SOUTHBURY — Dr. Frieda Denenmark, a resident of Heritage Village and more recently of Pomperaug Woods in Southbury, died peacefully Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at the Regional Hospice in Danbury.
Frieda was born December 2, 1931, in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the height of the Great Depression, and lost her father when she was 5. Like many children of her generation, she learned quickly to be self-reliant in a household where her mother struggled to raise three children.
Frieda’s phenomenal intelligence was apparent at an early age. She attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn and attended New York University on a full scholarship. There she studied physics and mathematics. After graduation she chose to pursue studies in anthropology at Harvard.
When she returned to New York, she decided on a career as a teacher of mathematics at a Special Service school in Hell’s Kitchen. This is where she began her work in the education of underserved children, which she continued when she went to work for the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C., during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. She was active in the Neighborhood Youth Corps and Head Start programs, and served on the president’s task force.
After a 10-year career in government, Frieda decided that her final career would be that of a physician. She attended the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, graduating in 1977. She spent three years as a resident in the Yale-New Haven Medical Center in New Haven and became a Fellow in Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. She had a psychiatric practice in New Haven, often working with adolescents and veterans.
Connecticut had become her home, and when she decided to retire, Frieda bought a condo in Heritage Village in Southbury. There she served as president of the Civic Association, had two terms as vice president of the Heritage Village Association and was the longest-serving trustee of her condo.
Frieda, an irrepressible voice and force in Village governance, was known as someone who got things done and did not suffer fools. Her work to benefit seniors and Villagers included organizing transportation to drive residents to town or doctors’ appointments before the Village had buses, the construction of the fitness center, channeling funds to Regional Hospice and the Village ambulance, and raising money for various causes to benefit seniors.
She vociferously fought against an unfair electricity levy for seniors — those hardest hit and least able to pay. For her testimony at the State Capitol, she received a commendation from state Sen. Rob Kane.
Frieda remained active in community affairs until her move to Pomperaug Woods, where she was a member of the Classics Book Club and where she engaged in many other activities and intellectual pursuits.
Those who knew Frieda realized that talk was medicinal for her. She liked nothing better than vigorous discussion, and she wasn’t one to hide her light under a bushel. Witty, clever, articulate, she brought a sharp mind to the analysis of any subject — film, literature, music, fine art, history, botany and politics; she had a fine sense of humor that leavened the dullest of conversations.
She is survived by her nieces, Lisa Denenmark (Keiko Lane), Cari Heiman (Todd) and Barbara Arendash; nephew Bruce Arendash (Carmel); great-nieces Jane and Cassie Durand; longtime friend Fannie Safier, and a large community of caring friends. All will miss her wisdom, humor, generosity and blazing bright light.
A memorial is planned for a later date.
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