensacola history was brought to life at the lectures by John Appleyard and the Heritage Foundation. 

Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph H. and Katherine M. Dombey. He is survived by his wife, Katie; son, Jim (Laurie); daughter, Carolyn (Hans) Lichtfuss; son, John (Jill); 10 grandchildren, Sandra, James, Alecia, Erich, Kristi, Heidi, Kurt, Stefan, Anne, Anson and eleven great-grandchildren, Owen, Lara, Kaylee, Elle, Daniel, Ema, Anna. Declan, Elisha, Rowan, and Luke. 

A funeral cortege departed Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel on Dec. 4, 2020, for Barrancas National Cemetery for a graveside service. The Rev. Mike Mashburn officiated, and full military honors were observed. Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel in Pensacola, Florida, was entrusted with the arrangements.

Marjorie Thomas

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Marjorie Eleanor Cochran Thomas, daughter of William H. and Mary Elizabeth Dersch Cochran, passed away on March 30, 2020. She was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on Dec. 6, 1927.

Marjorie attended Erie public schools (East High, class of 1945) and Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania (class of 1949). She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Miami in 1975 and 1977, respectively.

Married twice, she was the mother of three children: Daniel C. Thomas of Dallas; Susan Thomas Thompson of Lamar, Missouri; and Nancy Thomas Farmer of Round Hill, Virginia; all of whom survive. Also survived by six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, a sister, Patricia Cochran Alberts of Kinderhook, New York; a niece, and one nephew.

She was employed as a church organist and choir director. Moved to John Knox Village in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1994, where she served as a volunteer chapel organist, gift shop manager, and newsletter editor. Member of First Presbyterian Church, Pompano Beach, where she sang in the choir, played handbells, and served terms as Deacon and Elder. Marjorie was a summer resident of Chautauqua, New York, where she sang in the Chautauqua Choir, served as an officer of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, and was part of the Blessing and Healing team. 

She was the composer of one of Chautauqua’s most beloved hymns, “Heaven’s Hill.”

Burial was held in Glade Cemetery, Walkersville, Maryland. Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 2331 NE 26th Ave., Pompano Beach, Florida, 33062; Glade United Church of Christ, 21 Fulton Ave., Walkersville, Maryland, 21793; or the Chapel Capital Fund at John Knox Village, 651 SW 6th St., Pompano Beach, Florida, 33060.

Virginia Stahlsmith

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Virginia “Ginny” Morgan Stahlsmith, 79, of Pittsburgh and Chautauqua, New York, passed away peacefully on May 12, 2021, at the Longwood at Oakmont, Hannah Health Center in Verona, Pennsylvania, with family at her side.

She was born May 17, 1941 in Pittsburgh, the daughter of the late Lewis W. and Katherine Craig Morgan.

Ginny was a 1959 graduate of Edgewood High School in Pennsylvania. She then attended Wells College in Aurora, New York, for her undergraduate work before earning a master’s degree from Westfield State College in Massachusetts in Library Science and Visual Media. She went on to work for 31 years as a high school librarian at Chicopee High School in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Ginny was forward-thinking and spearheaded the transition to a digital card catalogue in the ‘80s, and opened a new high school library. She was a member and leader of multiple library organizations and affiliations. Ginny created a library that was a haven for students and teachers alike, and a generation of students benefited from her guidance, leadership and dedication. 

Her colleagues remember her office and her hospitality, knowing she would always have hot coffee, a sweet treat or a welcome break. She donated to many organizations, including the International Myeloma Association, the Bestor Society at Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua Lake Watershed Conservancy, and Hurlbut Memorial Community United Methodist Church.     

Ginny was an avid sports fan, taking her grandkids to Red Sox and Pirates games. She also followed the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers (depending on who was having a winning season). She loved musicals — her favorite was A Chorus Line — and she even sang in multiple choirs in her high school and college years. She cruised Oceana Cruise lines, and spent her recent winters in Sanibel, Florida, but Ginny’s favorite place was Chautauqua. 

