Paula Joanne Shiff Shemitz

Paula Joanne Shiff Shemitz was born July 27, 1931 to Phillip and Harriet Shiff in New Haven, Connecticut.  She died Friday, May 20, 2022 peacefully surrounded by her family at Yale New Haven Hospital.  She was 90 years old.

Paula was a product of New Haven Public Schools and the Day School, from which she graduated in 1948.  Thereafter she attended Smith College and graduated in 1952 with a degree in AmericanStudies, which remained an abiding interest throughout her life.

In 1953 she married Sylvan Shemitz, also of New Haven, and moved to Woodbridge, where she continued to live until her death. Raising a family and supporting the growth of the lighting design and manufacturing businesses created by Sylvan was the focus of her life but she also had a successful career.  From 1953 to 1956 Paula served as a social worker with the Department of Social Services in New Haven, an occupation that had a profound impact on her.  After leaving social work, she participated in numerous volunteer activities, never seeking the spotlight or any leadership position, but working diligently to serve the underserved.  One of her favorite projects was the “Art Goes to School” program in the New Haven Public Schools, where she had a chance to bring her love of art and American history to children.  While studying for a masters’ degree in Library Science at Southern Connecticut State College, she volunteered as a children’s librarian in the Woodbridge Public Library, where she later became the head librarian.

After leaving that post, Paula joined the New Haven Free Public Library system.  She worked as a librarian at different branches around the city for a number of years, finally moving to the Main Library to take a position as head of public relations.  In that capacity, she organized many public outreach programs and projects for both adults and children.  Most notable of these was the bi-centennial quilt project she organized for the library, bringing volunteer quilters together to learn about quilting and create a community bi-centennial memory in the form of a quilt that still hangs in the Main Library.

Soon after retiring from the library, Paula joined Sylvan’s firm, Sylvan R. Shemitz Designs, as the human resources officer until her retirement in 2006.

Throughout her married life, Paula delighted in sailing with her husband on their sloop, the Light Fantastic, on which they explored the entire Eastern seaboard from Nova Scotia to Bermuda, meeting people and making fast friends along the way.

Paula is survived by her three daughters, Julie Jane Shemitz, of Los Angeles, California, Elizabeth Deane Shemitz-Smith, of Woodbridge, Connecticut, and Allison Kate Schieffelin, of New Haven and Nantucket, Massachusetts, two grandchildren, Charlotte Anna Shemitz-Smith and James “Ace” Evan Smith, of Woodbridge,and her brother, the Honorable Alan H.W. Shiff (ret’d.), of Bethesda, Maryland and Nantucket, Massachusetts.

​Funeral services will be held in person on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at 10:30am at the Chapel at Congregation B’nai Jacob, 75 Rimmon Road, Woodbridge, Connecticut 06525.  The service will also be live-streamed on the B’nai Jacob website: https://www.bnaijacob.org.  Internment will be immediately after at the B’nai Jacob Memorial Park, Wintergreen Avenue, New Haven Connecticut 06515.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to Yale New Haven Hospital, Office of Development, PO Box 1849, New Haven, CT 06508-9979, 203-688-9644; Email: giving@ynhh.org.  or the Diaper Bank of Connecticut, 370 State Street, Suite 4, North Haven, CT 06473, Email  kim@thediaperbank.org, 203-934-7009 in memory of Paula Shemitz.


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1 Comment

  1. Bob Abeshouse said,

    05.29.22 at 10:10 am

    Dear Julie, Allie and Lizzie,

    I was so sorry to hear about the death of your Mom this week. She was a wonderfully warm and caring person, an upbeat person who I always enjoyed being around. Paula was in my life from the beginning, and someone I truly regarded as family. I will miss her, and feel privileged to have had her as a part of my life. She will forever have a warm and special place in my memories.

    My heartfelt condolence to you all. I am sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral as I was in Georgia filming. But Paula was very much in my thoughts this week.

    Bob Abeshouse