Noted actress and former Westporter Anthonette Bobra Suiter Harris died Friday. She was 97 years old.
Born in 1923 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, her life spanned the early age of aviation and the automobile, to the space age and digital era.
An avid and early adopter of her prized iPhone and iPad, she stayed current and opinionated on all issues, especially political, and was always guided by her strong Catholic faith.
Moving to a small farm in Omaha with her family during the Depression, the family got along by trading eggs and produce for gasoline and other staples.
Her father’s self-taught love of the classics, from Plato to Shakespeare and beyond, led to her appreciation of opera. Every Saturday, the family gathered around the radio to hear live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. Bobra imagined herself singing professionally.
She enjoyed watching movie matinees during the golden age of Hollywood. That — and talent — led to an audition for Lerner and Loewe for the Broadway company of “Brigadoon,” touring in Chicago. Loewe listened to her from a seat far up in the balcony, and hired her on the spot.
FShe had roles in “Kiss me Kate” and “Carousel” in New York. She married Broadway dancer Bill Harris in 1950, a year after meeting in “Brigadoon.”
Her first child arrived in 1953. Bobra continued to act in early television. She specialized in Tennessee Williams’ plays, with a lead in “Summer and Smoke.” The Harris family moved to Old Mill Beach in 1956. A number of theater friends had already moved there.
When her youngest son started school she went back to acting in earnest. She spent the next 27 years on the CBS soap opera “The Guiding Light,” and appeared in numerous small parts on the second cast of Saturday Night Live with Jim Belushi. She had bit parts in “The Godfather,” “Marathon Man, ” “Trading Places,” “The Awakening” and others.
Her last appearance at the Westport Country Playhouse was in a 1974 production of “Tobacco Road.”
She was a founding member of the Actors’ Workshop with Keir Dullea, in Westport.
In her spare time she served as president of the Westport Young Woman’s League. She was also an avid bridge player.
A proud member of SAG and AFTRA, she was made a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decades ago. She received DVDs to vote on for the upcoming Academy Awards at the time of her death.
She would pounce on the New York Times Sunday crossword, and usually completed it.
A remarkable woman of great strength and perseverance in the face of adversity who relied on her faith to get her through, she lived for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She made a great effort every day to stay in touch, support, and mentor them with a quick phone call, text or email.
She was predeceased by her husband of 50 years, William R. Harris Sr., in 2000; her middle son Scott Anthony, a career CIA officer who died in 2008, and her 3 brothers. She is survived by her sisters, Rosemary Anderson of McLean, Virginia and Jeri Rizzuto of Omaha; sons Bill Jr. of Westport and Craig of Longmont, Colorado, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grand-children.
A mass of Christian burial will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday (March 24) at Assumption Church, with burial to follow at Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Road.
Donations in Bobra’s name may be made to the AAAA Scholarship Foundation, which is establishing a memorial permanently endowed scholarship in her and her husband’s name, or the Smilow Yale Cancer Center.