She used to water ski on the lake — on her very own set of wooden water skis, with her name on them, dating back to 1959. She slalomed, sailed, and golfed and was an exceptional bowler — especially when bowling for the Chautauqua Purity and Temperance league. She loved to bike to the stand outside Hurlbut Church on a summer Sunday morning to get a gooey roll, and then sit next to her tree at the Chautauqua Amphitheater with a cup of coffee to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” She enjoyed taking her grandkids tubing on the yellow boat (sometimes recklessly) and ending the boat day with wings at the Village Casino. She also enjoyed reading a good book and doing the crossword puzzle in the paper, overseeing from the porch the lake and dock operations with a glass of Malbec in her hand. She loved to laugh and tell stories with her friends and family, and sing the doxology at every family gathering. She will be remembered for her quick wit and her quirky (borderline inappropriate) sense of humor. 

She is survived by her (much older) sister, Ann Slonaker of Verona; a son, Brian (Marya) Stahlsmith of Stedman, New York; a daughter, Leah (William) Boyan of Seattle;  four grandchildren, Zach Stahlsmith, Megan (Jake) Stahlsmith, Ben (Lauren) Stahlsmith, and Will Stahlsmith; three step-grandchildren, Harley Boyan, and Grayson Schaffer and Sam Arthur; and several nieces and nephews. 

Ginny was preceded in death by her parents, Lewis W. and Katherine Craig Morgan. A memorial service will be held at a future date to be announced at the convenience of the family. Burial will be in the Chautauqua Cemetery.

Memorial donations can be made to the International Myeloma Foundation (myeloma.org).

Ronald James Barnett

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Ronald James Barnett, born Feb. 2, 1938, in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, passed on June 30, 2021, in Winchester, Virginia, in the presence of his wife, Pat Groff, and his children Kenny Barnett and Cindy Barnett Michel.

As a member of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Rob played percussion for 57 summer seasons (1965-2016) and taught percussion to students at the Chautauqua School of Music from 1965 to 2013. His first wife, Joanne, enjoyed many summers at Chautauqua where his children enjoyed Boys’ and Girls’ Club. His second wife, Nora Davenport, also a percussionist, performed in the CSO and the Kennedy Center Opera and Ballet Orchestra until her untimely death. Pat Groff, his third wife, enjoyed visiting Chautauqua as a little girl, hearing the CSO and now participates in Artists at the Market and Art in the Park. 

Ron’s family continues to visit Chautauqua every summer and his granddaughter, Jenna, is getting married this fall at the Hall of Philosophy with a reception to follow at the Athenaeum Hotel — certainly a great reflection of the influence the love of Chautauqua has had on the entire family. 

Ron had full-time positions as tympanist at the Kennedy Center’s Opera and Ballet Orchestra from 1971 to 2000 and concurrently as a music professor teaching percussion at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1967 to 2002. He also performed at the Kennedy Center Honors and at various venues in the Washington, D.C, area with such notables as the Three Tenors, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Pearl Bailey, and many others throughout his career. 

During his performing career he was privileged to play under the many illustrious conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajam, Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leopoid Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler, John Williams, and others. After retiring from the Kennedy Center and University of Maryland, he taught for one year at Shenandoah University in Winchester, while continuing to perform at his beloved Chautauqua during the summer. 

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served in the Navy Band as timpanist and marimba soloist from 1960 to 1964 and also in the funeral procession for  President John F. Kennedy. As a retiree, he performed with the Emeritus group of percussionists at the Percussive Arts Society.

Ron received his Bachelors in Music from the Eastman School of Music in 1960 where he was a member of the Marimba Masters. That group performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958. Ron earned his Masters from the University of Maryland in 1973, where he taught for 35 years. Over the years, his many percussion students have indicated his great influence upon them not only in performing but in other ways that made their lives better. 

Known for his colorful stories of performing and great sense of humor, he was the consummate professional admired by his fellow musicians and his students. 

A memorial service is planned at the family’s church in Silver Spring, Maryland, in late fall and an event to commemorate him at Chautauqua next summer.

