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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 26, 2011

Leonard Gregory Kastle

By Zach Simeone

WESTERLO — Leonard Gregory Kastle was an acclaimed American composer, pianist, and filmmaker who found his home in the Hilltowns.

“He didn’t have a business mind,” said Evan Copp, a student and close friend of Mr. Kastle. “He didn’t make extraordinary steps to promote his work and himself…He was happy to live in his beautiful home in Westerlo, and live a happy life.”

He died at his home on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, after a brief illness. He was 82. The son of Russian immigrants Samuel and Anna Kastle, Leonard Kastle was born on Feb. 11, 1929, in New York City.
“He was a world-class pianist,” said Copp. “He was a child prodigy, studying at Juilliard at age 11.”
Mr. Kastle also received training at the Mannes School of Music, studying with Frank Sheridan and George Szell. He studied with famed concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein from 1942 to 1952 on a piano scholarship.
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950 from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he held scholarships in composition with Rosario Scalero, Gian-Carlo Menotti, and Samuel Barber, in addition to a piano scholarship with Isabelle Vengerova.

“His father’s dream was that Leonard would become a concert pianist,” said Copp. “When Leonard reached some fame with his movie, The Honeymoon Killers, it seemed that the film would make him famous, rather than being a concert performer. But Leonard took time off after the movie was made. He rehearsed for months and months, and he performed at Wigmore Hall in England. It was a sellout house, and he performed, and his father was there, and this was just before his father passed away. So, he actually fulfilled his father’s dream for him by being a concert pianist. But that wasn’t to be a long-term vocation.”

Mr. Kastle’s compositions have been performed throughout the Capital Region, and he has been recognized by the Albany Council for the Arts for his musical contributions in the greater Albany area. He taught music composition and music history classes at the University at Albany from 1978 to 1989. He received numerous awards, commissions, and grants, and earned first prize in the Leschetitsky Piano Competition in 1948. And, he performed his own piano concerto with the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

But Mr. Kastle is best known as writer and director of the 1970 hit movie The Honeymoon Killers, his only film credit, for which he received critical acclaim. The film is based on the true story of the “lonely hearts killers,” Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, a couple that lured lonely women onto dates with Fernandez to seduce, con, and kill them.
Chosen by the Museum of Modern Art for inclusion in its film archives, the film still enjoys success through revivals at film festivals, and was recently released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection, which Mr. Copp said contains a 30-minute interview with Mr. Kastle.

Mr. Copp said that he never explicitly asked Mr, Kastle why, of all stories to adapt for the big screen, he chose The Honeymoon Killers, though he said that the choice, for both Mr. Kastle and his producer, Warren Steibel, was influenced by the 1967 release of Bonnie and Clyde.

“It was sort of like a Hollywood glorification of killers,” Mr. Copp said of Bonnie and Clyde. “And they said, ‘That’s not the way real life is. They shouldn’t portray these people as heroes, or as beautiful Hollywood people. They should be portrayed as the dark and evil people that they are.’ And so, they made the movie as a real-life answer to the Hollywood-ized Bonnie and Clyde. What triggered that, I’m not sure.”

But Kastle’s characters were too multi-faceted to come off as pure evil.

“In the movie, the main characters who are killers are actually really sympathetic characters, and somehow you feel for them even more than the victims,” said Mr. Copp. “It’s a very strange thing how it happened. And I think it was truthfully because Leonard — he wasn’t a one-dimensional person, and I think all of his characters came out that way. No one was purely bad, no one was purely good, so you saw the bad parts and the dark parts, but you saw their humanity and their humor as well.”

Though Mr. Kastle’s claim to fame was, in many people’s eyes, The Honeymoon Killers, it was not a major point of pride for him, Mr. Copp said.

“He said, ‘It’s a horrible movie; it’s about murder and death,’” Mr. Copp exclaimed. “He doesn’t want to be remembered by that. He definitely didn’t consider it among his best work.”

Mr. Kastle was most proud of his operas, his friend said. Under commission from the Wallace Scudder Foundation, his opera Deseret premiered on the NBC Television Opera Theater in 1961. Then, in 1966 he later received a Deerfield Foundation grant to compose The Pariahs. It was never produced, however.

“It was based on a true story, about a group of whaling men in the 1800s,” Mr. Copp said of The Pariahs; he recalls this being Mr. Kastle’s favorite work.

“There was a ship that was shipwrecked by a whale,” he went on. “In fact, that same incident was the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.”

