Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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Ralph Lerner

William P. Mooney

Ruth B. Byers

Rosann F. Conover

Ivy Jane E. Starr

Marjorie G. Blaxill

Ralph Lerner

Ralph Lerner, 61, recent dean of the Faculty of Architecture at Hong Kong University, and former dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, died on May 7 in Princeton after a battle with brain cancer.

He received his Bachelor of Architecture from The Cooper Union and his Master of Architecture from Harvard University. He worked for Haus-Rucker Architects, Richard Meier, and Ulrich Franzen, before opening his own practice in Charlottesville, Va., and then in partnership with Richard Reid in London, England 1980-1984, until establishing the firm Ralph Lerner Architect PC in 1984.

He taught at the University of Virginia, The Polytechnic of Central London, Harvard, and Princeton, where he was named dean in 1989 and then the George Dutton ’27 Professor of Architecture in 1994. In 2006, he resigned from Princeton, as Professor Emeritus, to become dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, a position he left in April 2011 for health reasons. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

In addition to contributing to numerous publications, he was a frequent lecturer, moderator, advisor, and juror at universities as well as professional architectural design commissions. His own practice achieved international prominence with his 1986 first-prize win, designed with his wife, architect Lisa Fischetti, in the competition to build the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi, India.

His firm continued to do award winning projects both locally and abroad. Ralph Lerner Architect PC’s most recent work includes the award-winning Louise Nevelson Plaza (in conjunction with Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects) in downtown Manhattan, and the Lower School Building at the Princeton Charter School.

He made his biggest mark, however, as an educator. Under his tenure, Princeton became arguably the preeminent school of architecture in the United States. Many of the most important young practitioners were hired by Lerner, and many notable architectural scholars, historians, and theorists either taught at the school or were educated there in the thirteen years he was dean. He had contributed to, or was the subject of, more than one hundred publications; his work was shown in dozens of exhibitions.

At Hong Kong University, Lerner saw an opportunity to create a great international school of architecture, located in Asia, but closely connected to Europe and America as well. This became his ambition. During his tenure, he developed an exceptional, highly motivated young faculty, created joint Studio Programs with the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, among other institutions, and established a branch of the Hong Kong University (HKU) School of Architecture in Shanghai. The HKU School of Architecture was at the beginning to come of age when he died.

He will be remembered for his visionary leadership, his dedicated, thoughtful mentoring, his extraordinary, often ironic, sense of humor and for his generosity of spirit.

He is survived by his wife, Lisa D. Fischetti; his son, Sigmund M. Lerner; his daughter, Esther D. Lerner; a sister, Judith Lerner Brice; and two brothers, Marc and Alan Lerner.

A graveside service was held on May 9 at the Princeton Cemetery, and a memorial service will be held on Friday, June 3 at 10 a.m. at the Princeton Chapel.

Funds in his honor will be established at both the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York and at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. For more information on how to contribute to these funds, please contact Dean Anthony Vidler at; or

William P. Mooney

William (Bill) Paul Mooney, 80, died May 2 at the Princeton Medical Center.

Born in Princeton on February 22, 1931 to John and Anna Grace Mooney, he lived most of his life in Princeton.

A graduate of Rider University, he had a life-long career with Travelers Insurance Company, which took him to Hartford, Conn., and Orlando, Fla. before retiring with his wife, Joan L. (Kyle) Mooney to Troutville, Va. He moved back to Princeton in 2009 to be closer to his family members. He was an avid gardener and outdoorsman.

Predeceased by his wife of 47 years, Joan, he is survived by his daughter, Patty Seitz; his son, Dr. William Mooney; his sister, Marge McAllister; his brother, Bob Mooney; and three grandchildren.

A private family ceremony will be held at a later date. Donations may be made in his name to the National Wildlife Federation or the American Diabetes Association.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton.

Ruth B. Byers

Ruth Beall Byers died April 25 at Stonebridge at Montgomery in Skillman.

Born February 22, 1923 in Pittsburgh, Pa., she was the daughter of John Thomas Beall Jr. and Anna Hancock Beall.

She was a graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School and Carnegie Mellon University, where she was president of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She was married for 63 years to the late Reid Schell Byers, president of the Marine Division of Ingalls Iron Works.

She worked as a model at Pittsburgh department stores and as a secretary at U.S. Steel and DuPont.

For many years, she was a Red Cross volunteer, beginning as a junior volunteer and eventually becoming the Director of Volunteers for the Birmingham, Ala. area. She served on the boards of the Junior League, the Public Library, and the Girls’ Club in Decatur, Ala., where she also chaired the United Fund. She was chair of the Board of Deaconesses of Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

She skillfully played the piano by ear, and she directed a series of cabaret follies as fundraisers for the Jr. League in Uniontown, Pa.

Her memoirs, Love, Ruth, were published by the family in 2006.

