Dwight Needels wasn’t born in Meriden but after living 24 years here he learned to call it home.
And those who served with Needels in the city’s environmental groups are glad he did.
Needels, 62, died Monday surrounded by his family in Walnut Creek, California. He was remembered for helping to reshape and protect the city’s natural resources.
Needels’ love for mapping led him to track the city’s brooks over a decade ago. He helped reveal the choked culverts underneath development that caused the city’s chronic flooding problem, and he helped develop the solution that dramatically changed downtown.
He held roles on various land use boards, including president of the Meriden Land Trust and chairman of the Flood Control Implementation Agency. He also spent years studying, mapping and protecting city land.
“Dwight had a significant impact on our city, especially his work on flood control and the linear trail with Meriden Land Trust,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “I told him when he left for California, ‘We’re going to miss you, but you’re not going to be forgotton,’ because everywhere you look, you’re going to see Dwight’s work. He helped shape the landscape of our city.”
A scientist by training, Needels began working at Bristol-Myers, where he managed labs on the central nervous system and cell biology before the company merged with Squibb in the late 1980s. He left to work in graphic design and founded Trans Lucidia Computing where he developed and provided scientific design application training. Needels was later offered a documentation manager position in California, and left Meriden in 2015.
Needels was born in Hays, Kansas, in 1955 and his family moved around before settling in Richardson, Texas in 1962. He graduated from J.J. Pearce High School and went on to attend McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, where he met his wife, Theresa.
After graduating from McMurry, he earned a master’s of science and dual doctorate degree in biochemistry and neuroscience at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Needels was a Connecticut resident for 28 years, where he worked in the pharmaceutical and computer technology fields.
After all his contributions to Meriden, the City Council and Scarpati acknowledged his service to the city with a citation in 2015.
“Dwight was a great human being, a devoted husband to his wonderful wife, children and grandchild,” said Robert Pagini, a fellow conservationist. “Even though he wasn't a native of Meriden, his outgoing and welcoming personality helped him make many friends here.”
Pagini, Needels and the late Phil Ashton fought for the preservation of Chauncey Peak and Giuffrida Park through a proposed accord with the abutting Suzio Trap Rock Quarry Co., which was one of his most sought after goals. As President of The Meriden Land Trust, Needels spearheaded an effort to preserve the Bilger Farm, in the shadow of Chauncey Peak.
Needels also loved to spend time singing and playing guitar with friends and family, finding frogs and salamanders with his granddaughter, and enjoying the wonders of the sky.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday July 7, at a place to be determined by the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Meriden Land Trust, P.O. Box 1745 Meriden, CT 06450.