September 19, 2017 12:26PM
By Jesse Buchanan Record-Journal staff
SOUTHINGTON — He never held public office, but Art Cyr was such a fixture at town meetings that officials would sometimes joke they couldn’t start before he arrived. A Southington booster, Cyr got the moniker of the town’s tenth councilor for his consistent presence in Town Hall and his involvement in municipal affairs.
Cyr died Sunday at the age of 67 after a bout with cancer.
Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio held a moment of silence for Cyr before Monday’s meeting. Despite a bombastic and even abrasive style, Cyr won the respect of many town officials with his dedication to Southington and his genuine interest in the town’s well-being.
“I’ll miss his insight. I’ll miss his presence at the council meetings,” said Dawn Miceli, a Democratic town councilor who had agreements and disagreements with the man she called a “the quintessential gadfly.”
“I think the world of Art,” said Cheryl Lounsbury, Town Council vice chairwoman. “One thing you could always say about Art is that he always had the best interest of the town at heart.”
His son Kevin Cyr, a Southington resident, said his father didn’t want a funeral or wake. Instead he’s planning a celebration of life that will be structured like town meetings Art Cyr attended.
“I’m going to set it up like a little town meeting, do an agenda, have a roll call, have public comments if anyone wants to get up and say anything about him,” Kevin Cyr said.
The celebration is scheduled for Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge, 76 Main St.
Art Cyr grew up in Thomaston and moved to Southington Manor condominiums in the early 1970s. Kevin Cyr said his father’s first introduction to Southington was the Apple Harvest Festival and that he was impressed with the town. After Art Cyr’s divorce, his son said he took the condo association “as his second wife.”
Town government was his third wife, according to Kevin Cyr. The former property manager and salesman collected documents, researched issues and took pride in having the only successful ethics complaint against a town official.
“He made friends and he made enemies. I think most of the politicians eventually came to respect him. He was tough to figure out for them,” Kevin Cyr said. “Art’s only agenda was what was best for the town of Southington.”
Miceli, a supporter of turning the town-owned Gura building downtown into an arts center, was on the opposite side of Art Cyr who didn’t think the building should be salvaged. Miceli said Art Cyr later publicly apologized for opposing the move after the art center had been established.
“That really showed a man of integrity and character. How many people do that?” she said. “It takes a good man or woman to say, ‘You know what, I was on the wrong side of the aisle for that.’”
Attending all types of town meetings gave Art Cyr insight that was beyond most elected town officials, according to Miceli.
Art Cyr unsuccessfully tried to get on the Town Council as an independent candidate. Although he didn’t hold public office, Town Manager Garry Brumback said he was an influential resident, although he didn’t always agree with his methods.
The two spent hours together going over town issues.
“I firmly believe an informed public is an easier public to work with,” Brumback said. “He had a role to play in that. He talked with a lot of people…It was important for me to give him the best information I could provide.”
“He is genuinely a loss,” Brumback said. “He did a service in his role as a watchdog over local government.”
Kevin Cyr said friends can donate to the Southington Community Services in Art Cyr’s name in lieu of flowers.