- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2008

Jeanne Viner Bell, who left her mark on Washington´s communications and public relations communities, died May 21 in Los Angeles. She was 85.

A native of California, she was 15 when became the youngest person to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. She later attended UCLA.

At 32, when her first husband, Melvin Viner, died leaving her with two young children, she went to work as a volunteer for United Giver´s Fund, a forerunner of the United Way. Her success at advancing the charity´s mission and fundraising gave her the desire and confidence to go out on her own, and in 1961 she started a public relations firm, the first in the District headed by a woman. She was known as a feminist before anyone commomly used the term.

Her company, Jeanne Viner Associates, early on represented minority ventures, a bold if not radical move in the 1960s, as well as trade and professional associations and organizations engaged in finance, science, health, travel, real estate, nearly every French restaurant in and around the city, and Trader Vic´s.

From the time she founded her business to the time she closed it in 2002, she represented the Wine Institute, the association of California wine producers. Harvey Posert, public relations executive with the Institute and later with Robert Mondavi, recalls that she introduced California wines to reporters and “Washington influentials” by arranging California wine tastings at the State Department and persuading the Nixon White House to begin building a California wine cellar.

In the course of her career, Mrs. Bell was the president of, the American News Women´s Club, the American News Women´s Foundation and the Capital Press Women, which gave her its Woman of Achievement Award in 1982; the previous year, the District of Columbia State, Business and Professional Women´s Clubs recognized her for Outstanding Achievement. She was a director of American Women in Radio and Television and a member of the National Press Club, the International Women´s Media Foundation, the American Association of Disability Communicators and the Cosmos Club.

Mrs. Bell was active in civic and cultural organizations during her career and after her retirement. She sat on the board of Independence Federal Savings Bank and was a member of the International Advisory Board of the Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy, the Board of Visitors of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the Board of Trustees of the University of Bridgeport, the National Board of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and the Board and Public Relations Committee of the Arthritis Foundation of Metropolitan Washington.

She repaid the city that warmly adopted her with service on what has been renamed the Employment and Training Services Advisory Council of the District of Columbia, the Mayor´s Advisory Committee on Resources and Budget, and for six terms the District of Columbia Private Industry Council. She also held presidential appointments to the Advisory Council of the Small Business Administration and the President´s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities.

In 1974, she married J. Raymond Bell, a lawyer, who was an executive with Columbia Pictures Industry and later chairman of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, and a former newspaperman. Mr. Bell died in 1983.

In the last four years of her life, Mrs. Bell had Alzheimer´s disease and was cared for most of that time in the home of her daughter, Karen Viner Fawcett, of the District and Paris, and in the last weeks in the home of her son, Michael Viner, of Los Angeles.

In addition to her son and daughter, survivors include a grandson and three great-grandchildren.

Vincent Anthony Puritano, a security consultant, died April 19 of non-Hodgkin´s lymphoma at his home in Arlington. He was 42. Mr. Puritano’s eight-year battle with lymphoma included several cycles of chemotherapy, radiation, and two bone marrow transplants.

He was a graduate of Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria and received a bachelor’s degree in business and finance from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.

At the time of his death Mr. Puritano was employed by the Veris Group LLC, a security and risk-management firm, working for clients including the Department of Justice and Northrop Grumman.

He earlier worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., American Personal Communications/Sprint Spectrum, United Press International and UNISYS Corp.

Throughout his life, Mr. Puritano enjoyed traveling. He spent much time traveling throughout Europe, on his own, with friends or family. One memorable trip was to Calabria, Italy, during which he and his family traced his grandparents´ birthplace. He was quite moved to have stood in the home where his grandmother was born.

Survivors include his wife, Karen P. Puritano; his parents, Vincent and Margaret Ann Puritano of Annandale; a grandfather, Andrew Bender of Frackville, Pa.; and a brother, Charles A. Puritano of Fairfax Station.