Valerie J. Wintsch, 75, died peacefully on January 2, 2015, at Arden Courts in Hamden, CT, from complications of Alzheimer’s. A vivacious, well read, and intellectually curious lady, Valerie loved good books, music, friendship, and laughter. Most of all, she loved her family. She was a devoted daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother.
Born in Naugatuck, CT, in 1939, Valerie was the daughter of teacher Dorothy Moses and chemical engineer Charles Gates. She grew up in Elmira, Ontario, a tight-knit community that nurtured her lifelong loyalty to family and friends—as well as to the Queen of England. An only child until her brother David arrived when she was 15, she remained very close to her parents throughout her life. Her friend Jean Kirkham was an honorary sister (and fellow prankster), Isabel Huggan, a “pretend” little sister, and cousin Chris Woodman, a “borrowed” brother.
Valerie earned a BA in history with a minor in music from the University of Connecticut. She married Fred Wintsch, whom she’d known since childhood, on June 23, 1962, making their home in Naugatuck for the next 18 years. She taught history, English, and music at Hillside Middle School for 3 years before resigning to embark on a career as a full-time mom.
In Naugatuck, Valerie joined the Women’s Study Club, twice serving as President, sang in the choir and directed children’s musicals at the Congregational church, and performed in amateur musical theater. Valerie and Fred moved with their children to Durham, CT, in 1980, where she joined the Garden Club, volunteered at the library, led a book club, performed in Connecticut Gilbert and Sullivan Society productions, sang in the United Churches choir, and supported the Crackerbox Players.
In their 52-year marriage, Valerie and Fred enjoyed many travels and adventures, with especially fond memories of their trips to Switzerland and their summer cottage in Maine, where family and friends would gather to swim, kayak, listen to loons, and tour the lake on Fred’s steamboat.
Valerie is survived by her husband, Fred Wintsch, of Wallingford, CT; brother, David Gates and his wife Gert, of Waterloo, IA; daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Peter Shoudy, of Durham, CT; daughter Suzanne and son-in-law Matthew Churchill, of Davidson, NC; son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Suzanne Wintsch, of Haddam, CT; and eight grandchildren: Ben, Alex, and Noah Shoudy; Thomas, Luke, and Zachary Churchill; and Isabelle and William Wintsch.
Valerie possessed a keen intellect and read voraciously. Her extensive vocabulary and impeccable grammar made her an excellent conversationalist and a formidable Scrabble player. She was an avid social and family historian, meticulously recording every facet of her children’s lives in baby books, delighting her Elmira school chums with her detailed recollections of their exploits, and writing a memoir for her children and grandchildren. For her, personal stories were rich sources of heritage, humanity, and humor.
An inveterate perfectionist, Valerie never stopped trying to be good and to please others. At the same time, she had a forgiving heart when people around her didn’t match the high standards she held for herself. She would dimple up in laughter at the slightest provocation, drawing great pleasure from pranks, practical jokes, zingers, and her husband’s dry wit. She was continually astonished by the marvels of her good fortune – Fred’s constant love, her close relationships with her children, and the ongoing delight of her many wonderful grandchildren.
A celebration of her life will be held at the United Churches of Durham (corner of routes 17 and 68) at 11 a.m. on January 17, 2015. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or Hospice of Connecticut.