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Frank Zullo, 85, former Norwalk Mayor, passes away

First Taxing District Board of Directors Chairman Frank Zullo, former Norwalk mayor.

Updated, 12:19 p.m.: Additional comments; 1:12 a.m.: Full story. 

NORWALK, Conn. – Former Mayor Frank Zullo has died.

This was announced on Facebook by State Rep. Larry Cafero (R-142), who wrote:

“Just learned of the passing of Frank Zullo. Norwalk’s youngest Mayor (1965-1971) and one of it’s best, was a legend. As an attorney, public servant and Board member of numerous charitable and educational organizations, he will be sorely missed. He was a role model to many a young attorney. Rest In Peace Frank.”

Zullo was born on June 3, 1932, and died Saturday in Norwalk Hospital, his Magner Funeral Home obituary states.

“At 33, as the youngest mayor of Norwalk in the city’s history, Norwalk native Frank N. Zullo was a major figure and positive influence in our community for over 55 years.  From 1980 to 2010, he was campaign treasurer for Connecticut’s Senior United States Senator Christopher J. Dodd,” the obituary states.

“Frank Zullo was a big city mayor right out of central casting,” former Mayor Alex Knopp wrote to NancyOnNorwalk. “He loved Norwalk and had a huge impact on expanding our schools, improving police-community relations during the 1960’s, and creating a citywide public library system. He was also a prominent statewide political figure who put Norwalk on the map during contests for statewide offices and became a national figure in the resurgence of urban mayors.”

Zullo has been an influential land use attorney and First Taxing District Board of Directors chairman, an active member of Norwalk’s Democratic Party. He is survived by his wife, Berenice, and daughter, Lesley Anne, and several nieces and nephews, the obituary states.

“I’ve known Frank for many many years,” Mayor Harry Rilling wrote in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “He was a forward thinking Mayor who loved Norwalk.  He had a unique ability to bring people together in a common cause. He was loved and respected by all. Our hearts and prayers go out to Berenice and the Zullo family.”

“Frank was named in 1958 ‘Young Man of the Year’ by the Norwalk Junior Chamber of Commerce and in 1959 entered the partnership of Tierney & Zullo (today Tierney, Zullo, Flaherty and Murphy, P.C.),” his obituary states. “Except for his three terms as Norwalk Mayor and six months of active duty with the National Guard, Frank practiced law full time for over 50 years. He was a general practitioner specializing in planning and zoning, and real estate development.”

Accolades for Zullo have flowed to NancyOnNorwalk, with Town Clerk Rick McQuaid calling him “a city icon, leader and friend,” and writing:

“I met Frank at an early age since he was a friend of my Dad.

“His daughter attended Tracey School at the same time my brothers, sisters and myself did.

“As I entered the world of politics Frank was a mentor, only so far as a Republican he wasn’t going to show me all the cards.

“When I was a Councilman we had lively debates about city projects, but always as a teacher, and me a eager to learn student.

“When I was elected Town Clerk one of the first congratulatory messages was from ‘Mayor Zullo.’ He would send news articles to always keep me abreast of things he thought were of importance or would help me be the best Town Clerk.

“Thank you my friend and mentor Mayor Zullo for keeping me striving to be the very best.

“Rest In Peace, the angels await.”

 

“I first met him in 1966 when I was a summer intern in the Washington office of Norwalk Congressman Don Irwin,” Knopp wrote. “From that time forward I always thought of him as ‘Mr. Norwalk.’ He was very helpful to me in my political career. I spent Election Day in 2001 in his office asking him to describe the first steps he took to start a new city administration. He said a new mayor had both to launch big projects and to take care of the day-to-day little concerns as well. Then he launched into a 15 minute narrative of how he spent his first week as mayor checking every day to see whether the DPW employees had removed a flattened dead skunk in the road that he had pointed out to the DPW. It was a typical Zullo-esque animated discussion, full of Frank’s insights into human nature, his entertaining humor about elective office and all combined with his practical advice. I am very proud that Frank agreed to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for my two inauguration ceremonies as Norwalk’s Mayor and I always made sure to thank him during the ceremonies for reminding me of the importance of carting away any ‘dead skunks’ from city roads!”

Knopp continued:

“Recently Frank was very supportive of our efforts to expand parking and modernize the Norwalk Public Library on Belden Avenue. The Belden Library was a gift to the City for $1 from the First Taxing District and was a key achievement of the Zullo Administration. Frank was very committed during our many meetings over the past two years to making sure that the small office building on Belden Avenue still owned by the District would eventually become part of a newly expanded library. We had been planning to get together to renew our discussions as soon as he recovered from his most recent illness. Regrettably he never regained his health.

