MERIDEN — Friends, family, and colleagues gathered Thursday morning at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center to mourn and remember Walter Shamock Jr., who died Friday at 89 just a few weeks after retiring from 28 years on the City Council.
The service was highlighted by the reading of a letter that President Donald J. Trump sent to Shamock’s widow, Norma, offering his condolences. Family members of Shamock, a Korean War veteran, requested the letter because Shamock was a devoted Trump supporter.
“We were saddened to learn of the loss of your beloved husband, Walter,” Trump’s letter, read aloud at the service by Mayor Kevin Scarpati, stated. “We extend our deepest condolences to you, Lisa, Todd, Gary, and the rest of your family. Our country continues to enjoy the blessings of hard-earned peace and prosperity due to the selfless service of our men and women in uniform. Their sacrifice is deserving of our Nation’s deepest gratitude and endless appreciation. We pray that you find peace in Walter’s life and legacy.”
In telling the story behind the letter, Scarpati said Shamock’s family initially reached out to him and asked if he had connections at the White House or the Trump administration that he could use to get recognition for Shamock.
“Personally, I do not,” Scarpati said at the service. “But in Walt’s love for his country, in Walt’s love for the administration, I made a few phone calls and sent a few emails and with a little bit of luck and the help of God and Walter looking down on us, I have in my hand a letter from the president of the United States.”
The Rev. Will Marotti, pastor of New Life Church, who officiated the service, said he was “shocked” to learn of the letter.
“Very few people get that kind of recognition,” Marotti said.
‘Always a gentleman’
Shamock, a former realtor, was a longtime postal worker before he retired and joined the Meriden City Council in 1989.
As a member of the Republican Party and later the We the People Party, Shamock developed a reputation on the council as “Mr. No,” because he would often vote against resolutions introduced by the Democratic majority, which in some years included all 12 councilors except Shamock.
“Walt always waged a good fight for the taxpayers of Meriden. He worked tirelessly to make sure that the government played its proper role at all times,” former Republican U.S. Rep. Gary Franks wrote in a letter read aloud at the service by former Republican city councilor Joe Feest.
Despite his political differences, Shamock was always able to see past politics and be a friend, colleagues remembered. Shamock’s granddaughter, Taylor, opened her remarks at the service noting there were “a lot of Democrats” in attendance.
“Walt was always a gentleman. It didn’t matter whether he agreed with you on an issue or not, he was always respectful. And caring,” Mark Benigni, a former mayor and now school superintendent for Meriden, said last week.
Members of Shamock’s family, including his daughter, Lisa, and two grandchildren, Wade Paul and Taylor Lee Pettingill, spoke at the service and remembered Shamock for his kindness and generosity.
Lisa Shamock recalled that when she had friends over to her house for dinner growing up, her father would make sure they got food before he did.
“My father always gave before he took, and I hope if you take anything away from this, I hope you just remember to be kind,” Lisa Shamock said.
The service was capped by a surprise performance by an Elvis Presley impersonator, who Shamock’s son, Todd, hired to perform because his father was always a big Elvis fan.
The impersonator, who was also accompanied by a church choir group on some songs, commemorated Shamock with some of Elvis’s classics, including “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “My Way,” a song first made popular by Frank Sinatra.