Mary Lee Culver Casson
Published 1:13 pm, Thursday, November 4, 2010
Mary Lee Culver Casson of Westport, a singer and actress, died Oct. 31, 2010.
Born on Feb. 21, 1932, in Richmond, Va., she received a B.A. degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1953, and attended Juilliard School of Music in New York City and the Conservatorio de Santa Cecilia in Rome where she studied opera performance. She performed in musical theater productions and concerts.
She also acted in movies, including "Under Ten Flags" with Charles Laughton and "Five Branded Women" with Sophia Loren. She starred in the first full-length movie made for Italian television and had her own radio program.
After moving to New York City, she performed on stage and television, including commercials. She sang concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, and performed as the Angel in the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.
At Tanglewood, she was a featured soloist in Henry Brant's Grand Universal Circus premier with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She also was the soprano soloist at several Manhattan churches, including First, Fifth Avenue and Central Presbyterian and St. John's Episcopal.
She married King Features syndicated cartoonist Mel Casson in 1962, and they moved to Westport in 1967. She was a soprano soloist for eight years at Saugatuck Congregational Church, and also was a soloist in concerts with the New Haven Symphony, Long Island Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Danbury Music Center. She also toured in several roles with the Children's Opera Theatre in Fairfield County and performed in Performers of Connecticut concerts as well.
In Westport, she joined the PTA Cultural Arts Committee in 1974 and helped bring performers to local schools for more than 15 years. She was on the board of Performers of Connecticut and the Westport Arts Center Music Series as well as town chairman for Opera New England. The Westport Veterans Council awarded her honorary membership for singing "God Bless America" and the "Star Spangled Banner" at the annual Westport Memorial Day parade for 20 years.
She also was known as a voice teacher who worked with students who performed in Staples High School productions and beyond.
Survivors include her daughter, Culver Casson, and grandchildren Remington and Lulu Cheffer.
A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Nov. 12 in Greens Farms Congregational Church, with the Rev. Jeff Rider officiating. A reception will follow the service. The Harding Funeral home, 210 Post Road East, is assisting with arrangements. Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, Connecticut Chapter, 2075 Silas Deane Highway, Suite 100, Rocky Hill, CT 06067. To leave an online condolence, visit www.hardingfuneral.com.