Predeceased by her husband, she is survived by her sister, Elizabeth Beall Metzler; her sons, the Rev. Reid S. Byers Jr., and Dr. Thomas Beall Byers; and four grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Red Cross or to Planned Parenthood of Mercer County, 437 East State Street, Trenton, N.J. 08608.

Rosann F. Conover

Rosann F. Conover, 90, died May 4 at her home.

Born in Bement, Ill. to the late William Brendan and Anna Margaret Fleming, she attended the University of Illinois, where she was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority.

She was formerly active with charitable and social institutions, as an officer for the Cradle, a non-profit adoption agency in Evanston, Ill., and a devoted volunteer at the Lake Forest Hospital and later at the University Medical Center at Princeton. She was a member of the Springdale Golf Club, The Present Day Club, the Ladies Auxiliary of the University Medical Center at Princeton, the Nassau Club, and a parishioner of The Aquinas Institute.

Preceded in death by her first husband of over 47 years, George W. Kellner, a Captain with the Fifth Armored Div. in world war II; and her second husband of 16 years, George W. Conover; she is survived by her children, George Kellner, Chuck Kellner, Dan Kellner, and Connie Newcamp; nine grandchildren; and one great grandchild.

She will be remembered by her family as an avid golfer, accomplished seamstress, award winning curler, one who made a great cherry pie, and much more.

A Memorial Mass was celebrated on May 10 at Aquinas Institute, 65 Stockton Street, Princeton.

Calling hours were held on May 9 at The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Cradle, 2049 Ridge Avenue, Evanston, Ill. 60201, or; or the Princeton HealthCare System Foundation, 3626 US Highway Rt. 1 Princeton, N.J. 08540, or

Ivy Jane E. Starr

Ivy Jane Edmondson Starr died May 9 in Newtown, Pa.

Born in Cleveland in 1909, she was the daughter of the nationally-known portrait photographer, George Mountain Edmondson, and received her first training as an artist from her uncle, the Paris-trained American impressionist, William J. Edmondson.

She studied at Smith and Barnard Colleges and after graduating won a competition to continue her training at the Art Students League in New York, where she was in the class of Thomas Hart Benton. In 1932 she married Stephen Z. Starr, a businessman and, later, historian of the American Civil War. In 1942 they moved from New York to Cincinnati, where they resided until 1971.

Until the 1960s, she focused on painting, often selling works for a side of beef to help feed what was then a family of six. Her works at this time included landscapes and paintings in what has come to be called “magic realism.” Thereafter, she turned increasingly to sculpture, mainly in marble and granite, which she collected from quarries throughout the United States.

Following her husband’s death in 1987, she moved to Princeton. During the 1990s, she completed a cycle of eighteen works on “Women in the Old Testament,” now at the Cleveland Artists Foundation. Examples of her work can be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Oberlin College, the Cincinnati Public Library, and other public institutions.

In her later years, she resided at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pa.

She is survived by four children, George Starr, Ivy Starr Minely, Diana Starr Cooper, and S. Frederick Starr; six grandchildren; and 11 great grandchildren.

Marjorie G. Blaxill

Marjorie Gibson Blaxill, 80, of Princeton, died May 2 at her home.

Born in New York City, she was raised in Mahwah, N.J. and lived most of her life in Princeton.

She was a graduate of Mary Washington University, Va., and attended the New York School of Social Work. After graduating from college, she worked as a social worker for the State of New Jersey’s Board of Child Welfare. Assigned to the City of Paterson, she was a caseworker in child protective services, initially with probation and parole, and later shifting to adoptions and helping families. In 1958, after getting married and giving birth to her first of four children, she retired from social work and moved to Princeton where she became a leading civic activist.

Among many positions, she was head of the Princeton Township Local Assistance Board for over 20 years. In 1965, she ran the Princeton Hospital Fete, and then hosted the after party for over 40 years. She was a long time board member of Family Services of America (board president for 3 years), the Princeton Nursery School (board president for 2 years), the Witherspoon-Jackson Association, and NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In 1982, she was honored by the United Way with the prestigious Gerard B. Lambert Award for outstanding community service. In 1988, Family Services of Princeton honored her on their 90th anniversary in a ceremony keynoted by congresswoman Lindy Boggs.

Towards the end of her life, she served as a board member at Mercer County Community College where her leadership included many years on the Nominating Committee, the Executive Committee, and as an Officer of the Foundation Board. In 2008, Mercer County Community College gave her the Spirit of Education award for her years of service to the school.

She was also an avid New York Mets fan, enthusiastic tennis player, and life master in bridge.

The daughter of the late Charles Raymond Corley and Marjorie Gibson; and wife of the late Sidney Blaxill; she is survived by her three sons, Mark, David, and Michael; her daughter, Susan Blaxill-Deal; her twin sister, Corleta Friesen; and eight grandchildren.

The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton. Burial will follow in the Trinity All Saints Cemetery.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton.

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