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atrium dedication Honoring a lifetime of service

September 8, 2018

GREENWICH — John Margenot arrived at the ceremony in style, riding in an antique firetruck with the siren blaring to the town’s Public Safety Complex.

And the honor befitted the 90-year-old Cos Cob resident who served five terms as the town’s first selectman. The event on Saturday marked the culmination of Margenot’s lifetime of service to Greenwich as the complex’s atrium, which connects the headquarters of the police and fire departments, was formally dedicated in his honor.

Standing in the atrium that will forever bear his name, Margenot addressed a standing-room-only crowd of over 150 that included his wife, Dolly, and their five children. He called it a nice but almost-overwhelming tribute as he looked back at his years in Greenwich government.

“It was a very interesting period of my life, one I enjoyed very much,” said Margenot, a Greenwich native and lifelong resident. “There were some strange events that occurred, but we always came out standing. We didn’t crawl or head home. We got it done.”

Margenot’s name is prominently displayed, and a plaque with his photo was also dedicated inside the complex.

The dedication was followed by a reception, filled with people talking, reconnecting and sharing stories about the town and Margenot’s lengthy service.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said the large crowd was symbolic of how much Margenot has meant to the town.

“This truly is a special day that has brought people together,” Tesei said. “That togetherness and that unity of purpose and consensus is really the hallmark of who John Margenot is and how appropriate it is to be in a place that brings people together in service to the benefit of our community.”

Tesei, who last year broke Margenot’s record when he was elected to his sixth term as first selectman, said it was an honor to pay tribute to Margenot, who “set the standard” for those who succeeded him.

In addition to his time on the 14 years on the Board of Selectmen, including a decade as first selectman, Margenot served on the town’s Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Representative Town Meeting. He has also volunteered at Greenwich Hospital, the YMCA, Hill House and the Old Timers Athletic Association and is still a member of the town’s Board of Ethics.

In fact, when he came up for reappointment on the Board of Ethics, Margenot asked for more work from the town, said his son Richard Margenot, who is now on the RTM.

Richard Margenot, who spoke at the dedication, recalled the 10:30 p.m. phone calls that his father used to get at home about urgent matters such as swans in Mill Pond and geese at Eastern Junior High School.

“Dad, you are a legend,” Richard Margenot said during the ceremony. “You don’t quit. We have coaches and teachers in town saying keep your head up and your legs moving — and I always remember that was something you used to say.”

Hilary Griffin said that her father, through his attention and dedication, made the town a better place.

“John Margenot believed, and still believes, that treating others with human kindness can, in fact, strengthen a country, a town, a community, in this case Greenwich,” Griffin told the crowd. “Our father’s leadership style was to lead in a kind, gentle manner with consensus-building — where all ideas were on the table, picking out the good parts to put into a package.”

A veteran, Margenot’s service began as a boy when he and his friends worked as spotters looking for enemy planes during World War II, taking two-hour shifts on weekends and sitting up at the top of what is now the Greenwich Senior Center. Margenot joked that this meant he “started out at the top” in town.

Chief of Police James Heavey, master of ceremonies for the dedication, added a special touch to the event: He shared a framed photo from 1986 when Margenot, then the first selectman, held the swearing in for a new officer named James Heavey on his first day on the force.

“Thank you for giving me a job,” Heavey said as he handed Margenot the photo, adding that his mother wanted to make sure the former first selectman had a memento of “one of the highlights of his time in office.”

The Greenwich Police Department’s honor guard also took part in the ceremony, and Margenot’s longtime friends Dick Kriskey and Sam Telerico addressed the crowd, which included current and former town officials as well as past members of the Board of Selectmen and other town boards and commissions.

Additionally, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz and state Reps. Livvy Floren, Michael Bocchino and Fred Camillo presented Margenot with a formal commendation from the state.

Camillo remarked on Margenot’s commitment to attending town functions, including Memorial Day tributes.

“He is the true definition of a dedicated public servant and truly is dedicated to the town,” Camillo said.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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