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1935 - 2015
GONZALES, SHIRLEY ANN SCHAPPA Shirley Ann Schappa Gonzales, who was born in 1935 in New Haven, to Joseph Schappa of New Haven and Alvena Menard of Providence, died on January 17th from colon cancer . She had lived in Guilford for 61 years in the house her father and brother, Joseph Schappa of Carroll, Ohio, had built by themselves. The wood for the house was milled in North Guilford and seasoned on site, a former Connecticut farm crisscrossed with stone walls. She attended Hartford Art School, then Paier Art School, entering the Department of Art and Architecture at Yale University, where she studied under Vincent Scully and Josef Albers. Graduating in 1958 having earned a BFA in Art with a thesis on fabric printing techniques, she married J Ernest Gonzales that same year and heralded the birth of her son Don soon after, followed by her daughter April 2 years later. While her children were young Shirley taught art to the neighborhood kids in the basement passing on the lessons in color theory that she had learned while studying under Albers at Yale. With the help of family and neighbors like Fred Muerelle and Forrest Hill, who built the puppet theatre, she put on puppet shows that moved out of the basement and into the Mary Wade home and the Stony Creek Puppet theatre. Shirley also taught art at the Shoreline School which was located on County Road in North Guilford at the time. She would walk up Route 77 with her daughter in a stroller and her son trailing behind, passing by what is now the Dudley farm where she was a docent from 1997 onward. As her children grew up Shirley began writing art reviews for the New Haven Register under the guidance of editor and long time family friend Don Rabin in 1968, visiting the lively New Haven art scene on a weekly basis and continuing to cover the Connecticut art scene for 22 years. Her part time career in urban planning began that same year in the Town of Guilford. She earned her Masters in Urban Studies in 1979 from Connecticut State University while working in Westport as the assistant planner. In 1979 she became the town planner of Hamden Connecticut where she worked for eleven years, while maintaining a private consulting firm GBG Associates with her good friends in planning from Westport, Ann Gill and Charlotte Belser. Her professional demeanor and administrative style was much admired by her co-workers in Hamden who presented her with a life size cut out of Wonder Woman to hang on her office door. While working in Hamden Shirley assisted some local residents to advocate for land preservation, as a result of this her long time friend Linda Dubord requested that Shirley become an honorary member of the Lakota Sioux tribe. The tribal elders agreed to Dubord’s request, however they stipulated that it would then be Dubord’s responsibility to take care of Shirley. As Shirley was a highly independent, self sufficient Eastern Connecticut Yankee this was easier said than done, though the two women became close friends. A member of Connecticut Women in Planning, Shirley was the first recipient of the Presidents Service Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Planning Officials. She also served on the interviewing committee of the Yale Club of New Haven, was a Member of the American Association of University women, and helped out at the library book sales at the Guilford free library. Upon retirement she headed to directly out to Old Lyme to continue her art studies in portraiture and still lifes with Peter Zallinger at the Lyme Academy. Although talented, her report cards from this time admonish her to drop the rigors of her previous education. As a docent at the Yale Art gallery she indulged her passion for art history, returning again to the Lyme Academy years later for art history classes. Time for writing again resulted in articles for the Shoreline Newspapers, Wesleyan Magazine, Craft and Ceramics monthly. She met Eddy Horan when on the board at The Guilford Handcraft Center and joined him with the Friday Night Painters group at Dan Rice’s studio where live models became the subject of her ever increasing devotion to painting realistically. Her early passion for the effects of light on glass, passing through it onto other objects and reflections became apparent in her work. In a series of still lifes with a shiny black vase, her own reflection of herself painting can be seen. She exhibited her work with the Friday night Group and also with the Guilford Art Association. Returning yet again to Old Lyme, Shirley became a docent at the Florence Griswold Museum and became familiar with the Connecticut Impressionism and the relaxed landscape painting style that was prevalent during the time the museum was a boarding house for artists. Childe Hassam was one of her favorite painters. As time went by she did change her style and evolve as an artist from her earlier training, falling in love with the effect of sun light on landscapes. Chaffinch Island was a regular haunt of hers for artistic subjects, and many of her later paintings, whether from the dock of her son’s lake house in New Hampshire, or on the beach in the Hamptons or Cape Cod, show a loose and colorful, atmospheric style that demonstrates her love of color, light nature and composition. Shirley had numerous friends who appreciated her dry sense of humour, intelligence and sharp sartorial style. She is survived by her daughter April Gonzales and her husband Rocco Lojac of Southampton, NY and Don Gonzales, his wife Kathleen and their two children Kalen and Kahlia. A celebration of her life will be held at the Dudley Farm on April 19th, 2015 at 12:00 which would have been her 80th, birthday. She wished to have a big party with all of her friends instead of a memorial service. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Dudley Farm, ( Guilford ABC, ( The Sylvia Wilson Fellowship fund at Columbia School of Journalism (
Published by The New Haven Register from Mar. 30 to Mar. 31, 2015.
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My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Gonzales Family at this difficult time. Please find peace in knowing that God understands your grief and that He cares(1 Peter 5:6,7. Psalms 83:18.
April 6, 2015
I am saddened to hear of Shirley's passing. I always admired her generous giving of her time and talents when I was a kid, and those art lessons made a lasting, deep impression on me. I will miss her, and I know my mother will miss her too. Hope she's teaching my dad and Fred now!
Sincere condolences to April and Don.
Sara Gray
Naples, Fl
April 2, 2015
The neighborhood isn't the same without Shirley. How I loved those art classes in the basement and making the puppets for our puppet shows. Don & April, my sincere condolences. Liz
March 31, 2015
What a wonderful obituary for a wonderful lady. I sure do miss her. I am very sorry for your loss.
Wendy Downs
March 30, 2015
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