Volume 75, Number 5 | June 22- 28, 2005

Phyllis Kleban, 96, owned Waverly Inn with husband

By Albert Amateau

Phyllis Abell Dettmers Kleban, who owned and operated the historic old Waverly Inn restaurant in the Village with her late husband Clarence Dettmers from 1937 to 1961, died in her home on Cape Cod on June 14 at the age of 96.

“She was always the consummate lady,” said her niece, Susan Sinta, a retired music teacher of Ann Arbor, Mich., who recalled visiting her aunt in the Village in the 1950s. “She nurtured my musical education by treating me to New York Philharmonic concerts, operas at the Met and Broadway plays,” Sinta added.

Phyllis Abell was born in Boston in 1908 to Walter and Prudence Abell. She grew up in Wollaston, Mass., where she went to Thayer Academy. After graduation from Simmons College in Boston, she came to New York and worked for the magazine Vanity Fair where she was secretary to Claire Booth Luce.

After three years she returned to Wollaston and became secretary to the headmaster of Thayer Academy. In 1937, she married Clarence Dettmers, owner of the Waverly Inn, at 16 Bank St., and moved to the Village.

In letters to her mother during World War II, she made reference to her foster care of several European children,” said her niece.

Waverly Inn, which occupies a building that dates from 1844, is currently operating under its sixth owner, Jane Poirier. “Phyllis called me six years ago when I bought the restaurant,” said Poirier. “She lived near my summer home in Brewster, Mass., and we spent a lovely lunch together talking about the Village,” Poirier said.

Sinta said that Phyllis owned several pictures of the Waverly Inn painted more than 50 years ago by Alice Fonda, a relative of the actor Henry Fonda.

After World War II, Phyllis and Clarence Dettmers also ran The Tavern, a Grafton, Vt., restaurant for six years. Clarence Dettmers died in 1961 and Phyllis continued to run Waverly Inn until 1961 when she married Leon Kleban, an advertising executive. The Klebans moved to Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod in 1976 and after Kleban died in 1983, Phyllis moved to Thirwood Place, a retirement home in South Yarmouth, Mass.

Phyllis was also an editor and writer for the American Committee to Preserve Abu Simbel, the ancient Egyptian site on the Nile which was covered by the artificial lake created by the Aswan Dam, her niece said.

In addition to her niece, her sister-in-law Evangeline Abell, of Dennis, and several cousins also survive.

Hallett Funeral Home of South Yarmouth was in charge of arrangements. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 23 at Thirwood Place, 237 N. Main St., S. Yarmouth, Mass.

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