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Meriden colleagues remember political trailblazer Amelia Mustone

Meriden colleagues remember political trailblazer Amelia Mustone

MERIDEN — Former state Sen. Amelia P. Mustone, who was revered by many as a trailblazer for women in politics during the 1970s and 80s, died this week at the age of 90.

Mustone represented the 13th Senate District, which includes all of Meriden, from 1978 to 1994, and also served on the Meriden Board of Education for many years prior, including as the board’s president from 1974 to 1978.

Mustone died Sunday, a few days after her husband of almost 70 years, John, died on June 29, at 92, according to her obituary.

Colleagues remembered Mustone, a Democrat, for her intelligence, sincerity and being “ahead of her time” as a policymaker on issues she cared most about, including equal pay, workplace equality and abortion rights.

“These are issues that mattered to Amelia that she worked on long ago and really was at the start of the whole movement of those equality issues,” said former state Sen. Thomas Gaffey, a friend of Mustone who succeeded her in the 13th District from 1995 to 2011.

When Mustone was first elected to the Senate in 1978, there were very few women in the General Assembly, particularly in the Senate, Gaffey said. During her time in office, Mustone did a lot to encourage other women to get involved in public service

“She really did blaze a trail for many women in this state that followed her and became elected officials,” he said.

Mustone was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1928. As a child of the Great Depression, Mustone credited her personal and academic success to her two older sisters, who cared for her while their parents worked, her obituary said. She came to Meriden with her husband in 1960 and quickly got involved in several community organizations — including the local chapters of the NAACP and the League of Women Voters — where she advocated for social justice and educational equality.

When Mustone announced her candidacy for the 13th Senate District against incumbent Democrat Anthony Miller in 1978, she was seen as an “outsider,” according to a 1978 Record-Journal story. After Mustone won the party’s nomination, Miller challenged her in a primary, which she won 3,580 votes to 2,520.

As a senator, Mustone was respected for putting principles over party and her commitment to the causes she championed.

“Amelia did not take ‘no’ for an answer and she got her way most of the time,” said longtime state Rep. Emil “Buddy” Altobello, who worked with Mustone during his time as a city councilor in the 1990s.

“She was a wonderful woman and a great legislator. She had all the attributes and much more,” Altobello said.

Mustone, a 2018 inductee into the Meriden Hall of Fame, was well-liked among constituents because she was perceived as a politician who was genuine and caring, a reputation she partly earned by often penning hand-written thank you notes or letters of encouragement, Gaffey said.

“She was an incredibly sincere woman that really always remembered people who she met. She just had that extra-special touch,” he said.

After winning eight consecutive terms in the Senate, Mustone retired in 1994 to spend more time with her family, including her husband and six children. She retired at 65 as the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate at the time. Mustone’s retirement surprised many, including Mustone’s own local town committee, which hadn’t been looking for other candidates to run in her place.

“When I hear the name (Amelia Mustone), I think of one thing: principle,” said former Meriden Mayor Joseph Marinan at the time. “Too many of us in politics wet our finger, stick it up in the air and see which way the political wind is blowing. Amelia never did that. I think she always did what she believed was right for Connecticut and her district.”

John Mustone first went to work for Smithcraft Lighting, where he rose to become the company’s representative in Connecticut, according to his obituary. In time, he founded the John Mustone Co., representing many of the industry’s most prominent manufacturers, until his retirement in 1989. Three of his children followed him into the industry, and until his death John remained a senior consultant to the Reflex Lighting Group, his son Paul’s company.

He was a charter member of the Farms Country Club in Wallingford and had a lifelong passion for books, his Italian roots, golf, horse racing, and the Red Sox.

“He was a fine gentleman and a terrific golfer,” Gaffey said. “… John was always by Amelia’s side and in the background. John was quiet, but he was always there supporting her.”

Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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