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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.
“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.
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.
“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. Kastle is survived by his sister, Norma Merker; his niece, Cecelia Levin; and devoted friends, Tina Sisson and family.
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.
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.’”
“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.
“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.
She was also active in 4-H, helping her children with projects. Their son James raised pheasants and released them.
With the nation’s bicentennial, he even learned to perform the minuet with the others.
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.
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.
Helen J. GrimmTROY 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.”
“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.
Governor Cuomo often referred to her as his “touch of class,” Grimm said in his eulogy.
“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.
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.
Bertha J. Meservey
ALBANY Bertha J. Meservey, a dedicated nurse and beloved mother, died on Monday, May 9, 2011. She was 94.
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.
“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.
“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.
Saranac Hale Spencer