WALLINGFORD — At Christmastime in 1985, Ron Gregory dressed up like Santa Claus to deliver a card to Town Hall asking for clean air and water in protest of a then-proposed garbage-to-energy plant.
“I heard there’s a chimney going up on South Cherry Street,” Gregory said, according to Record-Journal archives. “I hear the ash in that chimney might be toxic, and that bothers me,” adding an occasional “ho, ho, ho.”
Along with other members of People Against Garbage Burning, Gregory festooned the lobby’s Christmas tree with trash, including empty fast food containers and juice cans.
Remembered as an attorney, mayoral candidate and political gadfly, Gregory died Aug. 28 of kidney failure and complications from a leg infection. He was 76.
A lifelong resident of Yalesville and graduate of Lyman Hall High School, Gregory ran for mayor as an independent candidate in 1979 and 1981 against Rocco J. Vumbaco, Wallingford mayor from 1974-1983.
"Of course, you're a longshot when you're running against an incumbent who's been in there for a lot of years and you have nothing," Gregory told the Record-Journal in 2007. "You don't have the party organization, etc. But if things are ripe in a town, especially on a local level, a no-party candidate can win."
Gregory worked as a staff attorney for the State Elections Enforcement Commission, investigating illegal actions of politicians, and the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s Election Division from 1968-1975.
Ron Gregory’s brother, Ken Gregory, said working in elections enforcement contributed to a series of heart attacks Ron Gregory suffered, for which he eventually underwent three-way bypass surgery.
Ken Gregory, of Durham, said his brother would go to serve a subpoena or collect records, either with an armed guard or armed himself.
“He had a bomb threat in his car,” Ken Gregory said. “After a while it got to him, and he took an early retirement.”
Ron Gregory was the owner of the Eli Ronken Emporium, a gift shop on Main Street in Durham, for 10 years. The name came from his family; his mother, Elizabeth, himself and his brother.
Elizabeth Gregory went by the name Lisa. Along with Ron Gregory, they sometimes worked together on local political issues, including People Against Garbage Burning.
“My memory is of his mother,” said state Rep. Mary Mushinsky. “She threw herself into whatever issue it was, full power.”
Ron Gregory, Mushinsky said, was the same.
“He was a gadfly and an activist,” she said. “He was right out there.”
His integrity made him a good fit with election enforcement “because he really held politicians to a high standard,” she said.
Ron Gregory’s hobbies included growing irises, cross-breeding and making special varieties, Ken Gregory said.
“People used to come down every year to see his flower beds,” Ken Gregory said.
Ron Gregory was also an author. Books of his available at Wallingford Public Library include “Lessons from Lisa’s Garden,” “Up To My Knees in Water: My Mormon Experience” and “Rhymes and Reason: A Collection of Writings.”
Ron Gregory’s funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Yalesville Funeral Home. He will be interred in Walnut Grove Cemetery in Meriden.