Mary Fritz, Wallingford State Legislator For More Than Three Decades, Dies at 78

Mary Fritz, Wallingford State Legislator For More Than Three Decades, Dies at 78

Meriden Record-Journal, July 10, 2016

By John Buchanan

 

WALLINGFORD — Mary Fritz, a three-decade state representative, died Saturday morning at the age of 78. She had announced last year that this would be her final term in the legislature representing the 90th district.

Her son David Fritz announced his mother’s passing online Saturday morning. Last June she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, according to her daughter Kathleen Romania. “She was a strong, dignified brilliant woman who touched so many in a positive way,” her son wrote. “Even in passing she showed strength and courage. We are so blessed to have her in our lives.”

Mary Fritz was first elected in 1982 and lost her re-election bid in 1984. After retaking the seat in 1986, she never gave it up, winning 14 consecutive elections. Her district includes Wallingford and Cheshire. Prior to becoming a legislator, Fritz served as a member of the Board of Education in Wallingford, where she lived with her husband William.

She was a teacher, owner of a private nursery and co-owner of a custom furniture and gift store in town. Fritz was assistant deputy speaker of the House and served as deputy speaker and deputy majority leader.

She sat on the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee and the Judiciary Committee. She chaired the Public Safety Committee, Internship Committee and Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee. During her time in the General Assembly, Fritz pushed legislation impacting education, crime, health care, senior care and taxation, among other topics. During her first year as a legislator, she helped establish high school graduation requirements. Later, she worked to save the state’s Birth-to-Three program. Fritz has also worked on several issues related to the prison in Cheshire.

Fritz grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts in “politically-minded Irish-American circles” she told the Record-Journal in 2013. Due to her respect for John F. Kennedy, her congressman, and senator before he became president, Fritz nearly joined the Peace Corps.

At age 20, Fritz got a letter from Kennedy, a senator at the time, responding to her request that he attend a tea at Emmanuel College that year, something he’d done in previous years. The letter, which includes Kennedy’s signature, hangs framed on the wall of the Fritz house.

Tributes back to top

Fritz’s death prompted a host of condolences and statements from state political leaders.

On Saturday Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered flags to remain at half-mast for Fritz.

“She was a true public servant who put the priorities of her constituents first and represented her district with distinction, yet she never questioned whether the tough issues were worth tackling,” Malloy said in a release. “For 32 years, Wallingford, Cheshire, and indeed the entire state was lucky to have Representative Mary Fritz in the halls of the Capitol. She was as thoughtful a mentor to so many around her outside the house chamber as she was a compelling and passionate voice for the issues she advocated for on the floor.”

State house majority leader Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat representing Berlin and Southington, described Fritz as a dedicated public official who fought for issues. “She was a proud parent and grandparent, and an avid Husky fan who loved Connecticut. Her vibrant personality will be missed greatly by everyone at the Capitol,” Aresimowcz said.

Republican senate minority leader Len Fasano, who represents the 34th district, said he was sad to hear about the loss of a “good friend.” “Mary was an incredibly strong person and fierce friend who made an impression on the lives of so many people,” said Fasano, whose district includes Wallingford. “She was loved by all.”

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman said Fritz’s death will be felt throughout her district and state. “Connecticut has lost a truly committed legislator and a wonderful woman,” Wyman said in a statement. “I had the privilege of serving with her—she helped shape the Connecticut we know and love today, working to improve the lives of our youngest residents, protecting our seniors and first responders, and strengthening education and healthcare. My heart goes out to her family and her legislative family and friends. This is a very sad day for us all.”