It’s always interesting to find out what famous people have ties to your community…know of anyone that we missed? Leave us a comment below!
Ted Danson’s fifth great-grandfather, Oliver Smith, built a home in Stonington sometime around the year 1760. Smith commanded a tiny militia force that staved off a British attack on Stonington during the summer of 1775, just after the start of the American Revolution. The group’s actions saved the town from destruction.
Peter Bradford Benchley
An American author, screenwriter, and ocean activist, Benchley is known as the author of the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for both cinema and television, including The Deep, The Island, Beast, and White Shark.
After a stint in Washington as a speechwriter for Lyndon B. Jonston, the Benchleys lived in various houses, including an island off Stonington, Connecticut where son Clayton was born in 1969. Benchley wanted to be near New York, and the family eventually got a house at Pennington, New Jersey in 1970. Benchley worked by winter in his Pennington office, and in the summer in a converted chicken coop at his wife’s family’s farm in Stonington. The idea for Jaws was inspired by the several great white sharks caught in the 1960s off Long Island and Block Island by the Montauk charter boat captain Frank Mundus.
Ruth Ann Buzzi
An American actress, comedian, and singer, Buzzi is best known for her performances on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from 1968–73, for which she won a Golden Globe Award and received five Emmy nominations.
Buzzi was born at Westerly Hospital, Westerly, Rhode Island, the daughter of Rena Pauline (1909–1988) and Angelo Peter Buzzi (1900–1964), a nationally recognized stone sculptor. She was raised in the village of Wequetequock in the town of Stonington, Connecticut in a rock house overlooking the ocean at Wequetequock Cove, where her father owned Buzzi Memorials, a business that her older brother Harold (1930–2019) operated until his retirement in 2013.
Buzzi attended Stonington High School, where she was head cheerleader.
Sergio Franchi was an Italian-American tenor and actor who enjoyed success in the United States and internationally after gaining notice in Britain in the early 1960s. In 1962, RCA Victor signed him to a seven-year contract and in October of that year Franchi appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed at Carnegie Hall. Sol Hurok managed Franchi’s initial American concert tour.
During this period, Franchi became estranged from his wife Yvonne, and (with their children now grown) he moved back to his Manhattan apartment. Contemplating some slowdown towards a future retirement and wishing to draw his extended family closer, Franchi purchased a 240-acre estate in Stonington in September 1979.
James Ingram Merrill
An American poet, James Ingram Merrill was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1977 for Divine Comedies. Although most of his published work was poetry, he also wrote essays, fiction, and plays.
Merrill’s partner of three decades was David Jackson, a writer and artist. Merrill and Jackson met in New York City after a performance of Merrill’s play The Bait at the Comedy Club in 1953. Together, Jackson and Merrill moved to Stonington, Connecticut in 1955, purchasing a property at 107 Water Street (now the site of a writer-in-residence program, the James Merrill House, sponsored by the Stonington Village Improvement Association in Stonington Borough). For most of two decades, the couple spent winters in Athens at their home at 44 Athinaion Efivon. Greek themes, locales, and characters occupy a prominent position in Merrill’s writing.