June 29, 2022

Death of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Barbara Gonci Announced, 105; Mother of Don Gonci of Old Lyme

Elizabeth “Betty” Barbara Gonci

WINDHAM, CT — UPDATED 5/31 WITH FULL OBITUARY: Elizabeth “Betty” Barbara Gonci of Windham and formerly of Coventry and Hebron, Ct., passed away on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at St. Joseph`s Living Center in Windham at the age of 105. She was born on May 11, 1917, in Bridgeport, Ct., daughter of the late Michael and Julia (Varga) Pollansky. She was the oldest of nine children and grew up on the family farm in rural Coventry.

In 1936, Betty married Alex Gonci sharing over 65 years of marriage together until his passing in 2002.

In 2012, Coventry celebrated its 300-year anniversary and Betty, at age 94, was highlighted as part of the parade and other festivities. As part of that celebration, she was asked to describe some of her childhood memories which were later published. Those memories included the start of her education in the one room little red Brick Schoolhouse on Merrow Road in Coventry. It still stands.

Betty learned to speak and write English on the front stone steps of that schoolhouse while classmates had recess. Eight grades were taught at the school. Later, as an upper classman, she shared teaching responsibilities or tasks. One frequent task, she enjoyed describing, was to organize the preparation of a communal lunch soup, cooked on a multi-purpose wood stove. Classmates would pool whatever ingredients they had to create a hearty winter lunch.

She also helped her younger siblings learn English at home. Hungarian was the spoken language at the homestead. Her parents, her husband, and her parent’s in-law were all born in Hungary. Consequently, her children were raised with a quite strong ethnic heritage, expressed in delicious cooking, festive music and large, boisterous family gatherings. As a matter of fact, her married name was originally spelled Gonczy before being `Americanized` at Ellis Island.

Betty took close interest in each of the dozens of nephews and nieces that resulted from the merging of two very large families as well as the grand- and great-grandchildren.

Betty enjoyed sharing her life experiences and challenges, from the very long walks to school (miles) in rural Coventry to taking a horse and buggy to meet a bus en route to Windham High School.

Until the final days of her life, she continued to absorb the news of the day and placed it in context of her whole life experience. During that lifetime, she lived through two pandemics, two world wars, and the Great Depression. In addition, she narrowly escaped, with her young family, from the 1944 Hartford circus fire.

She is survived by her children Robert and his wife, Mary-Ellen of Hebron; Donald and his wife Doina Lavoie-Gonci of Old Lyme; sister Helen Chaponis of South Windsor; grandchildren Robin, Russell, Rob, Brian, and Jeffrey (Gonci) and Mike Lavoie: great-grandchildren, Dallas, Teo, Jackson, Alysa, Declan and Dawson, and numerous extended family.

In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her siblings, John, Frank, Ernest, Andrew, Charles, and Emil Pollansky and Emma Saunders.

Betty had a private interment at the New Hebron Cemetery. Care of private services was entrusted to the Aurora-McCarthy Funeral Home of Colchester.

For online condolences, please visit www.auroramccarthyfuneralhome.com.

In lieu of flowers, family and friends may consider a donation to the Coventry Historical Society at P.O. Box 534, Coventry, CT 06238 (please be sure to specify the Brick School in memory of Elizabeth Gonci or the Hebron Fire Dept., at 44 Main Street. Such donations, in her memory, would be appreciated.

“Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the rest of my lifetime. And I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.”