Bobra Suiter Harris 1923-2021
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An amazing mother, Catholic woman, and actress, Anthonette Bobra Suiter Harris died Friday morning March 19, 2021 at the age of 97.
Born on August 12, 1923 in Council Bluffs, Iowa to Anthonette and Roy Suiter, her life spanned the early age of aviation and the automobile, to the space age and digital era.
An avid and early adopter of her prized iPhone and iPad she stayed current and opinionated on all issues, especially political, and was always guided in her discernment by her strong Catholic faith.
Moving to a small farm in Omaha, Nebraska (The Acreage) with her family during the Depression, the family got along by trading eggs and other produce for gasoline and other staples as they dealt with dust storms and financial hardship. Her WWI combat-wounded dad opened a print shop downtown Omaha in the midst of the depression producing business cards and flyers for local companies with the whole family pitching in from folding paper to bookkeeping.
It was her father’s self-taught love of the classics, from Plato to Shakespeare and beyond, that led to an appreciation of opera. The family would gather around the radio set every Saturday to listen to the live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in the 1930s. It was not long before Bobra started imagining herself singing professionally. Add in a healthy dose of movie matinees during the golden age of Hollywood, and some talent, and the next thing you know you are auditioning for Lerner and Loewe for the Broadway Company of Brigadoon that was touring in Chicago. Mr. Loewe himself put her through her paces in the audition, eventually listening to her again and again from a seat far up in the balcony of the theater and hired her on the spot.
From there through her roles in “Kiss me Kate” and “Carousel” back in New York, she married Broadway dancer Bill Harris in 1950, having met in Brigadoon a year earlier.
When her first child arrived in 1953 she continued to act in early television and specialized in Tennessee Williams’ plays, with a lead in “Summer and Smoke”. The Harris family moved to the Old Mill Beach area of Westport, Connecticut (The Country) in 1956 where a number of their theater friends had already moved.
When her youngest son started attending school she went back to acting in earnest and spent the next 27 years on the CBS soap opera “The Guiding Light” and appeared in numerous small parts on the second cast of Saturday Night Live with Jim Belushi, as well as extra and bit parts in “The Godfather”, “Marathon Man”, “Trading Places”, “The Awakening”, and many others.
Her last appearance at the Westport Country Playhouse was in a 1974 production of “Tobacco Road”. She was a founding member of the Actors’ Workshop with Keir Dullea, originally located in Westport and now in East Norwalk, CT.
In her spare time, she was President of the Westport Young Woman’s League and an avid bridge player in the 1960s.
A proud member of SAG and AFTRA she was made a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decades ago and was still receiving DVDs to vote on for the upcoming Academy Awards at the time of her death. Her passion was always the New York Times Sunday crossword that she would pounce upon as soon as it arrived each weekend and would usually complete by Monday afternoon.
A remarkable woman of great strength and perseverance in the face of adversity who always relied on her faith to get her through, she lived for her grandchildren and great grandchildren and made a great effort every day to stay in touch, support, and mentor them with a quick phone call, text, or email.
She was predeceased by her husband of 50 years, William R. Harris Sr., in 2000, her middle son Scott Anthony, a career CIA officer who died in 2008, and her three brothers. She is survived by her two sisters, Rosemary Anderson of McLean, VA and Jeri Rizzuto of Omaha, NE; two sons, Bill Jr. of Westport, CT and Craig of Longmont, CO, five grandchildren and two great grand-children.
A mass of Christian burial will take place at 10 AM on Wednesday March 24, 2021 at the Church of the Assumption, 98 Riverside Ave, Westport CT with burial to follow at Assumption Cemetery on Greens Farms Rd.
Donations in Bobra’s name may be made to the AAAA Scholarship Foundation, Inc., https://www.quad-a.org/Scholarship/Scholarship/How_You_Can_Help.aspx which is establishing a memorial permanently endowed scholarship in her and her husband’s name; or the Smilow Yale Cancer Center, https://www.yalecancercenter.org/gifts/