Enid Shames

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Enid Shames always wore peace beads. Loving mother to Jeff (Donna) and Gigi Pomerantz, loving grandmother to Yonat (Jono) Piva, Liat Mayer, Zachary (Jennifer), Jamison (Rebecah) and Nicholas Pomerantz and great-grandmother to Evelyn, Emma and Fiona Pomerantz and Asher Piva, she passed away on Nov. 12, 2020. Born on June 27, 1925, in New York City to Beatrice Kneitel and Jesse Josephson and adopted by Fred Goldstandt after her parents’ divorce, Enid attended Bentley High School, the University of Wisconsin and New York University, graduating with a master’s degree in education. She taught public school for 30 years at Davis School in New Rochelle, New York, and she was loved by many of the hundreds of students who sat in her classroom. In all her lessons she would engage her students with music and guitar. Each year they put on a play about justice or fairness, messages she promoted throughout her life. As vice president of the local teachers’ union, in 1970 she led a strike for smaller class size and better benefits for teachers.

After retirement, Enid’s activism didn’t end. As a member of the Raging Grannies and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, she protested wars and racial and environmental injustice. With her purple hat, she stood on street corners and public plazas with a dozen other women singing protest songs. She believed “there’s never a time in your life that you can’t speak out for what you believe in.”

She was also active in the National Organization for Women and the Palm Beach Democrats. She volunteered at the Norton Museum, enthusiastically greeting and directing visitors.

Enid (and Ben) attended Chautauqua Institution each summer for over 30 years. She supported Friends of the Theater as membership chair and the Chautauqua Opera Guild Young Artist program as an “Opera Parent.” She was a longtime member of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and read hundreds of its books.

In 2010, at the age of 85, Enid traveled to Haiti with her daughter’s nonprofit, Youthaiti. Over the next five years she carried suitcases filled with tennis racquets, balls, sneakers and even a tennis net, bringing the joy of tennis to dozens of rural Haitian children. The Enid Shames Tennis Club lives on under the volunteer direction of Jackie Lefleur, one of the many young men she taught and inspired.

Enid supported many causes throughout her life, too many to mention. Donations in her memory would be especially appreciated by the Raging Grannies and Youthaiti. She will be missed by many.

Paul Fischer

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Paul E. Fischer, who oversaw the historic restoration of Chautauqua’s magnificent Massey Memorial Organ, died on Feb. 5, 2021, at the age of 85 in Erie, Pennsylvania, surrounded by his loving family.

In the early 1990s, Fischer’s company won the contract to completely restore the organ that had fallen into serious disrepair after years of neglect. At the time, entire sections of the organ weren’t functioning and the cost and effort to bring this majestic instrument back to life seemed prohibitive. But Fischer and his son, Mark, along with a team of organ builders in Erie were up for the task.

Under Fischer’s expert direction, the Massey Organ was pulled from the brink of disaster after nearly two and a half years of painstaking restoration efforts. It was rededicated on June 17, 1993, and has been under the watchful eye first of Paul and later of his son, Mark, who took over the business when Paul retired.

The organ, located in the Amphitheater, is considered by many to be the centerpiece of the Institution. It is one of five outdoor organs of its kind in the world, considered “outdoor” because its chamber is not heated or air conditioned.

Fischer won the job with more than 40 years in the organ industry, having started there after graduating from high school in Fairview, Pennsylvania, in 1952. With the exception of four years he spent in the U.S. Army in White Sands, New Mexico, and Mainz, Germany, Fischer’s entire career was dedicated to building and restoring pipe organs in churches and performance venues around the world. The history of organ building in Erie is long and rich. Paul chronicled that history in his book, Making Music: The History of the Organ and Piano Industries in Erie, Pennsylvania, available in the Chautauqua Bookstore.

Paul and his wife of 59 years, Nancy, so loved wandering the grounds of Chautauqua, taking in a summer concert or lecture, or even the simple pleasure of enjoying an ice cream cone at Bestor Plaza. In addition to his wife, Paul is survived by a son Mark (Dale) of San Antonio, Texas, and daughter, Carla Allen (Douglas) of Syracuse New York; grandchildren Katie Fischer Masolotte (Ryan), Joe Fischer and Allison Fischer; and great-granddaughters Tessa and Aurora Masolotte, plus several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents Vincent George Fischer and Hazel Rapp Fischer, and his sisters Janet Godfrey and Jacquelyn (Lyn) Wallin.

