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Claire Bannister



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Founder and CEO of Gordon Fraser Gallery, Ltd., U.S., Newtown, Conn.

August 24, 1929 to February 15, 2020

Claire Bannister, age 90, passed away peacefully on February 15, 2020.

Born in Schenectady, N.Y., Claire was a larger-than-life figure known for her sophisticated style and savoir faire. Charming, kind, and beautiful, she had a unique ability to put people at ease. Claire was the consummate hostess, and her friends and family looked forward to her annual festive “Hat Party” where each attendee’s homemade hat might top the next. There was always dancing, and singing by the piano, with Claire’s vocal harmony sounding nearly professional. Wherever she went, Claire was easily recognized by her large brimmed hat, oversize sunglasses, and long flowing scarf, usually polka-dot.

Claire left Schenectady in 1947, moving to New York City where she became an actress in radio drama and a model. Her career took off in 1961 when, after traveling to London to visit a friend, she discovered a unique line of greeting cards and charmed its owner into allowing her to bring the products to the United States. At a time when it was unusual for women to go into business, Claire founded Gordon Fraser Gallery, Ltd., U.S. and was its CEO, building it into a substantial company that imported, designed, and distributed greeting cards and other paper goods throughout the country. Claire employed many talented artists and individuals who helped build the company and who became her dear friends.

Many Gordon Fraser Gallery employees were neighbors of Claire’s near her home in Locust Valley, N.Y. When the company moved to Newtown, Connecticut, in 1977, many picked up and moved with her, a testament to their fondness for Claire. The company was eventually sold to Gibson Greetings, where Claire continued to design paper products under her own name. Upon leaving Gibson, Claire maintained an active consulting practice working with many design-related businesses.

In 1993, at the age of 64, Claire was in a serious automobile accident and suffered severe traumatic brain injury from which she was not expected to recover. But in true Claire fashion, she recovered remarkably and began a new chapter in her life. Claire enjoyed many more years of music, laughter, family, and friendships.

Claire was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Bannister, and her siblings, Arnold, Daniel, and M. Terry D’Attilio.

She is survived by her children, Dr Holly Bannister (Douglas Newhouse), Allison Bannister Benabdallah (Mohamed), Robert Bannister, and Jason Bannister (Jonna Adamsson); her grandchildren, Olivia Newhouse Stone (Tyler), R. Nicholas Newhouse, Adam Benabdallah (Sara), Dr Justin Benabdallah, and Hannah Benabdallah; her great-grandchildren, Jackson and Oliver Benabdallah and John Bannister Stone; her sister, Patricia Hagerty (Paul); and many beloved nieces and nephews.

The family plans to celebrate Claire’s life in the spring.

To contact the family, please e-mail clairebannister824@gmail.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Brain Trauma Foundation, 228 Hamilton Avenue, 3rd floor, Palo Alto CA 94301; braintrauma.org.

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