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Phyllis E. Kriksciun
(Died July 23, 2014)

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Phyllis E. Kriksciun

Phyllis Kriksciun, Educator, Environmentalist

Phyllis Kriksciun died peacefully in her sleep on July 23 at her home in Lordship, surrounded by family and friends. She was 95 and a day short of her 96th birthday. She was a life-long educator, and taught several generations of schoolchildren at Lordship Elementary School. Among her other honors, she was nominated as one of the “Outstanding Elementary Teachers of America” for 1972 in a nationwide competition. Phyllis Elisabeth Halpine was born on July 24, 1918, in New Milford, Connecticut to Thomas J. Halpine and Minnie Sullivan Halpine. She was the middle child of five. She attended New Milford High School, and graduated in 1938 from Danbury Teachers College (now Western Connecticut State University). Early in her career, she taught in public schools in New Preston and Marbledale in Litchfield County. She met the love of her life, Stanley Kriksciun of Washington, Connecticut, on a blind date. After seeing each other off and on, they married in 1943, when Stanley was home on leave from the U.S. Navy. During WWII, Stan was stationed on the West coast, and saw action in the North and South Pacific theaters. Phyllis followed her husband out west, and taught school up and down the coast, from Bremerton, Washington, to National City, California, where she was teaching on V-J Day. She and Stan came back east, settling first in Bridgeport, and then, in 1949, to Lordship, where she lived until her death. She had a passion for the preservation of the environment, especially the Great Meadows marsh, now the Great Meadows unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Northeast Region. She led hundreds of schoolchildren and adults on field trips to Long Beach and Lewis Gut, to study the flora and fauna of the wetlands, and to increase their awareness of this invaluable resource. After her retirement in 1983, she continued to guide field trips for many years, until she was no longer able to negotiate the muddy terrain. Ms. Kriksciun assisted with the formation of Protect Your Environment (PYE), a group of citizens from Lordship and surrounding areas, dedicated to saving the wetlands from commercial encroachment, and eliminating air and water pollution. She was the advisor to the Junior PYE group at Lordship School, and incorporated lessons on the importance of “protecting your environment” into science, English and social studies curriculum for her fifth-graders. Among activities she organized were letter-writing campaigns, speaking at town meetings to discuss an Instrument Landing System at Bridgeport Airport, performing a play before the General Assembly in Hartford, and holding a silent vigil at the Union square docks in Bridgeport protesting the polluted waters of Bridgeport harbor and Long Island Sound. In 1971-72, Ms. Kriksciun served as a program consultant to WNET Educational Broadcasting Corporation in New York, which was establishing a series called Project Earth. Project Earth was an ecology enterprise undertaken to promote the understanding of the environment through multimedia aids, publications and television programs aimed at schoolchildren. She was a member of WNET’s Project Earth Advisory Committee, and was happy to see several of her recommendations incorporated into the channel’s programming. She was a proud member of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Phyllis Kriksciun was named a Woman of Substance in the Bridgeport Post. She was active in Our Lady of Peace church in Lordship. She was past president of the Rosary Society, and directed the Christmas nativity play and the Children’s Christmas choir for many years. She loved swimming at Russian Beach at the end of Victoria Lawn, and tried to spend part of every day there in the summer. She was the eternal optimist: even when it was raining, she would look for a break in the clouds, and would then declare with certainty that it would soon be a “good day for the beach”. Sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn’t. Her husband of 71 years, Stanley, passed in 2010, and her three sisters and a brother predeceased her. Survivors include her two children, Tom Kriksciun (Pam Kress) of Fairfax, Virginia; and Diana-Joy (Bob) Baird of Lordship. Grandchildren are Lucy (Owen) Stoddard of Old Orchard Beach, Maine; Rob Baird of Milford; Bridget Baird of Lordship; Alex (Erin) Kriksciun of New Orleans; Peter (Megan) Baird of Lordship; Eva Kriksciun of New York; Patrick (Carly) Baird of Florence, Arizona; and Samantha Baird of Lordship. “Nonnie” had nine great grandchildren, and doted on each and every one of them: Hazel, Harris, Hadley, Harper, and Hayden of Maine, Alexandra of Lordship, Zoe and Landon of Arizona, and Selena of Lordship. Special thanks are given to Irena Nesterov, Lyudmila Shabunya, Sally Morrell, and especially Joy Baird, all of whose care and devotion to Nonnie allowed her to remain in her home until her passing. There will be a viewing at Dennis & D’Arcy - Abriola & Kelemen Funeral Home, 2611 Main Street, Stratford on Sunday, July 27 from 4:00 until 8:00 pm, and a Mass celebrating the life of Phyllis Kriksciun at Our Lady of Peace Church, Stratford Road in Lordship on Monday, July 28 at 10:00 am. In lieu of flowers, contributions are welcomed in Phyllis Kriksciun’s name at Protect Your Environment (PYE) of Stratford, Conn Inc. [pyestratfordct.org]. To offer online condolences please visit www.dennisanddarcy.com

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