Paul and Nancy loved to travel and frequently organized trips for groups and friends. He became a go-to resource and ad hoc travel agent for anyone who wanted a personalized “live like the locals” itinerary for some of his favorite places throughout Europe. It’s been said that Paul was the only person who could drive from the northernmost point in Europe to the southern tip of Italy and never get on a paved road, while staying at everything from farm houses to castles along the way.

Over the years, the Fischer home has been a stopping point for countless people. They hosted 16 exchange students and provided respite to many in need whether because of addiction, divorce, isolation or even the weary traveler who just needed a place to stay. Their doors were always open to provide shelter, comfort and compassion. 

A funeral service was held Feb. 10, 2021, at Brugger Funeral Homes in Erie. 

In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Paul Fischer Memorial Scholarship Fund at Syracuse University, which is established to provide monies to students studying pipe organ, at givetosu.syr.edu/paulfischer.

Tasso Spanos

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Tasso George Spanos, age 88, went to his eternal rest on May 2, 2021.

Tasso was the beloved husband of Rebecca for almost 60 years; father to Mark (Toni) and Matthew (Joanna); Papou to Benjamin and Mairen. Tasso was a Renaissance man. He graduated from Bucknell University with a bachelor’s of science in biology and then attended the University of North Carolina’s bacteriology master’s program. He founded Opus One, an audio store, which allowed him to meet many of his musical icons. Tasso loved to dance, any time, and in almost every style. He would perform traditional Greek dances, waltz and swing and was always ready to learn something new. 

Following a severe illness abroad, Tasso discovered that trigger point myotherapy could restore his muscular health. He went through additional training, and helped found the Pittsburgh School of Pain Management. He also taught stretch classes throughout Pittsburgh, and at Chautauqua Institution. He never stopped trying to help people, even offering suggestions for stretches to his doctors as they, in turn, tried to help heal a heart stretched to its limit after 88 years of service to others.

Tasso’s funeral service was held May 15, 2021, at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Lewis Center, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, consider contributing to the St. Andrews Anglican Church Youth Project or Shepherd’s Heart Veterans and Homeless Ministry, 13 Pride Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15219.

Mary Jean Irion

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Mary Jean Irion, 96, died on Oct. 16, 2019, surrounded by her family in Willow Street, Pennsylvania.

Born in Newport, Kentucky, Mary Jean grew up in Elyria, Ohio. There she met her beloved husband, Paul E. Irion, in ninth-grade algebra class. They celebrated 75 years of marriage on Aug. 29, 2019. 

She was the daughter of the late Verda and Mary McNeill McElfresh and raised from infancy by her grandparents, Joe and Carrie McElfresh.

Prior to moving to Lancaster County in 1960, Mary Jean and Paul, a minister and seminary professor, lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and Tioga and Long Grove, Illinois. They resided on Kready Avenue in Millersville from 1962 to 2003, when they moved to Willow Valley Communities.

An accomplished and passionate poet, essayist and teacher, her prose work includes three published books: From the Ashes of Christianity (1968), Yes, World, A Mosaic of Mediation (1970), both concerning the post-Christian era, and She-Fire: A Safari Into the Human Spirit (2012), a poetic armchair travel narrative inspired by her travel to Kenya. Her poems have been widely published, a number have won national awards, and some have been anthologized in a chapbook, Holding On (1984).

Mary Jean and Paul spent 40 summers at “Fernwood,” their home in Chautauqua, New York. With Paul’s unwavering support, in 1988 she founded and served as the first director of the Writers’ Center at Chautauqua Institution.

She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Millersville University, was a member of the Academy of American Poets, Poets and Writers, and a Fellow of The Society for The Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture, based in New York. For several years she taught English literature at Lancaster Country Day School and continued to share her love of language by teaching poetry at Willow Valley.

Mary Jean is survived by her son Mark Irion (Elizabeth); grandchildren Melissa Markley (Christopher Pratt), Marc Irion (Melissa) and Michael Irion; four great grandchildren, and two great great grandchildren. Her daughter, Lisa Markley, preceded her in death in 1997.

A Celebration of Life was held on Nov. 6, 2019. Private interment will take place in Chautauqua, New York.

Memorial contributions may be sent in her name to Hospice and Community Care, 685 Good Drive, P.O. Box 4125, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17604.

