Leona “Lee” Cook (Griswold) Dunham passed peacefully at home on December 29, 2021, following a brief health struggle, just 4 short months after her love, The Rev. Arthur H. Dunham. Known as Lee to some, Leona to others and “my little Eonie” to her dad, Lee was born in Rocky Hill, CT November 7, 1933, to Leonard Cook and Betsey (Thompson) Griswold. One of 7 children, she grew up on the family farm, Sunny Crest Dairy Farm, in Rocky Hill. Part of her farming responsibilities were candling and collecting eggs, teaching calves to nurse from their mother or bottle and then weaning them when old enough, driving the tractor during hay bailing season and delivering milk to various homes and business in Rocky Hill, Cromwell and Wethersfield. She attended Wethersfield High School and Hartford Secretarial School. After graduation Lee worked at CBT in Hartford where she worked her way up to head bookkeeper and was responsible for training new employees. Since she was old enough, Lee loved to sing. It was her passion. From church choir member, director of church junior choir, Manchester Symphony Choir, South Windsor Community Chorus, weddings, funerals, and any other occasion that was requested, she was there, sharing her beautiful voice with others. Her favorite song was “Oh Holy Night” which she would sing at the Christmas Eve Service each year. Even in her final days, we could hear her humming. In 1957 at Rocky Hill Congregational Church, she met and eventually married the love of her life and best friend, the Rev. Arthur H. Dunham. She always said that the very first time she saw him in the church hall, not even knowing who he was, that “he is the man I am going to marry” and she did on June 20, 1959. It was a marriage that lasted 62 years until his passing 4 months ago on September 7, 2021. Throughout her life Lee held many positions and titles, but that of Wife, Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother were the most important to her. Lee loved her family and cherished each and every moment spent together whether it was a holiday, birthday, anniversary, back yard picnic, simple dinner or just a drop in “hello”. Hosting the entire Griswold, Dunham and extended family summer get togethers brought her pleasure. Aside from being the minister’s wife and the numerous responsibilities that came with it, she raised 4 children, taught Head Start while 3 three oldest children were in kindergarten, second and third grade, belonged to the PTO, filled in as church secretary, worked with her sister at IDS, directed youth choir, worked with both the junior and senior pilgrim fellowship groups at each church they ministered to, past Vice President of the UCW of the First Congregational Church, member of the Wednesday Afternoon Club, a member of the MCC Organization of Active Adults, completed a course in Continuing Pastoral Education at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, MA, was a Retired Clergy Events Coordinator and did annuitant visits with Art to retired pastors for the Pension Board Connecticut Conference United Church of Christ, received a 10 year certificate for her participation in the Girl Scouts, and filled in for Art as “Mrs. Minister” at various South Windsor police, fire, ambulance and town functions when he was unavailable. Lee loved animals and in her spare time house broke and trained our 2 family dogs as well as a dog for one of Phils friends so he would be able to keep her. She also loved to house sit her “four legged Doberman grandchildren” when Tricia was away….they all knew who “grandma” was. After Art’s retirement, they were able to travel and enjoyed numerous trips to Maine, England, Germany, Greece, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Iceland, to name a few, with wonderful friends. Lee leaves 3 children – Phil (Alison) Dunham of Tolland, CT, Tricia Dunham Russo of Manchester, CT, and Keith (Chelle) Dunham of Birch Bay, WA, 2 grandsons Wallace and Malachi, 4 great grandchildren Caleb, Collin, Casey and Dustin, her sister Ruth (Griswold) Peters of MN, sisters-in-law Leona Griswold of Wethersfield, CT, Marcia Creighton of Weymouth, MA and Verna Durling of Hingham, MA, brother-in-law Robert VanScoyk of Ogden, UT, cousins, many nieces and nephews, and so many close and dear friends. Besides her husband, Lee was predeceased by her daughter Sandra Dunham Hart, granddaughter Melinda Hart and great granddaughter Rowan Leona Hart, 2 brothers Raymond (and wife Barbara) and Howard Griswold, 3 sisters Margaret (and husband Robert) Sheldon, Helen Griswold and Mary Louise VanScoyk, brother-in-law Bill Peters and lifelong family friend Eleanor Mahar who was like a sister. Lee’s children also wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to Suzanna who lived with and cared for mom. She kept mom laughing and made the last month of her life the best it could be. It gave us peace knowing that she was safe and in the most caring hands. We also wish to thank the Nurses and staff of Vernon Hospice for their care and help. She would not have had the quality of end of life she had without them. Prior to September, she was cared for by the staff of Visiting Angels for a little over a year. We also wish to thank the several caregivers for their work and companionship with mom especially through dad’s illness. Family will greet guests at calling hours at Samsel & Carmon Funeral Home 419 Buckland Road, So. Windsor on Sunday January 9th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (covid protocols observed) with a prayer service taking place at 3:00 in the funeral home. A graveside burial, open to family and friends who wish to attend, will take place in Center Cemetery, 993 Main Street, South Windsor at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, January 10th. Due to concerns in the rise of Covid; Phil, Tricia and Keith have made the decision that a Celebration of Lee’s Life church service will take place later in 2022, when the flowers are in bloom and the birds she loved to watch and listen to will be singing, at First Congregational Church South Windsor. A reception to greet family and friends will take place at that time. Further information will be provided as plans are made. Memorial donations in Lee’s name may be made to South Windsor Congregational Church, 993 Main Street, South Windsor, CT 06074. For online condolences please visit www.carmonfuneralhome.com
Published by Hartford Courant on Jan. 6, 2022.