Survivors of the shipwreck were adrift on a raft for so long that they resorted to cannibalism.
“They actually drew lots to see who would be killed to sacrifice their bodies for the others,” Mr. Copp said.
Though they were eventually rescued, word of their cannibalism reached their hometown before they did.
“They were rescued months and months later,” he went on. “When the survivors came down the gangplank, each member of the town turned their back to them, letting them know that they were outcasts.”
While The Pariahs never found a producer, much of Mr. Kastle’s work was widely popular.
Mr. Kastle won the Baxter Prize for Choral Composition in 1963, a National Endowment of the Arts grant in 1974, two Meet-the-Composer grants between 1981 and 1985; in 1988, he got a New York State Arts Council Arts-in-Education grant for his children’s opera, Professor Lookalike and the Children.
“All of his works — with the possible exception of The Honeymoon Killers — are spiritual in nature, and explore man’s inner search for redemption and forgiveness, and communion with the creator,” said Mr. Copp.
While very few recordings of Mr. Kastle’s music exist, the sheet music for most of his compositions are archived at the University at Albany.

“What I’d like to do, and what I plan on doing, is to seek out performers who will make a recording of Leonard’s work,” his friend said. “I am a pianist so I can perform some of it.”
Mr. Copp hopes that Mr. Kastle will live on through his music, and through his students.
“He was so personally involved in his music, and the message of the music, it just brought it to life,” Mr. Copp said. “He was my mentor, and I’m not the only one. He has touched a lot of lives through his teaching… So, who knows? We may see a Leonard Kastle memorial concert one day. I’d like to see that.”


Mr. Kastle is survived by his sister, Norma Merker; his niece, Cecelia Levin; and devoted friends, Tina Sisson and family.
A gathering of friends was held on Sunday, May 22, followed by a memorial service at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Colonie, where Mr. Kastle served as church organist.
Arrangements are by the A.J. Cunningham Funeral Home in Greenville.

Family and friends can light a candle at ajcunninghamfh.com.

Laura M. Beebe

dALTAMONT – An Altamont native, Laura M. Beebe was a sweet wife, a fun square dancer, and the world’s best cook, her husband says.

She died on Monday, May 23, at the Avenue Nursing Center in Schenectady. She was 89.
Mrs. Beebe was born in Altamont, in a house just below the park on Main Street. Her father worked as a farmer “up on the Hill,” said her husband, Theodore J. Beebe. He had also worked as a fireman on the railroad and, on Halloween nights, he was a watchman at Altamont High School, of which Mrs. Beebe became an alumna.
Her grandfather worked in the switch tower at the railroad crossing in Altamont. “It was up in the air then,” said Mr. Beebe. “She would walk down to visit him there and he would take her into what is now the Home Front Café to get ice cream.”

The couple met in a romantic way, orchestrated by Mrs. Beebe’s mother. During World War II, Mr. Beebe was home on leave from the Air Force, taking a bus from Rotterdam to Albany. “I had to transfer in Guilderland and…started hitchhiking,” he recalled. A couple stopped their car and offered him a ride. “I was in my uniform…When I got out of the car, the lady said, ‘If you write me, I’ll write back.’ I started a correspondence. By the second letter, I said to the fellows in my barracks, ‘Here’s a lady looking for a husband for her daughter.’”
Mrs. Beebe took over the correspondence and the pair wrote back and forth for eight months. When Mr. Beebe got back home, they arranged a date at the State Theater, a movie house in Schenectady. The date went well as they took a bus to meet her parents in Altamont.

“We dated just a short time, and then I proposed to her and we got married. Laura’s Lutheran and I am Catholic so we had family problems over that,” he said. “We got married at St. John’s in Altamont….We were married for 63 years. I never regretted a day of it.”

After living for a short while in Albany, the Beebes, with their first-born child, Arnold, moved into a house on Altamont’s Lark Street, which they shared with Mrs. Beebe’s sister and her family. “We lived upstairs. Her sister lived downstairs. Between us, there were eight kids,” said Mr. Beebe.
“She took very good care of our children,” said Mr. Beebe. The Beebes had three sons and a daughter.
“We had a nice, quiet home, without much arguing,” he said. “She’s the sweetest lady in the world.”
Mrs. Beebe earned another superlative as well.

“My wife was the world’s best cook,” said Mr. Beebe. “She had 15 different recipes for cheesecake…She’d make eight or 10 every Christmas,” and give them to family members and friends.
When their daughter, Faith, had trouble with her jaw for awhile, she had to be on a liquid diet. “Laura made the best soups for her,” said Mr. Beebe.

She was also active in 4-H, helping her children with projects. Their son James raised pheasants and released them.
The other children, Arnold, Theodore, and Faith, were active in 4-H square-dancing as was their mother. “One day, Laura asked me if I would square dance, and I told her no,” Mr. Beebe recalled. But, a few years later, he relented because of the shortage of male dancers.
“We joined the Electric City Twirlers,” said Mr. Beebe. “I got to dance with all the young ladies in the teenage square-dance group.”

