Friends remember Yale designer Anton Sovetov for his loyalty, love of hiking, art, games and noodles

NEW HAVEN — Anton Sovetov was a loyal friend with a wide range of interests, whose death left his friends feeling a hole in their lives.

Sam Gold, who called Sovetov his best friend, had already purchased his birthday present and Sovetov had already paid his share of a rental for an annual trip to Provincetown, Mass.

“He loved it and we were so looking forward to going back this summer,” said Gold, who met Sovetov when Sovetov came to New Haven to attend Yale School of Art in 2014. “We became friends quickly. was my best friend in New Haven,” Gold said.

Sovetov, 44, a graphic designer known for his innovative and colorful posters, message board posts and COVID-19 informational materials, was found deceased April 30 on a beach in Southold, NY, at the end of the North Fork of Long Island. He was last seen Feb. 5 on video at the Elm City Market on Chapel Street, buying groceries.

The Adirondack Mountains, films by Frenchmen Jacques Tati and Peter Greenway from Wales, Japanese graphics, video games, books and the tabletop game Magic: The Gathering were among Sovetov’s passions. As a downtown resident, he frequented Criterion theaters and loved the Mecha Noodle Bar, Gold said.

“Every time I saw him he would give you a big hug and had a big smile on his face,” said Gold, who lives in Branford and is executive director of the Council of Lower Connecticut Governments.

“He was always ready for anything and always had a good time. He had a circle of friends who really acted like family here,” Gold said. “Anton was witty, intelligent, observant and direct, as direct as Russians can be. He was always sincere and caring and just used his wit to lighten moods and what I appreciate about Anton is that is that he has enriched the lives he has touched.

Sovetov was born on June 15, 1977 in St. Petersburg. Her mother Victoria Sovetova, who Gold said worked in the hospitality industry before the pandemic, has since moved to a dacha outside of town.

As an art lover, “he loved going to MassMOCA”, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. Gold said he had tickets for them to see Kraftwerk, a German electronic music group, for Sovetov’s birthday: “We were going to go to the museum and the concert and other friends were going.” Gold has Sovetov’s note as well as his birthday present, “this beautiful set of books on Jacques Tati.”

Gold said Sovetov was the friend he met most often for hikes, dinners, art shows and movies. “The last movie we saw was ‘The French Dispatch’ before everything was shut down for COVID,” he said.

“He was more introverted, but he enjoyed getting together with close friends,” Gold said. “His closest friends were people outside of work and outside of Yale. Work was work and friends were friends. Three of his friends had attended the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, the Netherlands, with him and joined him at the Yale School of Art.

Each year, a group hiked 31/2 miles to “the ever-wilderness part of the high peaks of the Adirondacks,” Gold said. “It’s off the grid, no electricity, no cell phones and we would have a great time and Anton used to go there every year. I showed him his first mountains. He had never seen a mountain before.

They also took a trip to the peaks of the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen, Colorado in June 2021.

Mark Oliver met Sovetov through Gold around 2015, when he took a trip to New Haven from California. He moved to New Haven in 2019. “He would drop everything to come and help you. Fiercely loyal and a nice, kind man,” Oliver said.

“Before COVID, Anton was my movie buddy,” Oliver said. They would go to the Criterion and then to Mecha. “There were always noodles, always noodles.”

Oliver, from England, said: “The thing about Anton is that he has a really dry mind, which as an Englishman with a dry mind I love. … We immediately clicked because we had a similar sense of humor. They would find funny things about America that others would miss, he said.

Marvin de Jong from New Haven also met Sovetov while a student in The Hague. “When he disappeared, it didn’t seem so real. It is difficult right now to process it,” he said.

At the Royal Academy of Art, “there were no rally courses to speak of. You weren’t sitting in a class being lectured,” de Jong said. “You would have a mission. … We worked together at school, lots of conversations and we showed each other work and talked about work.

At Yale, they would walk around East Rock Park “and talk about whatever was bothering us,” de Jong said. “He was huge. He was over 6 feet tall and this tall Russian, but he loved bird watching and he loved nature.

Joe DiMaggio spends most of his time with Sovetov hiking or playing Magic: The Gathering. “Anton introduced me to a bunch of other people at Yale who play there,” he said. “I thought it was always associated with children, but it was a very complex game. He would enjoy learning all these complex strategies to win.

While Sovetov was “a very shy person, he really came alive when he played,” said DiMaggio, a distant relative of the Yankee star.

DiMaggio, who works in Yale’s Registrar’s Office, has also been on the Adirondacks trips and said, “Anton knew a lot about foraging. As we hiked these 10 mile hikes he was picking up these mushrooms. He would know what was safe to eat and he would cook them.

DiMaggio said Sovetov could have made a name for himself in graphic design. “I think if he had the opportunity to do something bigger, he could have designed some really big, beautiful things that would have made a difference in the world,” he said.

Dolina Vasilyeva, who also studied in The Hague, was a year behind Sovetov at Yale and now lives in New York. “He reminded me of my friends in St. Petersburg because he’s also pretty laid back,” she said.

“He was the first person I met when I arrived in New Haven. He was showing me around,” Vasilyeva said.

Another friend, Paulo Seixas, wrote in an email: “Anton and I share a deep passion for design. I have never met anyone who spoke this language so well and understood the inherent challenges of being true to yourself and the tension between being creative and making a living from it.

Seixas said, “There was always a kindness and an unrelenting passion for everything he did. He approached life with a naivety and depth of understanding so hard to describe.

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