EDITORIAL: Naming senior center for Iris Papale is right idea

Few ideas seem so straighforwardly correct as naming the Wallingford Senior Center for Iris Papale.

After Papale died, in early October 2021 at age 86, a Record-Journal editorial noted her legacy “will be difficult to match.” Papale was a trailblazer, the first woman elected to the Wallingford Town Council. She served as a councilor for 32 years.

“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. She would write it down and she would always follow up on it.”

So said state Rep. Mary Mushinky during a recent hearing on the proposal to name the senior center for Papale.

There was significant enthusiasm for honoring Papale this way. The motion passed unanimously and, as the Record-Journal’s Kate Ramunni reported, that spurred applause from the audience.

Papale’s service went beyond the council. She had been a member of the school board and the Committee on Aging. Her involvement included service on the boards of the Spanish Community of Wallingford, Wallingford Center Inc., and the local Hadassah chapter. She was an alternate on the Board of Ethics.

In looking for ways to honor such commitment, the idea of naming the senior center for Papale “kept coming up,” said Councilor Sam Carmody. It was not just the service, but the way Papale served. “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,” said Carmody.

Ray Ross, the school board vice chairman who knew Papale for 35 years, called her “a whirlwind.”

“I’m sure there’s no better thing we could do but to name the senior center after her,” Ross said.

After Papale died last year, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said the town had “just lost a wonderful person, an absolute superlative citizen. People like that make an impact because they show the rest of us how to do it.”

Naming the senior center for Papale can now serve as a reminder of that inspiration.


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