Libby Bender

SOUTHBURY — Libby Bender, a talented fashion designer and homemaker who devoted herself to family her entire life and who lived most recently in Southbury, passed away Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at the age of 93. She was the wife for nearly 60 years of the late Harold Bender.

A dynamic, independent woman who learned to persevere through tragedy yet remain in love with life, she leaves behind many friends and family members.

Libby was born in 1925 in New Haven. Her parents, Albert and Rhea Goldbaum, struggled in the Great Depression to raise her and her brother, Herman. In 1940, Libby suffered the death of her mother from cancer and her brother soon went to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II; he was away for five years.

Libby graduated from Hillhouse High School in 1943 and left New Haven to pursue a career in fashion in New York City. She studied design, illustration, pattern making and draping at the MacDowell School of Art. To support herself, she worked as an usherette at the famous 8th Street Playhouse, meeting such noted stars as Billy Burke and Ingrid Bergman during premieres. She was in New York’s Times Square when the war ended.

Libby showed great talent in fashion design. She worked her way up in the market, starting at the bottom at Elizabeth Arden, accepting any position and quickly becoming expert in draping, fitting, sketching and designing.

She started her own business supplying samples of original creations, bridal gowns and other apparel. Buyers from well-known department stores were sold from the samples she created and placed orders. During this creative period, Libby also worked for noted design houses such as August Max and alongside a young Oscar de la Renta.

In 1954, Libby met Harold L. Bender, a young journalist and copy writer. They married in 1955 and lived in the town of West New York, where Libby quickly made many lifelong friends.

The couple suffered the loss of their first child, a daughter named Harriet, three days after birth in 1957. Libby and Harold then moved to a newly built housing development in Sayre Woods South, now part of Old Bridge Township, in New Jersey in 1959. In the suburbs the couple again made many friends, raised two children and enjoyed regular visits to the shore.

In the 1970s, to help pay for her children’s college education, Libby enrolled at Rutgers where she earned a degree in education and became a sewing teacher at a nearby vocational high school. Ever the entrepreneur, she began a new business making bridal gowns and veils for the daughters of her New Jersey neighbors in the 1980s and 1990s.

After nearly 40 years in New Jersey, the retired couple moved to Southbury in 1998 to be close to their two young grandchildren.

Libby gave of herself to the end, always thinking of how she could serve her family, especially her children and many cousins. She was always a good friend, making herself available to listen, console or help when needed. Despite some difficult moments in her life, Libby was instilled with an unbridled optimism and love of life.

She leaves her son, Lewis; her daughter, Eve; her daughter-in-law, Doris; her nephews, several cousins and her most beloved grandchildren, Alexandra and Michelle Bender.

The family will begin accepting condolences at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 9, at Munson-Lovetere Funeral Home, 235 Main St. North, Southbury. Services will begin at 11:15 a.m. at the funeral home. Burial will follow at 1:30 p.m. at Beth Shalom Cemetery, 25 Alling St., Hamden.

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