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Bill Beyea, 79, Weston Jazz Musician

WESTON, Conn. – William "Bill" Minner Beyea, of Weston, died April 25 in Danbury Hospital after a brief illness. He was 79.

Beyea was an accomplished jazz musician, playing numerous reed and woodwind instruments in college and traveling to Europe with the Nassau Jazz Band.

He was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., on Jan. 3, 1933, to Archibald and Mary Eleanor Minner Beyea. He attended grade school and high school in Pleasantville, N.Y., then  graduated from Colgate University in 1955.

For over 10 years, Beyea played clarinet and saxophone in the Finger Lake Five, a jazz and Dixieland band that opened for Billie Holiday at her final performance in New York City. He played to an audience of over 24,000 at the 1958 New York Jazz Festival, performed on the Jerry Lewis Telethon and made a number of records.

Beyea was a frequent guest player at Eddie Condon's Jazz Club and Jazz at Noon in New York, and he continued to play locally throughout his life. He worked at Time, Inc. and Newsweek, where he was able to travel extensively, and later at Merrill Lynch and Mass Mutual.

He spent the last 30 years as an independent insurance agent and financial planner, contributing to a financial column in the Westport News. In addition to his love of all things musical, Beyea was one of the early members of Cedar Point Yacht Club in the 1960s and loved to sail.

Beyea spent many summers with his family vacationing in Truro on Cape Cod and loved traveling with his wife throughout Europe. He was also a gourmet cook and wines and spirits connoisseur.

He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Gale Ann; a son, William "Bill" (Amy Tyler) Martin Beyea, of Winston Salem, N.C.; a stepson, Walter (Tom) Phillips, of Sandy Hook, Conn.; a stepdaughter, Julie Phillips (Martin) O’Grady, of Westport; a nephew; three grandchildren and a great-niece. He was predeceased by his stepmother, Lucille Baily Beyea; a sister, Alison Maude Beyea; and his first wife, Margaret Morrissey Beyea.

A memorial celebration will be held at Cedar Point Yacht Club at a later date. Harding Funeral Home is responsible for arrangements.

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