Obituary: Winifred Rennebohm Kotchian

Winifred Rennebohm Kotchian
Winifred Rennebohm Kotchian

NORTH HAVEN — Winifred Rennebohm Kotchian died July 30, 2016, at Elim Park in Cheshire. Winifred Jean Rennebohm Kotchian (Winnie) was born Feb. 22, 1922 in Redlands, Calif., to Edwin Rennebohm and Winifred Bruff Rennebohm. Her family soon moved to Madison, Wis., where her father was a pharmacist and Winnie and her three siblings lived in a home designed by their mother.

She enjoyed an active childhood, taking part in Girl Scouts, playing in the marching band, skating on the rivers and swimming whenever she could. She also loved working at the soda fountain in her father’s pharmacy, and cherished her books.

Winnie attended the University of Wisconsin, where she was a double major in home economics and journalism. She soon met her future husband, John Frederick Kotchian, with whom she enjoyed many picnics, football games, dances and even spelunking adventures. After graduation, she worked during the war at the US Forest Products Laboratory and wrote articles on home economics. She also was an assistant to the editor of the University of Wisconsin Agricultural Journal.

After their marriage in 1947, Winnie and John and their growing family lived in Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Connecticut, where they settled as residents of North Haven. They were active in their community and were long-time members of Spring Glen Church. They brought their whole neighborhood together by hosting a carol sing and bonfire every Christmas.

Winnie was a homemaker and active PTA volunteer, and also worked in the North Haven Public Schools as a librarian. She was also a long time member and secretary of the New Haven women’s badminton club and an active participant in the P.E.O. Sisterhood. She and John traveled extensively around the world and were lifelong birders. She wrote and published a book on the history of the Quinnipiac River. (The Quinnipiac: The story of a river.)  Her family enjoyed many vacations that included Circle Beach in Guilford, skiing in Vermont, and camping and wilderness canoeing in Canada and Maine. She loved reading and painting, May baskets and hot fudge sundaes, and baking delicious pies and holiday cookies. She was very patriotic and national holidays were celebrated in a big way every year.

Winnie fostered in her children and grandchildren a love for the natural world, and the “simple things” of life. She and John continued to go canoe camping with family into her 80th year. Winnie and John spent many years as community volunteers, and were very active at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History and at Sleeping Giant Park Association where she served as the newsletter editor. She and John loved art and music and enjoyed the New Haven Symphony for many years. They were also dedicated fans of the Yankees and watched their games whenever they could. They moved to Elim Park in 2011 where they enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and creating many new friendships. Her husband preceded her in death in December 2014.

She is survived by her brother, Bill Rennebohm and wife Betty of Seattle, Wash.; sister, Margie Koehler and husband George of Nashville, Tenn.; son, John Kotchian and wife Regina of Middlebury; daughter, Sarah Kotchian and husband Robert Nellums of Albuquerque N.M.; daughter, Nancy Prentiss of Farmington, Maine; daughter, Ann Lombard and husband Rob of Bridgton, Maine. She has 12 grandchildren, William, Jonathan, and Edwin Kotchian,

Elizabeth Giuliano, Laura and Ross Nellums, Ben, Alex, and Sam Prentiss, and Robert, Heidi, and Molly Lombard, and one great-grand-child, Sawyer Prentiss. She also leaves many nieces and nephews.

Special gratitude goes to the Elim Park staff and ALSA aides who provided Winnie with wonderful compassionate care.

A memorial service will be held at Spring Glen Congregational Church, 1825 Whitney Ave., Hamden at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug, 13. 2016. The Naugatuck Valley Memorial/Fitzgerald-Zembruski Funeral Home, is assisting the family with arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Sleeping Giant Park Association, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, or another charity dedicated to preservation of and education about the natural world.

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