Craig Self, Wallingford farmer, GOP chairman, remembered as devoted friend, family man

Craig Self, Wallingford farmer, GOP chairman, remembered as devoted friend, family man


R. “Craig” Self Jr. | Contributed

WALLINGFORD — R. “Craig” Self Jr. would gather with 10 to 12 of his friends daily at table 10 at Dad’s Restaurant for an early morning discussion about local happenings and politics.

The former Republican town chairman and local farmer died Saturday after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 77.

Self was a lifelong Republican and an early campaign advisor to Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.

“He always had lots of good advice and assistance,” Dickinson said. “He was an engaged individual and attuned to the workings of the town and the farm.”

Self was also a neighbor of the mayor. Dickinson recalled attending Trivial Pursuit game parties at Self’s home.

“He was an engaging, intelligent, capable and active individual who will be missed,” Dickinson said.

Self was also a dedicated member of a breakfast club in Wilmington, Vermont, where he lived part-time.

“He was a man who could strike up a conversation with anyone,” said his daughter, former Democratic state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo. “He was known to value discussion and debate and loved to ‘get one’s goat.’”

Self was of Scotch-English descent and had a quick, dry wit, Bartolomeo said.

“But he also stayed in touch with almost every friend he ever made,” she said. “He was described as intensely loyal and fiercely devoted by so many.”

Self was born in New Haven in 1940 and was a graduate of Lyman Hall High School’s class of 1958. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1960 to 1964 and graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 1969. His farm was on Grieb Road, where he lived with his wife Barbara Calza Self and their two daughters, Bartolomeo and Elizabeth Craig Self of Norwalk.

“My father was a firm believer there was equality between men and women,” Bartolomeo said. “He encouraged us while working on the farm to know we could do equally as well as a man. He was a feminist.”

Bartolomeo credits her father with helping her feel comfortable while serving in the state Senate, which is mostly made up of men. After he retired, she would occasionally look up and see him in the chambers.

“I would look over and there he was,” she said. “He always supported me.”

Despite being a lifelong Republican, he also had views that could be described as “very liberal,” his daughter said.

“He evolved and changed,” she said. “He had a difficult upbringing on a farm, and he softened with age. With dad, it seemed dramatic. By last year’s election, he was a Bernie (Sanders) supporter.”

Self served as a member of the Lyman Hall VoAg Building Committee, and dedicated his last few years to preserving Wallingford’s farming history though research and publication. As chairman of the Republican Town Committee, he directed numerous political campaigns for local candidates, but appreciated an honest, hardworking politician regardless of party.

Bartolomeo credited his influence on making her a fiscal moderate, and her mother’s influence for her social liberalism.

In addition to farming, Self enjoyed photography, history and politics. He enjoyed duckpin bowling, golfing, country music, stamp collecting, and driving around the country visiting friends from all walks of life.

He had a lifelong career in sales, most recently with D&D filtration of Berlin. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 and was responding to treatment until last winter. His family stayed by his side in his final months.

“We were really fortunate because of the amount of time we spent with him,” she said.

Former Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi, a Republican, recalled working with Self on several campaigns.

“He was a rather unique guy,” Parisi said. “He was a very straight shooter and right to the point. Good news, bad news — you could make book on it. He was a real nice guy to work with.”

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