Sunday Spotlight: Prominent Bristol people we lost in 2017

Published on Saturday, 30 December 2017 20:20
Written by Bob Montgomery

Staff Writer

Among the individuals from Bristol who died this year were those with well-known names. The deceased listed here each left his or her own legacy, one which made the city all the better. They are, in alphabetical order, as follows:

Patti (Dessler) Ewen - The former 17-year city treasurer and first woman to sit on the City Council died on July 6. She was a kind-hearted lady who served under different mayors. Whenever I was in the treasurer’s office as a city employee, Patti, when there, would always share a “hello” and a smile. When first elected a counselor she was asked about why she ran. “I’ve always been interested in people and groups of people, and politics, after all, that’s what it’s all about,” she told a Bristol Press reporter at the time.

Norman “Foo” Fournier - A standout baseball and basketball player at Bristol High in the late 1940s, he died on April 8 at the age of 86. A lifelong Bristol resident, he went on to coach in the Edgewood Little League and the Bristol Parks Department’s Pony and Colt Leagues. In 2012, he received the honor of being inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame. He enjoyed playing both golf and tennis and volunteered his services at his church, St. Joseph’s, as well as with the BCO in town in helping others.

Rita (Teevan) Gerzanick - A lifelong resident of Forestville, she died on April 29 at the age of 90. She was a teacher in Bristol and became the head of the English Department at the high school level. She was involved in several education associations and was honored on numerous occasions for her work. She also chaired and presided over Bristol organizations and was a board member of others. She was very involved at St. Matthews Church and St. Matthews School and was founder of the Womens and Girls Fund through the Main Street Foundation;

Eleanor “Ellie” (Klosowski) Klaptach- She was a longtime Republican registrar of voters and the first woman to hold the position of registrar here. Born in New Britain, she lived here for many years and died on Sept. 8. Although he was a Democrat, former Mayor Frank Nicastro had only kind words about this lady. “She always took the time to be good with me,” said Nicastro. “Whenever the Democratic registrar wasn’t there, she’d take the time.” Her son, Girard, upon her death, said that politics was her life.

Bonita “Bonnie” (Hig-gins) Maskery - A Massachusetts native, she died here at age 74 on Jan. 24. A Bristol resident since 1967 and a retired phys. ed teacher, she was an inductee of the CT Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and in the New Agenda: New England Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, and was a recipient of the C.I.A.C. Athletic Association’s Merit Award. She was also an avid golfer who served in many leadership positions at the Pequabuck Golf Club. She was the C.I.A.C. girls basketball officials director for over 25 years.

Elmer Madsen - The legacy of Elmer Madsen, who died at age 85 on May 18, will long be remembered. Born in West Haven, he grew up near a saltwater swamp where nature caught his attention. When he move here he became active in conservation, becoming the chairman of the city’s Conservation Commission and his work bettered Hoppers Birge Pond, Pine Lake and other parcels of city property. For those who enjoy The Barnes Nature Center on Shrub Road, many thanks go to Madsen for his efforts to keep the area from becoming development property.

Sal Micucci - As a young boy, I had Sal on my paper route and it seemed that he was never home. It was his late wife, Rose, whom I collected from. The man of the house was always out and about, and that was with his work in local government. Sal Micucci, who died at age 89 on June 26, served as the Democratic Registrar of Voters here for 20 years. Micucci, who once saw service in China as a Marine, enjoyed his job and was known to run for office on occasion, including that of Bristol mayor. He served as a state representative from 1981-1983.

Paul J. Minor - Minor’s Farm and Country Store was a joy for Paul J. Minor, who died on Thursday at 93. He was born in the family home he lived in upon returning and remaining on the farm after serving in WWII. When visiting the man at the store, it always reminded me of the good old days when life wasn’t so fast and pressure-packed. He wore his suspendered-jeans, a plaid shirt and was country, plain and simple. He lived the life of a good day’s work and being kind to and helping a neighbor. I always felt good about life after a visit with him.

Alton P. Oakes - Those in car racing circles knew of Al Oakes, who died at age 91 on Nov. 29. An Army Air Force veteran, he came to Bristol in the 1950s in becoming a master technician in the area for over 40 years. A car enthusiast most of all, he especially loved drag racing the Loehmann Chevrolet at the New England Dragway. He was so good at the sport that he was inducted into the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame three year ago, one of the highlights of his life. To those in motor vehicle circles, he’s undoubtedly a legend.

Mark Tonon - Mark Tonon was but 58 years old when he died here on Jan. 31. He was well-known in the baseball community. First, as a the longtime president of Edgewood Little League. Included in his legacy is the completion of the Harry Barnes Field off Mix Street. I recall going by the area on weekends or after working hours to see him and other volunteers perking up the field and seeing  needed amenities added. He is also known as a longtime baseball coach in Bristol and that includes serving as such for the Edgewood Senior Little League team.

Bob Montgomery can be reached at 860-973-1808 or by email at

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Saturday, 30 December 2017 20:20. Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2017 20:23.