Published 1:02 am, Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Helen Louise Choat of Fairfield died Jan. 28, 2010. She was 102 years old.
In 1928, she was one of 500 girls who auditioned for the radio station WASN to replace the incumbent, Nancy Howe. Choat surpassed all the other contenders and became the new Nancy Howe. However, this meant she had to leave Emerson. But this was an opportunity too good to be missed so she reluctantly left Emerson with the intention of completing her studies at a later date.
At the age of 100, Choat received a bachelors degree in literary interpretation from Emerson. She researched, wrote copy and delivered her commentaries on WASN for about two years, until she became ill and was compelled to leave for a period of recuperation. About a year later, she was fully recovered and made her way to the Big Apple to become a radio actress. She was instantly successful.
Her rare blend of intelligence and talent was in constant demand over the next several decades. She played in all the major soap operas, such as Pretty Kitty Kelly, The Widder Brown, Ma Perkins and The Saga of Helen Trent. She also did the prime-time dramas like The Mercury Theatre with Orson Wells, Gang Busters, Lights Out and The Lux Video Theatre with such luminaries as Agnes Moorehead, Ilona Massey and the incomparable Fiorella La Guardia.
Choat specialized in the roles of gun molls, the other woman and various and sundry "bad girls." It was not type casting.
When the golden age of radio began its decline, she refused to rest on her laurels and pushed ahead into new fields of endeavor. She did television drama and commercials, extolling the virtues of coffee, soap powders and the telephone company. She subsequently left television and became an editor with the Macy Foundation and the WW Aire science series. She found time to contribute to or co-author several books, including a translation of Russian plays and several books on metaphysics. Choat also found time to serve as an officer of a metaphysical foundation sponsored by her friend, Alice Tully.
She worked on several plays, including at least one which had a short but successful run in New York. It was also about this time that she married Edward Von Holten Schmidt, a professor at New York University, an editor and author who was at that time working with Alex Haley on the work-in-progress, Roots.
When Choat's husband died unexpectedly, she decided to enter a new field, the business world. After enrolling and completing several business courses, she took a position as an executive secretary with Stroheim and Roman, the prestigious fabric firm. She remained with Stroheim and Roman until the mid 1980s, when she took a well deserved retirement.
Of course, even in her mi-90s, she really hadn't slowed down. Two days a week she acted as receptionist and bookkeeper at the Milton Feher School of Dance and Exercise. She had taken classes at the New School. She had taught English to new immigrants She was taking Tai Chi classes several times a week as well as oriental meditation. Her talent, intelligence and hard work have resulted in not one, but several wonderful, highly successful careers.
But her most successful and important career was just being herself, which means being a caring, loving and quite extraordinary person who always enhanced and enriched the lives of her many friends and acquaintances.
She is survived by her adoptive family, Michael and Linda Menillo; her pet Yorkie, Lilly; and a multitude of friends whose lives she has touched.
Paul T. Minoski, 75, of Fairfield, died Jan. 28, 2010, in Bridgeport Hospital.
Born in Granville, N.Y., to the late Michael and Anna (Dubyak) Minoski, he was a longtime Fairfield resident.
He is survived by his brother, John Monoski and his wife, Dorothy; a nephew, John C. Monoski; a niece, Deborah M. Chmielewski; and his two grandnieces, Sara E. and Dana K. Chmielewski, all of Stratford.
He was predeceased by his brother, Michael.
All services are private. Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road, Fairfield, is in charge of the arrangements.
Born in New York, N.Y., on May 26, 1937, he grew up in Summit, N.J. and Darien. Peale spent childhood summers in Quogue, N.Y.
In 1959, Peale, or Barry as he was known, graduated from Harvard College, where he was coxswain of the undefeated varsity heavyweight rowing crew.
His love of sailing led him to a long career as an owner of Milford Boat Works in Milford and eventually to work in restoration at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
Peale' long and very happy marriage to Mary Ellen Gates began on June 18, 1960, and ended when she died in November 2007.
He is survived by his son, William Barrows Peale; his daughter, Barbara Farnum Peale; and four grandchildren; Charlotte, William, Wesley and George.
His family plans to hold a memorial service for him in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mystic Seaport Museum (www.mysticseaport.org).