Donna Louise Ruhling Laviano died unexpectedly in her home in Southbury on Feb. 28. She was 74. She was born and raised in Riverdale, N.Y. to Katherine (“Kay”) and George Ruhling in 1946, and was a survivor from day one, weighing in at only 2 lbs. 10 oz. well before medicine was prepared for such things. Later, she survived childhood polio. She attended Mt. Saint Ursula’s Catholic Schools and graduated from high school as a Regents Scholar in multiple subjects. She attended the University of Michigan as a pre-med major, but while home for the summer after her first year, met her husband, the late William Laviano. They were married in 1965. Donna and her husband settled down in Ridgefield in 1970. They raised four daughters together.
Mrs. Laviano realized her goal of completing her education and received a BFA from the College of New Rochelle, and ultimately went on to receive her law degree from the University of Bridgeport School of Law. After passing the bar and practicing law for several years, she and her husband retired to Hilton Head, S.C., where they spent many years among friends until Bill’s passing in 2002. About 15 years ago, she returned to Connecticut to spend more time with family, settling into Heritage Village. There, she made many friends, with whom she played Scrabble (her favorite board game), enjoyed trivia nights, and hosted many an event. There, she met her late-fiancé, Allen Burgoyne, with whom she spent the last years of her life.
Mrs. Laviano was an extremely talented artist and was known for her ability to take something as simple as a salt shaker and somehow turn it into something beautiful or unique. She also had a photographic memory for color. Her daughters would describe her as brilliant, tough, and big-hearted, with a tendency to correct your grammar at any time, whether she knew you or not. Indeed, as they write this obituary, they are fearful of their mother’s review of it from another realm. She loved film, television and music. She was completely iPhone challenged, yet she loved a good mystery and was an avid reader in her quest for knowledge. While she loved and appreciated a good joke, she was a truly horrible joke-teller, something she willingly accepted criticism for over the years.
Mrs. Laviano was predeceased by her husband, Bill, and her beloved brother, Richard Ruhling. She is survived by her daughters: Kristin Laviano-Rhodes (Jon) of Woodbury; Lauren Laviano King (Jeff) of Aurora, Ohio; Jennifer Laviano of Sherman; and Katie Laviano of Woodbury; six grandchildren (Reed King, Halle King, Julia King, David King, Emmy Swan and Marisa Swan); and several wonderful grand-pets. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 14, at 11 a.m. at the Heritage Hotel in Southbury. Mrs. Laviano would want anyone interested in making a donation in her name to donate to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (missingkids.org). In lieu of flowers, she would appreciate it if everyone would take a few moments to brush up on the difference between “your” and “you’re” and “there,” their,” and “they’re.” To leave an online condolence, please visit www.munsonloveterefuneralhome.com.