 

“Apart from his political and legal work, Frank was passionately devoted to his wife Bernice and his daughter Leslie. He carefully tended to the tomatoes in his garden. There was hardly any institution  in Norwalk he hadn’t touched for the better, whether the Norwalk Hospital, the Norwalk YMCA Norwalk, the Norwalk legal profession or his church. He was Norwalk’s Master of Ceremonies without peer. We will never see another bigger than life figure like him but we’re all much, much better off because of how he enriched our city.”

 

The obituary states:

“In 1966, {Zullo} worked together with Richard Lee, then Mayor of the City of New Haven, in forming the Connecticut Conference of Mayors. He succeeded Mayor Lee as Conference President from 1968 to 1969 and served on its Executive Committee until 1971. From 1969 to 1971 he was elected to the Board of Trustees and the Executive Board of the United States Conference of Mayors.  Frank was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee for many years. Frank was Treasurer for Senatorial Election Campaign Committees of Senator Christopher J. Dodd from 1980 through 2010 campaigns. He was Commissioner and Chairman of the First Taxing District Water Department of the City of Norwalk.  A YMCA swim team coach during college and law school, Frank chaired the Water Safety Program of the Norwalk-Wilton Chapter of the American Red Cross Board for many years, teaching hundreds of youngsters swimming and lifeguard skills.

“Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Norwalk Hospital from 1979-1981, Frank served as a trustee almost continually since 1971.  He was a life Trustee of the Norwalk Hospital. A trustee of the University of Bridgeport since 1992, he served as board chairman in 1990-00 and as co-chairman since 2001.  He had been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Maritime Aquarium since its inception to 2012. He was a Commissioner and Chairman of the First Taxing District Water Department, City of Norwalk.

 “Frank has a long list of honors and awards from diverse organizations.  He was a member of the Connecticut National Guard, Director and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the YMCA for many years and was very active in the early years of the formation of the Norwalk United Fund.”

 

Former Mayor Richard Moccia wrote:

“My thoughts about Frank other than being a good friend, and a respected lawyer, was his ability to recite facts and statistics with virtually no notes and never miss a beat.  Weather it was about politics or appearing before various city boards.  His rapid fire delivery of numbers and facts of law was legendary.  After my election the word Democrat or Republican never came up when we spoke.  He always was willing to give me advice and share experiences. One thing that any of Frank friends will tell you, is that he really enjoyed  food, especially Italian food.   Some of the best  times I remember from a time  gone by, was to have lunch with him and the late Mayor Esposito.  The food was flying and so were the good natured barbs.  I would just sat back and shake my head and try to get a word in now and then.  It is not a cliché’ to say that that Norwalk will not see his like again.  My condolences to his family on the loss of their loved one.”

Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons wrote:

“Frank was a man of extreme integrity, honesty, always willing to assist everyone. He was a friend to whom I turned to many times for guidance on Norwalk issues. He, a Democrat and I, a Republican would work together as just friends as I was on the Norwalk Common Council. He was beloved by all people, all parties, all citizens.”

 

Former Mayor Bill Collins wrote:

“Perhaps Frank’s toughest job was gradually nudging the Norwalk Democratic Party out of its smoke-filled back rooms and into the 20th Century. This he did by appointing many people based on merit and performance rather than how many tickets they sold to party functions. He was not exactly a reformer himself, but his concern for quality of city services  in fact paralleled the work of the Reform segment of the party to get Norwalk started on a more modern track.

He also should have been governor. Early in the campaign he reported on wondering what he was doing on the debate stage with the likes of Ella Grasso and Bill O’Neill. By the end of the campaign he wondered what THEY were doing up there. And for good reason. Frank’s intellect and quickness certainly exceeded that of the other candidates at the time and Connecticut would have been well served had he become our governor. Certainly Norwalk benefitted from the fact that his enormous energy and good will remained focused here, but the state missed a good chance for a quantum leap forward.”

 

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Philip Church, 1 Father Conlon Place, with burial to follow at Riverside Cemetery, the obituary states.  The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Magner Funeral Home.  In lieu of flowers, donation in his name may be made to St. Philip Church.

 

Original story: 

NORWALK, Conn. – Former Mayor Frank Zullo has died.

This was announced on Facebook by State Rep. Larry Cafero (R-142), who wrote:

“Just learned of the passing of Frank Zullo. Norwalk’s youngest Mayor (1965-1971) and one of it’s best, was a legend. As an attorney, public servant and Board member of numerous charitable and educational organizations, he will be sorely missed. He was a role model to many a young attorney. Rest In Peace Frank.”

Zullo was born on June 3, 1932. He has been an influential land use attorney and First Taxing District Board of Directors chairman, an active member of Norwalk’s Democratic Party.

