Harold Arthur Osgood Jr.
June 13, 1921 - November 4, 2013
Harold Arthur Osgood Jr. of Silvermine, a former chairman of the Norwalk Police Commission, chairman for 16 of 20 years on the Norwalk Planning & Zoning Commission and the Republican mayoral candidate in 1973, died Monday from complications arising from the long-term incidence of prostate cancer. The husband of Kathleen Dunn Osgood was 92.
When he retired from the police commission in the mid-1990s, Mayor Frank J. Esposito called him “my best appointment.”
The Hour Editor Emeritus John P. Reilly, a close observer of the Norwalk political scene for over half a century, remarked: “Harold Osgood was the epitome of what you would want of a public servant.”
During his mayoral campaign, Osgood was depicted as a “straight shooter” untainted by political maneuvering, an environmental champion and a strong supporter of affordable and senior housing. He was an opponent of high-rise apartment buildings, clustered housing, and research and development zoning.
As a planning commissioner, Osgood voted against the proposed condominium on the Maroney Estate off New Canaan Avenue, the proposed condominium next to a wetland off Highland Avenue and the executive office development of Ferndale. He voted for the city acquisition of Taylor Farm in East Norwalk, the property in West Norwalk that became Oak Hills Park, and the Gallaher Estate now Cranbury Park.
When he ran for mayor in 1973, the city had just endured a mishandled revaluation, and he promised to review it with an eye toward making sure that property assessments were equitable.
“If I find inequities, I will initiate another revaluation,” he said at the time.
An acknowledged budgeting talent, he regularly brought the Planning Commission budget in on time and on the mark for what was needed and could be afforded. He was praised for his handling of the sticky issue surrounding the effort of Action Housing Inc. to establish affordable housing in the Kendall School neighborhood against the strong opposition of the Kendall Home Owners Association. Osgood drew 5,942 votes in the election, which brought a second term to incumbent Democratic Mayor and former Congressman Donald J. Irwin, who garnered 7,649 votes. Independent Party Candidate Jennie F. Cave was second with 6,192 votes and Conservative Party Candidate Robert J. Zanesky fourth with 3,467 votes. It was yet another election in which the splintered local political allegiances prevented a majority victory.
After the defeat, Osgood expressed surprise by the apparent apathy and discouragement of the electorate and suggested it might have some relationship to the general national malaise following in the wake of the Watergate scandal, President Richard M. Nixon having just hired a dozen lawyers to clear his name. The GOP thought enough of his effort to elect him town committee chairman for the following term.
Osgood was born on June 13, 1921, in Olean, N.Y., the oldest of five children in the family of Harold A. Osgood Sr., an engineer, and Velma Hepworth Osgood. The family migrated to Stamford when he was 10, and he graduated from Stamford High School in 1939 after performing for the football and baseball teams. He later took a post-graduate program at St. Basil’s where he again played football and baseball before matriculating at Bridgeport Engineering Institute from which he graduated at the top of his class. After four years in the U.S. Marine Air Corps during World War II, he returned to the University of Bridgeport for a mechanical engineering degree and would later add a degree in employee management from Fairfield University.
This prepared him for significant contributions to a litany of area manufacturing companies, among them Pitney Bowes, Sperry Univac, Perkin Elmer, CBS Labs, Remington Rand, Burndy and Research Laboratory Inc. through which he and a small group of entrepreneurial engineers developed a mini-camera which proved popular for a period.
Osgood displayed his civic responsibility with several organizations. He was chairman of the American Heart Association local chapter, chairman of the Norwalk-Wilton American Red Cross chapter, co-founder of Norwalk Community College as a member of the Citizens Advisory Council, commander of the Mahackemo Detachment Marine Corps League, a governor of the Silvermine Community Association, president of the Roger Sherman Branch of the Sons of the American Revolution and Memorial Day parade marshal as a member of the Norwalk Veterans Memorial Committee. He was also highly involved in law enforcement through the presidency of the Police Commissioners Association of Connecticut, which presented him its first lifetime achievement award in 1994. He assumed responsibility for several years of the one-acre memorial to the 150 slain police officers of Connecticut maintained at the Connecticut Police Academy. He was an active member of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilton where he performed all the functions available to laymen.
Surviving in addition to his wife of 69 years are two daughters, Karen Osgood Hargraves (Peter J.) of Falmouth, Mass., and Betsy Osgood Fitzgerald (John) of Coventry; a brother, Benten F. Osgood of Vernon; a sister, Joan Osgood Colby of Manchester, six grandchildren — Kristin Hargraves Hennessy, Sara Hargraves, Daniel Hargraves, Jonathan Hargraves, Jared Suprenant and Kyle Suprenant — and four great grandchildren — Ryan Olmo, Zachary Hennessy, Holden Hargraves and Harrison Hargraves. He was predeceased by a brother, Allen F. Osgood and a sister, Mary Osgood.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Our Lady of Fatima Church, 229 Danbury Road, Wilton. Interment will be at a later date. There are no calling hours. Memorials may be made to Our Lady of Fatima Church or to a charity of choice. Arrangements are being handled by Collins Funeral Home, 92 East Ave.