Lois Schine — one of the last members of a remarkable group of women who moved to Westport in the postwar years, and helped make our community what it is today — died at home July 7, surrounded by her family. She was 95 years old.
Lois was born in 1927 in Brooklyn, to Daniel and Florence Grimm Gildersleeve. The Gildersleeve family came to Massachusetts from England in 1635, and eventually settled in Connecticut.
Lois was a pioneer. She graduated second in her class from Pratt Institute in 1947, with a degree in mechanical engineering. She was the only woman in that program.
She was elected to the Tau Beta Pi honorary engineering society with special designation as an “Honorary Member,” because it was a male-only fraternity. (In the 1960’s Lois was retroactively named a full member.) At Pratt she was a founding member of the Society of Women Engineers. It has since grown into a large international organization.
After college Lois worked for General Electric, in advanced engineering and research. GE was one of the few companies to hire female engineers in the 1940s and ’50s. She also taught engineering courses at Bridgeport University.
Lois met Leonard Schine, an attorney, when he hired her as a consulting engineer. In 1951, they married and had 5 children.
They made their home in Westport, where Lois remained for the next 70 years. While raising children, Lois earned a master’s degree in administrative engineering from New York University.
When her children were of school age, Lois returned to work as an engineering consultant. She then shifted careers, and became director of volunteer services at Bridgeport Hospital, overseeing 700 volunteers. She was president of both the Connecticut Association of Directors of Volunteer Services, and the New England Association of Volunteer Directors.
In 1988 she was named executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, a post she held for 16 years.
In addition to her professional career, Lois contributed much to Westport and the surrounding area. Among her many civic activities, she was a Sacred Heart University trustee for 37 years, a Near & Far Aid Association board member, and a member of the Westport Rotary Club and the Westport Weston Family YMCA.
She served on the Westport RTM for 20 years. She was particularly proud of her work helping create Winslow Park, and having the Planning & Zoning Commission designate it as Westport’s first “Open Space Zone.”
An intrepid traveler, Lois visited far corners of the world. She was an avid skier, and reluctantly gave up the sport at 85 years old. She also played tennis and pursued ice dancing.
Her parenting philosophy was “survival of the fittest.” She took her children whitewater rafting, helicopter skiing, sailing and on safaris, exposing them to a wide range of people, places and experiences.
Lois is survived by her children Leslie Schine (Nils Nilsen), Daniel Schine (Patty Sullivan), Lindsay Schine (Michael Klingher), Lauren Schine and Edward Schine (Brigitta); grandchildren Caleb, Christian and Thomas Schine; Cody Nilsen; Ben, Nathan and Natalie Klingher; Tyler and Kyle Schine and Shannon May, and her beloved dog Kirby. Lois was predeceased by her husband Leonard, grandson Jonathan Schine and sister Joyce Feigenbaum.
A memorial service will be held in the fall.