Share this article

print logo

Claudia Ansell, computer programmer, worked at CIA

Sept. 16, 1935 — Nov. 29, 2015

Claudia Ansell of Fredonia, who worked on a CIA team decrypting Soviet Union messages during the Cold War and later became a computer programmer at Rich Products, died Sunday at Erie County Medical Center after a short illness. She was 80.

Born Claudia Fairburn in Niagara Falls, she graduated from LaSalle High School and Bryant & Stratton Business School.

Mrs. Ansell began her career in the late 1950s with the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, working with the team that decrypted messages from what was then the Soviet Union, according to her family.

But she, her former husband and young children moved back to Niagara County at the request of her parents, and settled in Cambria in the early 1960s.

“She put family over career, which a lot of women did at the time,” said her daughter, Gwen Alegre.

While raising a family, she worked as principal stenographer for the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District. After her children were grown, she returned to college to earn an information systems degree from Buffalo State College in 1983, the same year her daughter graduated from the University at Buffalo. She was then employed by Rich Products as a computer programmer until retiring in 1994.

She was an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northern Chautauqua and served on the board of Greystone Nature Preserve. She volunteered with Dunkirk Fredonia Meals on Wheels and played percussion with New Horizons Band, a seniors-only music group.

She was a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, and a member of the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters, Fredonia Opera House and Lake Erie Bird Club.

She enjoyed classical, folk and 1950s music and bird and nature watching.

Her second husband, Harold “Hal” Ansell, died in 2009 after 21 years of marriage. In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Eric Festor; a sister, Frieda Fairburn; and two granddaughters.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in Larson-Timko Funeral Home, 20 Central Avenue, Fredonia.