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Remembering Francis X. Fay Jr.

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Frank Fay, a reporter for the Norwalk Hour for 50 years, died recently. I first met him in my second year as a Spanish teacher in Room 105A at Norwalk High School. That year, Lewis E. Dunlap was appointed the principal after problems that arose at the school. His job was to establish order. I believed in his approach and touted the school’s potential and virtues. I helped him to develop a new motto, Norwalk High School Home of Pride Intensified.

Mr. Dunlap, as he was called, invited me, a teacher, to become the official Norwalk High School non-paid Public Relations Director of the school. I was thrilled. My first assignment was to organize the June graduation including supervising the press.

Francis X. Fay Jr. was the long time and revered education reporter of The Hour at the time. As the graduation pomp and circumstance was about to begin, I was busy directing the media. There was Frank, a little twinkle in his eye and prepared to report the most unique and touching stories from the graduates as he had for so long. I introduced myself and told him where he and the press would be seated for the ceremony. It did not go over well.

This began a 44-year love affair with Francis X. Fay Jr. Ten years my elder, he taught me so much about attention to detail. “When you write a press release, Sue,” he would declare, “remember all the answers to who, what, where, when and why.” This regard for detail has been a part of my work first with the schools, then as a consultant and an author ever since.

I was promoted as the Public Affairs Officer of the Norwalk Public Schools in 1983, a position I held for 15 years. Frank was always at my side with a listening ear, advice, advocacy and caring. Oh yes, we clashed on occasion, but it was based on admiration and love. There were no barriers to our long discussions. After Norwalk historian Ralph Bloom, no one in Norwalk knew more about the history of the city he loved and its people than Frank. His vast knowledge amazed me.

In January 1986, I accompanied four high school juniors to the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger sponsored by Norden Systems, a subsidiary of United Technologies. The Hour sent Frank to accompany our trip and to report daily to readers about the incredible experience. We were all in the VIP stands at Cape Canaveral when the Challenge exploded on Jan. 28, 1986 at 11:38 a.m. My students were in shock. I was, too. We rushed to get out of the area and the falling debris and headed back to the airport. There were no cell phones at the time. I had only one priority. Get to a pay phone and let the parents know that their children were safe, and I was bringing them home. Frank, the consummate reporter, had a different idea. He was horrified with the pay phone delay I had caused. He had a story to file.

It would be another 11 months before Frank confided his admiration for the role that I played that day. It meant so much to me. That was the Frank I knew — caring, emotional, tender. Beneath the tough skin of a reporter with a deadline was an incredible and loving man. I am not sure that everyone knew that side of him.

Last summer we met for lunch at a table by the Falls at Mediterraneo in Norwalk. Frank was late. He was always late. We talked about life in Norwalk, my career, his old car, and even though he still ordered his favorite lunchtime cocktail, I knew that he was in poor health. He thanked me for always sending a card on his birthday. As we departed, I wondered if I would ever see my friend again. Frank’s contribution as a reporter and his love for Norwalk are impossible to equate. His friendship will have a lasting effect on me forever.

Susan G. Weinberger

President, Mentor Consulting Group

 

 

6 comments

ginger katz June 9, 2020 at 9:50 am

Love this article about Frank Fay Jr. written by Susan Weinberger. Everyone needs a mentor!

Tedd Levy June 9, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Thanks for capturing the essence of Frank and sharing your memories of his professionalism, intense curiosity and love of others. He was, without doubt, one of a kind and made the world a better place for all.

Tysen Canevari June 9, 2020 at 8:34 pm

Frank Fay was a true asset to the city of Norwalk. He was very professional and sincere. I always cherished reading his articles. Frank will be missed.

Sherelle Harris June 10, 2020 at 2:28 am

This is very sad news. I worked with Frank when I was a features reporter at “The Hour”. I had a great editor, Janice, and Frank also shared quite a bit about editing my own work. It was a fun time with the sports writers and their jokes and antics that had me laughing until I was crying and with Frank who was Mr. Norwalk History and the Godfather of the team. Frank was my brief introduction to Rowayton. The quaint, ocean village was not as racially diverse as my life on Lake Michigan, but I thought it was a pretty interesting lifestyle, nontheless. Frank took his job, social invitations and professional friendships seriously, especially his friendship with Andy Rooney who I leaned quite a bit about during conversations with Frank. I will always remember his spirit fondly. May he rest in peace.

Paul Sargia January 13, 2021 at 12:26 pm

I was one of Frank’s senior home care companions during the last several months of his life. He was a fascinating man to talk with, but first it was preparing breakfast for him at one in the afternoon as soon as I arrived. This was followed by my doing chores around his house while he caught up on his daily reading of the New York Times and Norwalk Hour, both papers he had written for. If he was still reading when I finished my chores, he let me read in his sunroom until about 3:30 when it was time to go out and walk to a private section of the Rowayton waterfront where we’d sit for a good hour or more on the promenade overlooking the beach below.. It was there that he marveled at the water, the birds and dogs being walked. Often, those with dogs would stop by to say their hellos. Almost everyone knew Frank and their greetings were very warm-hearted. He would respond with the same affection for them. While we sat we talked and talked about many things, including his lifetime of living in that very area where both he, his brothers, his father and grandfather lived. Every time I mentioned a place I had gone socially in the area, he would know all about it. His newspaper writing took him everywhere in the area. These walks continued right up until the week before he passed as he was becoming weaker and weaker, having resorted to using a walker rather than a cane. The last time we went, he was charged up to go out, but fortunately the walker came in handy. About halfway to the waterfront as we were walking along Bayley Beach Park, he felt so weak he had to stop and decided to go back. The walker had a little seat on it, so I suggested he sit while I wheeled him back. He reluctantly agreed, but eventually insisted on walking the last part himself. Days later it was determined it was time for Frank to have full time care. I was no longer needed. The following week, I have to admit, when his good friend Froma called to tell of his passing, I couldn’t help but shed some tears. Frank was a special guy! I felt like I had list a friend. I’ll always remember him.

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