John Keane

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John Keane, age 94, born March 15, 1926, in Somerville, Massachusetts. He was a graduate engineer from Tufts University in 1952. After graduation he worked at the General Motors Corporation for 31 years. When he retired from GMC, he became the president of RHP, and founded ND Incorporated. At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in World War II in both the European and Pacific sectors. John died on Oct. 3, 2020 in Bay Village, Ohio. Keane was a loving husband of Elizabeth Keane for 65 years and a beloved father to sons John and Michael and daughter Jacqueline. He was a dear grandfather of Shannon, Alexander and Christopher. Interment will take place at Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden, Massachusetts at a later date.

Anita May Burlingame Ferguson

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Anita May Burlingame Ferguson, 91, a longtime resident of Pompano Beach, Florida and Chautauqua, New York, passed away on Oct. 27, 2020, with loving family by her side at her daughter Grace’s home in Cornelius, North Carolina. 

She was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to the late Esther Bellini and Leslie Burlingame. Her early life was filled with the music of her operatic family, which influenced her own piano brilliance, which reigned her life. She graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in music from Bethany College where she met her husband Chick. 

While raising their three children in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Anita taught piano, played the organ, served as a sought-after accompanist and arranger, was editor of numerous publications and was an active board member of Tuesday Musicale. 

After Chick and Anita moved to Florida, she continued teaching, performing and accompanying, and she enjoyed her roles as President of Morning Musicale of Fort Lauderdale and Elder of First Presbyterian Church. She retired from teaching after 50 years, and she and Chick moved to John Knox Village in Pompano Beach where she was the beloved director of the Chapel Choir and accompanist for the Villagers Men’s Chorus. 

A lifelong artist, she painted hundreds of watercolors and oils and displayed her work in art shows at John Knox.

The Ferguson family bought the Log Cabin on Peck Avenue in Chautauqua in 1967, and Anita had another full life each summer as board member and treasurer of the Chautauqua Women’s Club and where she and her sister June funded a voice scholarship in memory of their mother, Esther Bellini. Anita was a founding member of the Wensley House, a 1974 CLSC graduate, pianist for Sunday services for several denominational houses, and accompanist for weddings and memorials at the Hall of Philosophy.

Anita’s crowning achievement was as matriarch of an ever-growing family who gathered each summer for her delicious meals, homemade apple sauce and always lively conversation. She is survived and lovingly remembered by her children, Charles Jr. (Ramona) of Plainfield, New Jersey, David (Diana) of Bradford, Pennsylvania and Grace (Donald) Zarou of Cornelius, North Carolina; six grandchildren, Loren (Emily), Grant (Elizabeth), Sarah, Maxwell, Eleanore and Adam (Kaitlin); her great-granddaughter, Edie; her sister, June of San Pedro, California.

The family held a private memorial service on Nov. 7, 2020, at Davidson College Presbyterian Church and will gather at Chautauqua Cemetery in July 2021 where Anita will join her husband Charles Allen Ferguson in eternal rest. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Chautauqua Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund.

Paul Irion

milestones

The Rev. Dr. Paul E. Irion, 98, of Willow Valley Communities, formerly of Kready Avenue, Millersville, Pennsylvania, passed away peacefully on Feb. 7, 2021.

Born in Akron, Ohio, on July 15, 1922, he was the son of the late Rev. Ernst and Elsie Schergens Irion and the husband of the late Mary Jean McElfresh Irion, who passed away in October 2019.

Growing up in Elyria, Ohio, he met Mary Jean in high school and they were married on Aug. 29, 1944. He was a graduate of Elmhurst College in Illinois, Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, and the University of Chicago Divinity School. He did postgraduate study at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Ordained into the ministry of the United Church of Christ in 1945, he served as Pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ in Tioga, Illinois and Long Grove Community Church in suburban Chicago. He was the first chaplain of Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis. For 27 years, Paul taught pastoral theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary, retiring in 1987.

Paul specialized in the study of death, bereavement and grief, lecturing widely in seminaries and colleges across the country. His six books and numerous articles in the field of bereavement and grief focused on the ritual responses to loss, the theological, psychological and social ways in which communities deal with death. He recently published an avocational novel about 19th-century immigrants.

