BETHEL - Walter Jakob Lehner, 90, of Bethel CT, loving husband of 67 years to Esperanza (Hernandez) Lehner died peacefully on October 10, 2019 at Danbury Hospital, surrounded by his family. Walter was born in Oberuzwil, Switzerland, son of the late Anna (Zimmerman) Lehner and Emil Lehner both of Switzerland. Walter served in the Swiss Army and then attended various Chef schools throughout Switzerland and France, leaving Europe at the young age of 20 to pursue the American dream. While in New York City he met his future wife and love of his life, Esperanza Hernandez (who had immigrated from Mexico) while at an English-speaking class – where they both spoke Italian to each other to communicate. After becoming an American citizen Walter then served his country in the U. S. Army; and then later married in New York City in 1952, they moved to Brooklyn NY to start a family. Having children prompted a move to Bethel, Connecticut where they have resided for the past 56 years. Walter and his family are longtime parishioners of St. Mary Church. He was a fervent Catholic who loved God. Walter was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. As a self-starter, he was co-owner of A&J Restaurant, head chef at Cobbs Mill Inn, then became the owner of the The Ridgefield Coffee Shoppe and later, The Hearth Restaurant in Brookfield. He loved to be outside working in the yard, listening to a clean joke, celebrating Oktoberfest, family BBQs, attending professional soccer games, visiting historic sites and vacationing on the Jersey shore. But his passion was cooking, whether he was giving cooking lessons to his grandchildren or hosting Monday night dinners for his family. He loved gathering together, catching up on events, and see everyone enjoy his homemade dinner and dessert, which he made lovingly with Espie. After semi-retirement, he and Espie traveled whenever they could, either to Estes Colorado, Mexico, Missouri, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Long Beach Island, Manasquan, or Mohegan Sun for a little bit of gambling. He absolutely loved being surrounded by his beloved wife and family right at home! Walter is pre-deceased by his daughter, Beatrice. In addition to his wife, Esperanza, Walter is survived by his children, Sylvia Luce and her late husband Chester of Wisconsin, Walter Lehner and his wife Mary Ellyn of Bethel, MaryAnn Preisig and her husband James of Missouri, Robert Lehner and his wife Victoria of Brookfield, and Cindy Iazzetta and her husband Vince of Bethel. Walter was a loving grandfather (and great grandfather) who adored his eleven grandchildren Dana, Brett, Bryan, Stephen, Anneli, Deanna, Bella, Oleg, Joseph, Aria and Cole and two great grandchildren Ella and Theo. The grandchildren loved their ‘Papa’! He is also survived by many nieces and nephews. Walter was one of five children, pre-deceased by his loving parents Emil and Anna, and siblings, Anneli, Emil, Hans and Olgeli, all of Switzerland.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 am on Wednesday, October 16th in Saint Mary Church, Bethel, CT. Burial will be at St. Mary Cemetery, Bethel, CT. The family will receive friends at the Bethel Funeral Home, 215 Greenwood Ave, Bethel, CT on Tuesday, October 15th from 5 pm through 7 pm. Memorial contributions in lieu of flowers are requested to be made to Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury, CT.