WALLINGFORD — When the late Iris Papale would be out around town, she always carried a notebook and pen with her.
That’s because inevitably, someone would recognize the former member of the Town Council, the Committee on Aging and many other positions in town, and tell her their problems.
“She carried around a spiral notebook and pens, and in the middle of the supermarket, she would meet someone who would tell her their problem,” state Rep. Mary Mushinsky said. “She would write it down and she would always follow up on it.”
Papale felt she was always on duty, wherever she was, Mushinsky told the Town Council during a hearing on a motion to rename the Wallingford Senior Center after Papale, who died at age 86 in October 2021 after a lifetime of giving back to the community she loved. The motion passed unanimously, followed by a round of applause from the audience.
Papale was the first woman to be elected to the Town Council, where she spent 32 years representing the 5th District. She also served on the Board of Education and the Committee on Aging as well as on the boards of the Spanish Community of Wallingford, Wallingford Center Inc. and the local chapter of Hadassah. At the time of her death she was an alternate on the Board of Ethics.
“As we all know, Wallingford lost a dear friend in Iris Papale in early October of 2021,” said Councilor Sam Carmody, who made the motion to rename the center after Papale. “Since then, I know a few of us up here have been contacted and in touch with a great number of people in town wanting something done to honor the legacy that Iris leaves. In discussions, the naming of the senior center in her honor kept coming up.”
She was someone with great ethics, morals and values, Carmody said, “never engaging in negative politics or mudslinging, working across the aisle and always doing what was best for Wallingford and not for political expediency.
“In today’s world of deeply polarized politics, we could all, from the Town Council to the White House and everything in between, learn a lot from Iris about how to be a coalition builder, a statesperson, and especially a dedicated public servant for the people she represented,” he said.
Though he was much younger than Papale, Carmody and a group of other young people would regularly take Papale out for dinner, her daughter Lynda Markel said. “And I know they had a great time.”
“Few people contributed as much as she did and made such a difference,” Councilor Vincent Testa said. “I can never thank her enough for what she did for me personally, but more importantly, none of us can ever thank her enough for what she did for Wallingford.”
“She was a whirlwind,” said Board of Education vice chair Ray Ross, who knew Papale for 35 years. “When she wanted to get something done. It got done. She crossed the aisles as much as she stayed on her side of the aisle.”
“No matter where you saw her, people would come up to her and shake her hand and thank her, and I’m sure there’s no better thing we could do but to name the senior center after her,” he said.
Markel said she and her family were overwhelmed with the kind words and the decision to rename the senior center after her mother.
“This is so overwhelming,” she said. “Everything that has been said about her is so true. The town of Wallingford really was everything to her.”
But her public service didn’t get in the way of her being a mother, Markel said. “She was a very devoted mother. She loved us, she was always involved in everything we did.”
“But once we got to a certain age and she figured we were all set, the town of Wallingford took over,” she said.
The Committee on Aging is in charge of orchestrating the name change and asked the town for six months of planning time, after which a dedication will be held to formally rename the center.