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Zena (Harris) Temkin

d. May 8, 2017

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Zena Doris Marguerite Harris Temkin, a seventy-year resident of Torrington, Connecticut, died Monday May 8th, just weeks before her 94th birthday. Mrs. Temkin, who was born in London, England, moved to the U.S. when she was eleven and became an American citizen. She graduated from high school in Detroit at the age of sixteen and moved with her parents to Atlanta, Georgia, where she graduated from Agnes Scott College with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Speech. She was captain of her field hockey team and performed as a singer and actress in plays and at local churches. It was in Atlanta that she met her beloved husband of seventy-two years, the late Dr. Isadore B. Temkin, who was attending Emory University Dental School.

Zena married Dr. Is on August 28, 1943, and together they spent most of World War II at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where their son Alan was born. After moving to Torrington, Connecticut in 1947, she hosted her own show on the local radio station until 1950 when her daughter Nan was born, followed by her son Bruce in 1952. Zena went on to write for various magazines and Connecticut newspapers and in 1953 became the Director of Publicity and Public Relations for the Sharon, Connecticut Summer Theater. She also produced and directed children’s plays and musicals for the Torrington Recreation Department and the Beth El Synagogue.

Circumstances were such that Mrs. Temkin was not able to pursue a career in theater. Alternatively, she decided to go into politics to build a better world and in 1958, was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly as a State Representative. She served in this capacity for two terms. During this time, she wrote a weekly newspaper column about politics. She went on to serve as a Political Aide/Agent to Connecticut Governor Abe Ribicoff in two of his successful campaigns for United States Senator. For many years, Mrs. Temkin was the owner of a Public Relations Consulting Firm, working primarily on political matters at the highest level, developing campaign strategies and focusing on candidate activities. She also worked as National Public Relations Director for the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Library in Bridgewater, Connecticut.

Zena continued working in politics, eager to serve her country. She took this service very seriously and never accepted anything in return. She coordinated Ella Grasso’s successful campaigns for United States Congress in 1970 and again in 1972, as well as coordinating Congresswoman Grasso’s successful campaign for Governor of Connecticut in 1974. Grasso was the first woman in the U.S. to be elected Governor, whose husband had not preceded her. Following the campaigns, Mrs. Temkin was Congresswoman/Governor Grasso’s Political and Personal Aide. Along with her dear friend, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, she also coordinated activities and scheduling in the first two successful campaigns of United States Senator Christopher Dodd.

Mrs. Temkin had the honor of being a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated John F. Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1960, as well as a Delegate to the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco. She was a Presidential Delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995, Vice-Chairwoman of the Connecticut Judicial Selection Commission to select judicial candidates from 1986-89, Member of the Board of Governors at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital from 1980-84, Board Member of the Litchfield County Writers Project at the UConn Torrington Branch, Chairman of the Naugatuck Valley Economic Advisory Task Force from 1978-84, Council Member on the National Council of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Member of the Naugatuck Valley Revolving Loan Fund Committee from 1979-95, and Member of the Brooker Memorial Board in Torrington for many years.

Having studied Architecture and Design at Georgia Tech in Atlanta in the ‘50s, Zena became an Architectural Design Consultant for T&M Building Company and Alan Temkin Associates for many years. She designed and renovated hundreds of homes, including her own home in Torrington and the home of the late Governor Ella Grasso. In the 1990s, Is and Zena Temkin established the I.B. and Zena H. Temkin Foundation to help Torrington people in need and also founded the community radio station WAPJ.

Mrs. Temkin was a pioneer, a woman who stood tall and dared to follow her dreams. She has been a beacon of light and a dynamic mentor to many. She is survived by her beloved family…her three children, Alan Temkin; Nan Temkin Dudley and her husband Bobby Dudley and their daughter Blossom Crawford, her husband Adam and great grandchildren Augustus and Sabine Crawford; Bruce Temkin and his wife Linda Temkin and their son Clark; her wonderful brother F. Michael Harris and his wife Laura Kurland; and her many adored nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sons of Jacob Cemetery (P.O. Box 1665 Torrington, CT 06790), WAPJ Radio Station (P.O. Box 1076 Torrington, CT 06790) or Alyssa’s Angel Fund (333 Bloomfield Ave. Suite D, West Hartford, CT 06117). Funeral services will be held Thursday, May 11th at 11 a.m. at Beth El Synagogue, 124 Litchfield Street in Torrington. The family will be available at the Synagogue from 9:30-11. Burial will follow at the Sons of Jacob Cemetery, 1700 Winsted Road in Torrington. Shiva will be observed on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 7-9 p.m. at 24 Torringford West Street in Torrington.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Zena (Harris) Temkin, please visit our flower store.


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