MERIDEN — Family, friends and former colleagues of Walter A. Shamock Jr. mourned the loss of a man they said was always friendly, despite political differences, and always fought for his city.
Shamock, who less than two weeks ago sat in his last City Council meeting after 28 years of public service, died in his home Friday morning after a brief illness, his family confirmed. He was 89 years old.
Former City Council member Tony Tomassetti, reached Friday evening, recalled when he and Shamock, members of opposing parties, would often argue during council meetings.
“But after the meeting was over, we were good friends again. We were always good friends regardless,” said Tomassetti, who added that the city of Meriden “lost a guy that was fighting for the people of Meriden all the time. Walt put them first before himself. They’ll never make another Walt Shamock.”
Shamock, a former realtor and Korean War veteran, was a longtime postal worker before he retired and joined the Meriden City Council in 1989.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who said he was in disbelief and saddened to learn of Shamock’s passing, described him as a city councilor who was “always the one who spoke his mind and served the city and all our residents.”
“He’s going to be remembered for his lifetime of dedication to this city. We will forever remember his legacy,” Scarpati said.
Lois DeMayo, chairwoman of the We the People Party to which Shamock belonged, said her longtime friend’s legacy in Meriden politics is that he was “honorable.”
“By that I mean, he was
honest,” DeMayo said. “You couldn’t find a more honest person than Walter. Good or bad, he would let you know. He was honest, always present, funny to be around. He was just a great guy all around.”
DeMayo knew Shamock long before the We The People Party began. She remembers when they were children, sledding on the hillside at City Park — when he was like an older brother.
Gary Shamock, one of Walter Shamock’s three children, described his father as a “great man.”
“He cared about other people. He would give you the last dollar in his wallet. If he had 50 cents, he would make it a dollar,” Gary Shamock said.
Scarpati noted that Walter Shamock had served on two committees during his City Council tenure: Finance and Public Works and Parks & Recreation.
“On the Finance Committee he was known to scrutinize every single contract that was to be approved — to be sure the city was getting the best deal,” Scarpati said, adding that while on the public works committee, the elder Shamock and his son Gary Shamock helped spearhead improvements, including cleanups and headstone repairs at East Cemetery.
Mark Benigni, a former mayor and now school superintendent for Meriden, said he had known Walter Shamock for more than 20 years.
“Meriden definitely lost a special man,” Benigni said. “Walt was always a gentleman. It didn’t matter whether he agreed with you on an issue or not, he was always respectful. And caring. My heart goes out to his wife and his family.”
Bob Williams Jr., another We The People Party member of the City Council, said Walter Shamock was a mentor to him. Williams is entering his 10th year on the council.
“He took me under his wing,” Williams said. “It’s a very tragic loss to the residents of Meriden. Walt can’t be replaced. He really got along with everybody. Even if there was a disagreement, I don’t think you could get mad at Walt.”
Williams said after each council meeting had adjourned, he would always make a point to wait for Shamock, so they could walk to his car. He would cherish those moments after meetings, just the two of them walking to the parking lot.
During those walks, they would rarely talk about politics. It was always about family.
“Walt was always asking how’s my grandson?” Williams said. He, in turn would ask about his colleague’s wife, Norma Shamock. “It very rarely was about politics, or what happened that particular night at a council meeting. It was just two friends walking, hand and hand — walking with my mentor.”
Williams said he learned from his mentor and friend, to take disagreements in stride.
“It’s OK to disagree. Just because you disagree, you don’t have to have a bitter side to your conversation,” Williams said. “You can stand up for your rights, but there’s no need to have a grudge.
“At the end of the day, Walt made sure he was a friend,” Williams added.