With the nation’s bicentennial, he even learned to perform the minuet with the others.
“We had a lot of fun with the kids growing up,” said Mr. Beebe.
Their children moved out on their own and the Beebes had five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “She loved the grandchildren,” said Mr. Beebe, “but we raised the kids to be themselves, not to do what we wanted them to do…They’re on their own.”

He concluded of his wife, “She was a sweet lady, pretty easygoing, and I loved her very much.”


While she lived most of her life in the Capital District, Mrs. Beebe spent a decade in Hendersonville, Tenn. While living in the Capital District, she was a chaperone of a 4-H Square Dance Club, a member of an adult square-dance club, and a member of the Altamont High School Alumni Association. She was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Altamont, and First Lutheran Church of Albany. She also was a member of Chapter 1607 of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Mrs. Beebe is survived by her husband, Theodore J. Beebe; her children, Arnold K. Beebe and his wife, Diane, of Schenectady, James R. Beebe and his wife, Donna, of Delanson, Theodore J. Beebe Jr. and his wife, Susan, of Saratoga Springs, and Faith M. Beebe of Albany; her sister, Janet K. Simons, of Albany; her grandchildren, Nicholas and his wife, Michele, Jarrod, Heather, Shane, and Katlyn; two great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held in the Hans Funeral Home at 1088 Western Ave. in Albany, on Friday, May 27, at 9 a.m., and from there to the First Lutheran Church of Albany at 181 Western Ave. in Albany at 10 a.m.
Relatives and friends are invited, and may call at the funeral home today, May 26, from 4 to 7 p.m. Interment will be in Fairview Cemetery in Altamont.

To leave a message of condolence for the family, send a sympathy card, or obtain directions to the funeral home, please visit www.HansFuneralHome.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the First Lutheran Church of Albany, 646 State St., Albany, NY 12203; or to the Altamont High School Alumni Association care of Doris Neese, 11 Gail Ave., Albany, NY 12205.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Helen J. Grimm

TROY — Helen “Hud” Johnson Grimm, a dedicated mother, is described as “a community treasure”, by her son. She died peacefully on Saturday, May 21, 2011, at the Courtyard at Eddy Memorial in Troy. She was 92.
Mrs. Grimm was born at home in Troy, on May 5, 1919, the eldest daughter of the late Joseph A. Johnson and Helen Meany Johnson.

She was raised and educated in Troy, graduating from Saint Peter’s School, Catholic Central High School, and Troy Business College.

She was employed by the former Cluett, Peabody and Co., where she served as a secretary to Sanford L. Cluett, before she married Frederick H. Grimm, on April 10, 1944. Her husband died in 1989.

She traveled around the country working for the military while her husband served in the United States Army. The couple then returned to Troy to raise their family.

Mrs. Grimm raised nine children, which her son, Mark Grimm, of Guilderland said was a roel she “embraced.”
“She had this extraordinary devotion to her children; there was no sacrifice she would not make, no burden she would not bear,” said Grimm in a eulogy to his mother.

“With nine kids, you don’t see steak very often and when you do, it’s small portions. One night, the steak was so good I kept pushing to get another piece. Finally, my mother said she found an extra piece for me. I was so happy, until I later learned it was an extra piece. She had given me hers. One of so many selfless acts in her life,” Grimm said.
“Our mother was this remarkable combination of strength and tenderness,” he said in the eulogy.
After raising her family, Mrs. Grimm returned to her career and worked as an executive secretary to secretaries of state Mario Cuomo and Basil Paterson. She finished her career as confidential correspondence secretary to Mario Cuomo, who was the the governor.

Governor Cuomo often referred to her as his “touch of class,” Grimm said in his eulogy.
Mrs. Grimm was also very involved in the community. She was the past president of Saint Patrick’s Mother’s Club; a founding member of the Christian Family movement; chair of the Democratic Women’s Committee to elect John F. Kennedy; past officer of both the Babcock Lake Property Owners’ Association and Babcock Lake Estates; and a member of her church council, rosary society, and church building committee at Saint John Francis Regis Church in Grafton.

“Helen Grimm made a difference…” her son said in the eulogy. “She has set a standard we may never achieve, but we are better people for it, and so are the lives, and communities, we have touched.”


Mrs. Grimm is survived by her nine children, Kathleen, of New York City; Barbara, of Brunswick; Karl F., of Troy; Paula, of New York City; Gary J. and his wife, Theresa, of Latham; John C. and his wife, Ann Marie, of Charleston, W.V.; Peter D., of Troy; Mark E., and his wife, Karen, of Guilderland; and David R., of Babcock Lake.
She is also survived by her grandchildren, Charles, Logan, and Johannah Hibbs, Olivia Helen, Laura, Amos, Erin, Robert, Michael, and Riley Grimm; and her sisters, Kathryn Carson of Babcock Lake and Mary Teresa Kenny of Latham.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held on Tuesday at Our Lady of Victory Church, in Troy. Burial was in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Troy.

