Algernon Middleton of Bluff Avenue, an Argentinian who distinguished himself as a pilot in World War II with the Royal Canadian Air Force and later with an admirable career in the marine insurance business, died September 11 in Norwalk Hospital of complications from a fall in his home a few days earlier. The widower of Catherine Stapleton Middleton was 95.
Mr. Middleton had been in good health and had planned to attend the Sept. 14 wedding of his granddaughter in England.
When he retired, he had been vice chairman of Corroon & Black, a leader in the marine insurance business, where he had been adept at designing the coverages on large ocean-going commercial vessels. He was also a director of the Farrell Steamship Lines.
Throughout his life, he had been an example of athleticism that enabled him to best many an opponent as an adult on the tennis and platform tennis courts here, not to mention his prowess on the cricket and rugby fields of his youth in South America.
Peter Hussey of Rowayton Woods, former director of the Norwalk DPW who grew up in Argentina, recalled “Algy” as he was known then and later, as an exceptional batsman in cricket and a terror on the rugby field.
“I'll never forget the time the Oxford-Cambridge team was visiting in 1938 and Algy was assigned to mark Russian Prince Oblensky. Algy took the prince's pants off on one tackle, much to the delight of the Argentinian women.”
Hussey also remembered the one time decades ago when a cricket match was arranged by him for the Rowayton School field.
“Algy was in his 60s at the time, but he was the best batsman and scored the most runs of the day.”
Catlike reflexes made him a sought after partner in both men's and mixed doubles tennis and paddle tennis events.
A founder of both the Rowayton Tennis Association in the early 1950s and the Rowayton Paddle Tennis Association in 1968, he was a regular winner in the annual tournaments as partner to Dick Aycrigg and Sally Plaut in the men's and mixed doubles events. He had shoveled dirt during construction of the first two tennis courts at Bayley Beach, and had been among the handful of racquet players to finance construction of the first two platform tennis courts at the Rowayton Community Center.
Enlisting before the United States entered WW II, Algy had trained as a fighter pilot in Canada before assignment to England where he was placed in a photo reconnaissance unit flying unarmed Spitfires, Mustangs, Hurricanes and Mosquitoes. A regular mission prior to D-Day was to flit across the English Channel at an altitude of 50-feet, bank sharply to north or south at the Normandy coast and photograph the latest developments. He once encountered an ME 262, a heavily armed German prototype jet, but his plane's superior maneuverability allowed his safe return to base.
While overseas, Algy corresponded with Miss Stapleton, a teenager at the time, whom he'd met in December of 1941 when she was 15 through a chance encounter with her parents. Upon returning in 1945, they wed in St. Joseph Church when she was almost 19 and he 28. She often remarked how she had been enamoured from first sight of the dashing flyer to whom she'd been married 56 years at her death in May of 2001.
Former U.S. Congressman and Norwalk Mayor Donald J. Irwin of Hawkins Avenue, also raised in Rosario, was originally introduced to Norwalk and Rowayton by Mr. Middleton and subsequently married and had four children with Mrs. Middleton's younger sister, Mary, who died in 1985.
“Algy was a wonderful man, very generous, thoughtful, bright and a faithful friend who was always prepared to help,” he said.
After giving up competitive sports in later years, Mr. Middleton enjoyed gentle bridge sessions and one-mile walks around Rowayton from his home overlooking Wilson Cove. A favorite walking companion was the late Nomick Hacohen of Bell Island. They invariably stopped for a rest on the Sammis Street Bridge where they would thrash out the latest international news for as long as an hour.
Mr. Middleton was the third of nine children in the family of George A. and Clara Talbot Middleton and was raised in Fisherton, Argentina, a suburb of Rosario. His grandmothers on both sides were of Spanish descent. His father managed the ranch estates of wealthy absentee English gentlemen and also dealt in real estate. Algy joined his father in business after graduating from Buenos Aires English High School and rejoined him after the war for three years before he and his wife decided to reside in Rowayton.
He was a devout member of St. Joseph Church and a member of the Wee Burn Club where he also enjoyed friendly rounds of golf.
Survivors include a daughter, Catherine M. Middleton of Carpenter's Hill Farm, Beoley near Redditch, UK; two sons, George A. Middleton of Rowayton and John A. Middleton of Coto de Caza, Calif.; a sister, Anna Petersen of Fisherton, five grandchildren, Michael, Brian, Laura, Verity and Anna, and eight great grandchildren Dylan, Kai, Fisher, Brooks, Morgan, Hayla, Jean-Luc and Miriam, and several cousins, nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Joseph Church with the Rev. Gilbert D'Souza, assistant pastor of St. Joseph Church and a friend of the family, officiating. Interment will be in St. John Cemetery.
Friends may call at the Magner Funeral Home, 10 Mott Ave. from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Donations may be made to St. Joseph Church, 85 South Main St., South Norwalk, 06854. FXF
Published in The Hour from Sep. 18 to Sep. 19, 2011.