The Magner Funeral Home has posted an obituary:

       Attorney Frank N. Zullo, beloved husband of Berenice Fischler Zullo and father of Lesley Anne Zullo, died peacefully at the Norwalk Hospital on Saturday, May 26 at the age of 85.  He attended Fairfield College Preparatory School from 1946-1950; Fordham University College from 1950-1954; and Fordham University Law School from 1954-1957.  At 33, as the youngest mayor of Norwalk in the city’s history, Norwalk native Frank N. Zullo was a major figure and positive influence in our community for over 55 years.  From 1980 to 2010, he was campaign treasurer for Connecticut’s Senior United States Senator Christopher J. Dodd.

     Frank was named in 1958 “Young Man of the Year” by the Norwalk Junior Chamber of Commerce and in 1959 entered the partnership of Tierney & Zullo (today Tierney, Zullo, Flaherty and Murphy, P.C.).  Except for his three terms as Norwalk Mayor and six months of active duty with the National Guard, Frank practiced law full time for over 50 years. He was a general practitioner specializing in planning and zoning, and real estate development.

     In 1966, he worked together with Richard Lee, then Mayor of the City of New Haven, in forming the Connecticut Conference of Mayors. He succeeded Mayor Lee as Conference President from 1968 to 1969 and served on its Executive Committee until 1971. From 1969 to 1971 he was elected to the Board of Trustees and the Executive Board of the United States Conference of Mayors.  Frank was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee for many years. Frank was Treasurer for Senatorial Election Campaign Committees of Senator Christopher J. Dodd from 1980 through 2010 campaigns. He was Commissioner and Chairman of the First Taxing District Water Department of the City of Norwalk.  A YMCA swim team coach during college and law school, Frank chaired the Water Safety Program of the Norwalk-Wilton Chapter of the American Red Cross Board for many years, teaching hundreds of youngsters swimming and lifeguard skills.

     Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Norwalk Hospital from 1979-1981, Frank served as a trustee almost continually since 1971.  He was a life Trustee of the Norwalk Hospital. A trustee of the University of Bridgeport since 1992, he served as board chairman in 1990-00 and as co-chairman since 2001.  He had been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Maritime Aquarium since its inception to 2012. He was a Commissioner and Chairman of the First Taxing District Water Department, City of Norwalk.

      Frank has a long list of honors and awards from diverse organizations.  He was a member of the Connecticut National Guard, Director and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the YMCA for many years and was very active in the early years of the formation of the Norwalk United Fund.

     The better half of the Zullo household is Frank’s wife Berenice Zullo, who like Frank was born in Norwalk, and is a Norwalk High School graduate.  They have one daughter, Lesley Anne.  A teacher at The Nursery School of the former Thomas School in Rowayton, Berenice also taught first grade at The Bedford Elementary School in Westport and special education at Jefferson School in Norwalk. Frank is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

     A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, June 1, 10 AM at St. Philip Church, 1 Fr. Conlon Pl., Norwalk, with burial to follow at Riverside Cemetery.  Franks family will receive friends at the Magner Funeral Home on Thursday from 5-8 PM.  In lieu of flowers, donation in his name may be made to St. Philip Church.

“I’ve known Frank for many many years,” Mayor Harry Rilling wrote in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “He was a forward thinking Mayor who loved Norwalk.  He had a unique ability to bring people together in a common cause. He was loved and respected by all. Our hearts and prayers go out to Berenice and the Zullo family.”

Town Clerk Rick McQuaid called Zullo “a city icon, leader and friend,” and wrote :

“I met Frank at an early age since he was a friend of my Dad.

“His daughter attended Tracey School at the same time my brothers, sisters and myself did.

“As I entered the world of politics Frank was a mentor, only so far as a Republican he wasn’t going to show me all the cards.

“When I was a Councilman we had lively debates about city projects, but always as a teacher, and me a eager to learn student.

“When I was elected Town Clerk one of the first congratulatory messages was from ‘Mayor Zullo.’ He would send news articles to always keep me abreast of things he thought were of importance or would help me be the best Town Clerk.

“Thank you my friend and mentor Mayor Zullo for keeping me striving to be the very best.

“Rest In Peace, the angels await.”

Former Mayor Richard Moccia wrote:

“My thoughts about Frank other than being a good friend, and a respected lawyer, was his ability to recite facts and statistics with virtually no notes and never miss a beat.  Weather it was about politics or appearing before various city boards.  His rapid fire delivery of numbers and facts of law was legendary.  After my election the word Democrat or Republican never came up when we spoke.  He always was willing to give me advice and share experiences. One thing that any of Frank friends will tell you, is that he really enjoyed  food, especially Italian food.   Some of the best  times I remember from a time  gone by, was to have lunch with him and the late Mayor Esposito.  The food was flying and so were the good natured barbs.  I would just sat back and shake my head and try to get a word in now and then.  It is not a cliché’ to say that that Norwalk will not see his like again.  My condolences to his family on the loss of their loved one.”

