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Mary Lee Culver Casson, Singer, Actress

Westport resident Mary Lee Culver Casson, a singer and actress, died Oct. 31. She was 78.

Casson was born Feb. 21, 1932, in Richmond, Va. She received a bachelor of arts degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1953 and attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and the Conservatorio de Santa Cecilia in Rome, where she studied opera performance.

Casson appeared in several movies, including "Under Ten Flags" with Charles Laughton and "Five Branded Women." She also starred in the first full-length movie made for Italian television and had her own radio program.

After moving to New York City, Casson performed on stage and in television, including in commercials. She sang at Carnegie Hall, among other venues, and performed as the Angel in the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.

She was a featured soloist in Henry Brant's Grand Universal Circus premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood and was the soprano soloist at several Manhattan churches.

In 1962, Casson married Mel Casson, a syndicated cartoonist with King Features. They moved to Westport in 1967, and for eight years, she was a soprano soloist at Saugatuck Congregational Church.

In 1974, she joined the PTA Cultural Arts Committee. She was on the board of Performers of Connecticut and the Westport Arts Center Music Series as well as town chairman for Opera New England. The Westport Veterans Council awarded her honorary membership for singing "God Bless America" and the "Star Spangled Banner" at the annual Westport Memorial Day parade for 20 years.

Casson also worked as a voice teacher, helping students who performed in Staples High School productions and beyond.

She is survived by her daughter, Culver Casson; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Friday in Greens Farms Congregational Church, 71 Hillandale Road. A reception will follow. The Harding Funeral home, 210 Post Road E., is assisting with arrangements.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association , Connecticut Chapter, 2075 Silas Deane Highway, Suite 100, Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Online condolences can be left on the Harding Funeral home website .

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