Memorial contributions may be made to the St. John Francis Regis Church, Post Office Box 324, Grafton, NY 12082, or the Troy Boys and Girls Club, 1700 7th Ave., Troy, NY 12180.

— Anne Hayden

Bertha J. Meservey

ALBANY — Bertha J. Meservey, a dedicated nurse and beloved mother, died on Monday, May 9, 2011. She was 94.
Born in Pompey Hill, N.Y., she was the daughter of the late William and Bertha Bronson.
A graduate of Columbia University School of Nursing, she was employed for many years as a Registered Nurse with the Albany County Nursing Home.

After retiring she and her husband moved to Port St. Lucie, Fla., where she lived for many years before returning to the Albany area several years ago.

She was the beloved wife of 42 years to the late Bruce Meservey.

She is survived by her children, Carol Ward of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Gail Craig of Fort Pierce, Fla. , and Fred Meservey, and his wife, Penny, of Voorheesville. She is also survived by her sister, Helen Cross of Fairfax, Va. Her other siblings — Doris Shearer, Alice Davenport, and Howard Bronson, died before her. She is survived, too, by her grandchildren, Daniel and Marc Meservey, Rebecca Wilson, and Evan Craig; and her great-grandchildren Ben, Vincent, Anthony, and Hailey; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 30, at St. Matthew’s Church, 25 Mountainview St., in Voorheesville. Private burial will take place in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Guilderland. Arrangements are by the Demarco Stone Funeral Home in Guilderland.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing Scholarship Fund, 2215 Burdett Ave., Troy, NY 12180.

Kay W. Miller

NEW SCOTLAND — Kay Miller, a lively sort who liked to take in the slow life, died on May 19, 2011 at her home. She was 80.

Born in Albany on March 10, 1931, she was the daughter of the late Julius and Blanche Kromp. Her father worked on locomotives for the New York Central Railroad and her mother was a waitress at an Albany diner, said her daughter, Wendy Mahoney.

An only child, Mrs. Miller was close to her parents and, like her mother, was a Triangle Girl in the Order of the Eastern Star, a fraternal organization associated with the Masons.

After she graduated from Albany High School, she got her first job at Wendell Cadillac on Central Avenue and bought her father a 1957 Chevy. It was his first car.

Mrs. Miller loved her work as a bookkeeper, said her daughter — she liked the cars and the people. She liked “the whole thing,” Mrs. Mahoney said.

She married George Miller, who came from a big farm family; they raised two children. She was a “very loving and caring mother,” said her daughter. “She did a lot for her kids.”

Her son and daughter learned to swim at Tawasentha Park and she volunteered with her daughter’s Brownie troop.
“Mom loved her family,” Mrs. Mahoney said. She also loved reading, favoring murder mysteries. She and her father would pass books back and forth, Mrs. Mahoney said. Her mother rode the bus every Thursday to the Westmere Elementary School library where she was a library aid, she said.

“She was definitely a spunky lady,” Mrs. Mahoney said. “She had a very caring side to her.”

Every morning at 9 o’clock, she’d go for a walk with her neighbor and one day they came across a pile of kittens. Many of them had been hit by passing cars, but there was one little white kitten that Mrs. Miller put in her pocket and brought home, “my mom being the softy that she was,” said Mrs. Mahoney. She fed the kitten with an eyedropper and now, s

he said, “He’s Mr. Personality.” Snowball, as he is called, follows the family members lovingly around the house.
Mrs. Miller would also frequent the Amish Country in Pennsylvania with her husband. They’d go every year around her birthday, just after the spring lambs were born. They’d go every year in the fall and bring back a giant head of cauliflower for their son, who grew up with it as a staple of his birthday meal.

“Mom just loved Lancaster,” Mrs. Mahoney said. “It’s the way of life there.”

She concluded of her mother, “She was more of a giver than a taker.”


Mrs. Miller is survived by her husband of 51 years, George C. Miller, and by her children, Wendy Mahoney and her husband, John, and Douglas C. Miller and his wife, Mary. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Adam, Chase, and Kaitlyn, and by her great-grandchildren, Gabriella and Jonathan. She is also survived by several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Her granddaughter, Ashley Mahoney died before her.
Interment and graveside service were held on Monday in the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands with arrangements by the Fredendall Funeral Home of Altamont.

— Saranac Hale Spencer

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