Former Mayor Alex Knopp wrote:

“Frank Zullo was a big city mayor right out of central casting. He loved Norwalk and had a huge impact on expanding our schools,  improving police-community relations during the 1960’s, and creating a citywide public library system. He was also a prominent statewide political figure who put Norwalk on the map during contests for statewide offices and became a national figure in the resurgence of urban mayors.

“I first met him in 1966 when I was a summer intern in the Washington office of Norwalk Congressman Don Irwin. From that time forward I always thought of him as ‘Mr. Norwalk.’ He was very helpful to me in my political career. I spent Election Day in 2001 in his office asking him to describe the first steps he took to start a new city administration. He said a new mayor had both to launch  big projects and to take care of the day-to-day little concerns as well. Then he launched into a 15 minute narrative of how he spent his first week as mayor checking every day to see whether the DPW employees had removed a flattened dead skunk in the road that he had pointed out to the DPW. It was a typical Zullo-esque animated discussion, full of Frank’s insights into human nature, his entertaining humor about elective office and all combined with his practical advice. I am very proud that Frank agreed to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for my two inauguration ceremonies as Norwalk’s Mayor and I always made sure to thank him during the ceremonies for reminding me of the importance of carting away any ‘dead skunks’ from city roads!

“Recently Frank was very supportive of our efforts to expand parking and modernize the Norwalk Public Library on Belden Avenue. The Belden Library was a gift to the City for $1 from the First Taxing District and was a key achievement of the Zullo Administration. Frank was very committed during our many meetings over the past two years to making sure that the small office building on Belden Avenue still owned by the District would eventually become part of a newly expanded library. We had been planning to get together to renew our discussions as soon as he recovered from his most recent illness. Regrettably he never regained his health.
“Apart from his political and legal work, Frank was passionately devoted to his wife Bernice and his daughter Leslie. He carefully tended to the tomatoes in his garden. There was hardly any institution  in Norwalk he hadn’t touched for the better, whether the Norwalk Hospital, the Norwalk YMCA Norwalk, the Norwalk legal profession or his church. He was Norwalk’s Master of Ceremonies without peer. We will never see another bigger than life figure like him but we’re all much, much better off because of how he enriched our city.”

This story will be updated.

6 comments

Donna Smirniotopoulos May 28, 2018 at 9:14 pm

My condolences to the family. I met Frank Zullo in the fall of 2015 when I was forced to seek a variance for my home renovation project. We spoke on the phone for well over an hour one evening. The next day in his office, he recalled every detail of our conversation—my complicated shaggy dog nonconformity story—for his associate to my complete astonishment. A remarkable man. May he Rest In Peace.

marija bryant May 29, 2018 at 9:01 am

It’s true that we will not see his like again. Always a political force in Norwalk, Frank stepped back into the election ring in 2009 to run for First Taxing District Commissioner after the unexpected death of then Commissioner Ken Slapin just a few weeks before the election. Standing at Tracey school on election day with Frank was the best lesson in how to campaign anyone could wish for. Watching Frank, listening to him, seeing his enthusiasm for the people coming to vote was inspiring and energizing. Working with him at FTD as a fellow Commissioner was an honor. His knowledge, experience, insight and – always – good humor will be sorely missed. I think my favorite memory is seeing Frank and his wife waltzing together at a Norwalk Green “Dancing Under the Stars” concert. It was a serene snapshot from another era and so very Norwalk. Sincere sympathy to Berenice and Frank’s daughter Lesley. He’ll be missed by many.

PIBerman May 29, 2018 at 11:03 am

Frank Zullo was a well regarded City Mayor, attorney and friend to many at a time when Norwalk was a well functioning and attractive City. Those days are long gone and we’ll not see the likes again of a Mayor Zullo. He made Norwalk proud and we were proud he was our Mayor. A “real public servant”. In modern parlance “the real deal”. A Mayor with only friends.

Sherelle Harris May 29, 2018 at 1:12 pm

My condolences to Mr. Zullo’s family and business partners.
He was a brilliant man. He seemed fair and personable. May
he rest in peace.

Mike Lyons May 30, 2018 at 5:34 pm

I met Frank when I was 10 years old and he was running for Mayor in 1965. He was a true gentleman, a good lawyer, and a genuinely warm human being. He’ll be missed.

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