Looking Back: Town remembers Liz Leonard

This week 25 years ago, on July 13, Ridgefield lost Elizabeth (Liz) Leonard to lung cancer, inspiring a paper full of articles, editorials, letters, notes, and even the weekly comic, dedicated to her, her political career, and her effect on the town. She was a state representative, first selectman, selectman, committee member, and in her early years was a reporter for various newspapers. Above all, she was a public servant.

First Selectman Sue Manning wrote, “We have never had a more dedicated town official. We will miss her enthusiasm and aggressive pursuit of what she believed was in the town’s best interest. God bless her and give her peace.”

An editorial stated, “In an age when many politicians are seen as using their positions to serve themselves, Liz Leonard was a true public servant … Liz Leonard has passed, but her spirit of selfless giving remains an inspiration to public servants and volunteers of today and the future.”

A letter read, “You ask, ‘What kind of person was Liz?’ She was the type that when you yourself were down … she would forget all the pain and worries that she carried around at all times, immerse herself into your pain and give you the courage to walk away to face whatever might be bothering you at that time.”

She was also remembered for a specific patriotic outfit, “No matter where I am in the future, every time I watch a Memorial Day parade, I’m going to think of that red, white and blue suit we joked so much about. And I’ll remember the woman who wore it — the woman who gave her love to the town of Ridgefield.”

The central piece celebrating her life covered everything, from her never losing a Ridgefield election, to her incredible debate skills, to her ability to make friends in both parties, all the way to her humor and her kindness. She was universally celebrated and mourned.

“The people of Ridgefield have been very good to me over the years,” Liz said in 1985. “And I have tried my best to repay them with my total dedication.”

50 years ago

The town was preparing for the GOP caucuses in the race for selectman, among other town positions, while the town Democrats were divided over their choice for selectman between Louis Fossi, incumbent, and Robert Moriarty. The town committee was divided 9-7 on their decision, with the seven for Mr. Fossi accusing their opponents of dividing the party. In a statement issued to The Press, the seven said, “We state that the chairman of the town committee was told clearly, firmly, and in such language and with such vehemence as to preclude the possibility of doubt or misunderstanding that the move to unseat Selectman Fossi would result in irreparable harm to the Democratic party.”

Christopher Tors, a summer school student at RHS, was sent home and told that in order to return to summer school, he much shave off his beard.

An editorial stated, “We are not about to take an editorial stance on the desirability or aesthetic qualities of a beard. But if a student wants to let his chin whiskers grow we can’t see why admission to summer school education should be denied to him.”

A Caddyshack-esque war was being waged on woodchucks.

“Tunnel warfare, strategic enclaves, sniping, and peaceful relocation programs — the battle against woodchucks in Redding sounds like a textbook example of anti-guerrilla warfare.”