September 25, 1935 – July 27, 2016
Liudvyka Marija Grigas, known to most as Louise, was born in Lithuania on September 25, 1935, just before the onset of World War II. As a young child she enjoyed the privileges of an upper middle class upbringing. Both of her parents were in government service. Her father, Bronius Grigas, was deputy mayor of Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. Her mother, Jadvyga, worked for the Ministry of the Interior. Louise’s household included a nanny, a maid and a cook. Although she was an only child Louise grew up in an extended family environment along with her eight cousins. Her early childhood consisted of summers spent berry and mushroom picking in the countryside and snowy winters with dog-pulling sleds.
Louise’s carefree days ended abruptly in 1940 with the first Russian occupation of Lithuania. She and her family were forced to endure midnight raids and the deportation of close family members to Siberia. The following year, 1941, Germany occupied Lithuania and Louise’s father was arrested and deported to a Nazi concentration camp where he later died. In 1944 the Russians reclaimed Lithuania. To avoid deportation to Siberia, Louise, then age nine, and her mother and cousins fled to Austria in a horse covered wagon with only a few possessions. These were particularly hard times. Louise and her mother faced near-starvation and witnessed the brutality of war first hand. Upon the end of the war in 1945 Louise and her mother along with thousands of other refugees were placed in American-run Displaced Persons camps throughout Germany. Some of Louise’s fondest memories and closest friendships were of her years spent in these “DP” camps. Finally, in April of 1949 Louise and her mother arrived in the United States on the transatlantic passenger ship “General Black.”
Upon arrival to the U.S., Louise and her mother resided in Great Neck, New York. The two shared a small room of a private house in which Louise’s mother worked as a housekeeper. At first, assimilation into American culture proved difficult for Louise and she yearned to go back home to Lithuania. Despite feeling different from her American peers, Louise had typical teenage interests. She enjoyed books, music and movies and was a diligent journal keeper. In 1953 Louise graduated from Great Neck High School. She went on to receive her B.S. from New York University’s School of Commerce in 1957. Louise’s first job while still in high school was working at a local restaurant as a “popover girl.” During her NYU days Louise worked at CBS as a casting assistant. She worked with such famous celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Frankie Lane and Tony Bennett. Upon graduation from college her fluency in multiple languages landed her a job at the United Nations where she worked until 1960.
In 1959 Louise married Drasutis Gudelis. Shortly thereafter they moved to Cos Cob, CT where they raised their two children Paul and Laura. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce in 1980. Louise went on to receive her master’s degree in Library Science from Southern CT State University. Her professional career as a librarian began at the Convent of Sacred Heart in Greenwich. Upon leaving that post in 1983 Louise came to the Greenwich Library where she remained for the next twenty-two years. At Greenwich she was a reference librarian, the local history and genealogy librarian and head of lending services. Upon her retirement in 2001 Louise continued to work part time in the children’s room for yet another four years. She shared her love of books with all children, including her two biggest fans and joys of her life, her grandchildren, Lina and Matthew.
Louise was passionate about many things, but it was her devotion to her faith, family and Lithuanian heritage that defined her and made her the kind, selfless and independent woman that she was.
Although her memories suddenly faded one could read from the warmth of Louise’s smile and twinkle in her eyes a colorful tale of a life full of challenges, hardships, accomplishments and joy.
Relatives and friends are invited to visit with Louise’s family on Saturday July 30, 2016 at 9:00 am in the Gilman Funeral Home, 104 Church St. Putnam, CT with a Funeral Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 am in St. Mary Church of the Visitation, 218 Providence St., Putnam, CT. Burial will follow in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Putnam, Ct. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Louise’s memory to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Convent, 600 Liberty Hwy, Putnam, CT 06260. For Memorial guestbook, visit www.GilmanAndValade.com