Paul was honored by the Association for Death Education and Counseling for his pioneering work in that area, having published his first book on the subject in 1954. Elmhurst College, now Elmhurst University, gave him the Alumni Merit Award, and he was honored by the National Center for Death Education as a Distinguished Contributor to the Field of Dying and Bereavement. In addition to serving on various councils of the United Church of Christ, Paul had been President of the Board of Family and Children’s Service in Lancaster and served on the Board of The Samaritan Center. Paul’s work with hospice was particularly meaningful to him and was founding president of Hospice of Lancaster County (now Hospice and Community Care).

An advocate for social justice and civil rights, Paul participated in the 1963 March on Washington, and two years later, the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. In Lancaster, he served on the city’s first Human Relations Committee and Fair Housing Committee.

Mary Jean and Paul spent summers with their family at their home at Chautauqua Institution, a cultural and educational center in New York State, where Paul served on the board and as chairperson. Interment will take place at Chautauqua Cemetery.

Paul will be lovingly missed by his son, Mark (Elizabeth); three grandchildren, Marc (Melissa), Michael, and Melissa Markley (Christopher Pratt); four great-grandchildren Stephen, Christopher, Mila and Henry; and two great-great grandchildren, Jack and Evangeline. He is preceded in death by his daughter, Lisa, and sister, Ruth.

A private service was held at Lancaster Theological Seminary on April 28, 2021, with the Rev. Kathryn L. Kuhn and Loyde Hartley officiating. Memorial contributions may be made in Paul’s name to the Lancaster Theological Seminary, or to Hospice and Community Care in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

To view the service, please visit Paul Irion’s Memorial Page at www.thegroffs.com.

John Khosh

milestones

Hakuna Matata! That was a favorite phrase and way of life for John G.H. Khosh, M.D., who passed away peacefully in St. Petersburg, Florida. on Feb. 10, 2020, at the age of 91. John was the beloved husband of Mary Nell and loving father of Sheila (Columbus, Ohio), Deanna (Dallas, Texus), Lisa (Cleveland, Ohio), and Lora (Denver, Colorado), and the proud grandfather of 10 grandchildren who called him “Pop” specifically Daniel, Benjamin, Natalie, Caroline, Claudia, Will, Nathan, Jonathan, Charlotte and Henry. He is also survived by his sisters Mahine, Pari, Shahine, Simin and Taji. Among many surviving nieces and nephews, John shared a special bond with his oldest nephew, Moshen, whom he considered a younger brother.

John took an extraordinary path through life, and along the way maintained an inspirational attitude about pursuing dreams and facing hardship. Born April 21, 1929 as Gholam Hossein Khoshnevisan in Mashhad, Iran, John was the youngest boy among 10 children. As a child, he was an avid soccer player and earned the title of captain in college. He also loved the violin, which he taught himself to play. John persevered in medical school to graduate valedictorian despite having textbooks only written in French and Latin. After graduation, without knowing how to speak English or having family in the states, he bravely traveled to America to attend the University of Pennsylvania to complete post-graduate work. During residency at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, he met his future wife, Mary Sivert, who worked as a pharmacy intern. Instantly smitten, he wrote a prescription for “a cup of coffee,” and they married shortly thereafter. Their 60th anniversary will be Sept. 1, 2021 and they renewed wedding vows in the chapel at Westminster Shores 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day.

Once married, they moved to Canada where two daughters were born (Sheila, Deanna) and then onto Berea, Ohio where two more daughters were born (Lisa, Lora).

For over 30 years combined, John practiced obstetrics and gynecology at Fairview General Hospital then Southwest General Hospital where he became Chief of ObGyn. Throughout Southwest Cleveland, John was frequently stopped by patients who thanked him profusely and wanted to shake his hand; one patient even named her baby after him! He was much beloved for showing compassion to patients in financial distress, who he allowed to barter! John never complained about his work schedule. He just grabbed pre-tied ties from the bedroom closet to leave in the middle of the night and took power naps during the day. One night during a storm and power outage, he even performed a delivery by flashlight.

John was a pioneer in preventive women’s health. As a charter member of the Holistic Health movement, he routinely tested blood cholesterol, enrolled patients in smoking cessation programs (taking and placing cigarettes into a giant fish tank), and taught early warning signs for cancer long before these practices became mainstream. Also earlier than most, John recognized the importance of a daily fitness regimen. Throughout his life, he made sure to “exercise every day” and invented a dance to help his friends and family do so. He would remind everyone, “The body can heal itself, but it must move to remain healthy!” and hum, “You’ve got to move it move it” from the movie “Madagascar.”

Upon retirement in 1993, John joined the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC) in St. Petersburg, Florida where he started the popular “Medical Issues Group.” He also founded the “Science Circle” at Chautauqua Institution, New York, which continues inviting renowned guest speakers to share important scientific breakthroughs. Science was John’s true passion, and he was often teased about the esoteric journals he left lying around the house, such as “Microbiology Today” and “Biochemistry Now.” Nevertheless, John’s passion for science is now an enduring legacy for many grandchildren who work in various scientific fields.

John’s pastimes with his grandchildren were playing strategy games. Chess was his overall favorite, and he even played “chess with friends” online. Learning backgammon in Iran as a child, he often “schlemmed” everyone. He also loved the Persian card game “11.” At ping pong, his strategy was to repeatedly place the ball in opposite, alternating corners. For decades, John played tennis, racquetball, golf, pickleball. He also enjoyed annual ski trips to Boyne Mountain with family and friends.

John was filled with wonder for nature. He traveled the world, visiting all seven continents and never missed a chance to get up close to animals. Deliberately bitten by exotic ants in Costa Rica, he shouted, “Wow! That hurt a LOT more than I thought,” grateful for the experience. On other trips, he enjoyed swimming alongside manatees and playing with penguins, but his curiosity was met with warnings about getting too close. Sometimes, he ignored those warnings altogether, as when he capsized a canoe in Michigan immediately after being told not to stand up. Last summer, at the age of 91 when he was warned not to dive headfirst into the deep end of a swimming pool, he asked, “Why not?” Since he regaled many with fancy dives as a young adult, why not at age 91? Off he went. His dive was perfect.

John regarded nothing as too complex to understand; he knew it just required perseverance and creativity. His forthcoming book, “From Womb to Tomb to Catacomb,” is about the bioelectromagnetic forces impacting overall health. Following decades of independent research, John explains how our bodies are affected by our environment at the molecular level, and how medicine fails to recognize this significant force in health. He explains how communication layers within the human body resemble an onion, and he assigns biological symbols to external stimuli in loops and waves. He often began discussions about the book saying, “All emotions are chemically translated and physically expressed” and loved reminding people that every “human animal” is made up of 30 trillion cells. “Isn’t that fascinating?!” he would ask with genuine delight. John was the ultimate science teacher, passionate, patient, and painstaking in his explanations. Time stood still while he explained scientific complexities until the listener understood.

John’s love for fun was just as pronounced as his dedication to science. He was extremely social, and loved being with friends and attending parties. He was also a jokester and the consummate entertainer. There was always a twinkle in his eye when he engaged an audience, and you never knew what to expect. He loved to make people laugh! He invented an exercise program called “Jiggly Wiggly” for seniors and led groups through his hilarious routine. He created a tripod to represent “The Human Unit” using the head of a doll to explain external influences on health which elicited giggles. If you left important items on the counter, like a wallet or watch, John would hide them to teach you a lesson. If you walked underneath his porch, he would throw a glass of water and run away. He jokingly introduced his daughters as his “mother” to friends in his community. And he often said to others when departing, “Keep smiling” or “Don’t let the rains come down.”

John was comical while practicing resourcefulness too. Many engineering problems were solved with duct tape, bungee cords and zipties. Even when contraptions failed, he was undeterred and enjoyed fantastical mishaps like suitcases flying off the top of the car, or bicycles falling apart in motion. Occasionally, his quick fixes worked extremely well which made all his failures worthwhile in addition to the laughter they provided.

As we share loving memories about John, we should recognize that he was a feminist from the heart. After raising four daughters and having female patients, he believed strongly that women would make better world leaders and cited this poem frequently:

As a rule, man is a fool/When it is hot, he wants it cool/When it is cool, he wants it hot/Always wanting what is not!

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the “Chautauqua Science Group” (501c3 part of CLSC). Checks may be sent to Don Greenhouse, Treasurer, PO Box 31, Chautauqua, NY 14722.

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