Hartford Remembers Former Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry

Perry was the first black woman elected mayor of a major New England city.

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Leaders and residents in Hartford gathered Wednesday to honor former Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry.

Perry passed away at 87 years old in late 2018, but her death went unreported until just a few months ago.

Virtually none of the people who attended Wednesday’s memorial knew Perry passed away when she did, but she left a larger than life impact in City Hall, so they decided that it was only right for the city to come together and honor her.

 “So mayor, I hope you’ll forgive us today, but you have earned this and so much more,” said Shawn Wooden, Connecticut state treasurer.

It was a celebration may believe the Capital City’s 63rd mayor would have never allowed, but the community thought it was important to remember her.

Perry was the first black woman elected mayor of a major New England city. She served three terms from 1987 to 1993.

“I think so many of us thought it was important to come together as a community to honor, remember and celebrate a life of a woman who gave so much to this city,” Mayor Luke Bronin said.

Colorful hats dotted the North End celebration, a nod to Perry’s signature headpieces. Cheryl Timmons Opesso met Perry as a community organizer in the 1960s.

“She loved her hats.  You didn’t see her without a hat on her head,” Opesso recalled. “Oh God she was awesome.  As a mayor she was there for the people.”

Former NBC Connecticut reporter Lew Brown remembers covering Perry, but knew her first coming up in Hartford’s Bellevue Square.

“Class … C L A S S.  Intelligence and an understanding about politics,” Brown recalled.

Perry was remembered as an outspoken barrier-breaker, who in life also helped birth a new generation of leaders in her hometown.

“I thank God for Mayor Perry… for inspiring the people around her,” Sen. Douglas McCroy (D – Hartford) said.

“The mayor’s legacy is not just about the barriers she broke, but It’s about the bridges that she built,” Wooden commented.

Bronin echoed the sentiment of many memorial guests that he wants to work in some kind of permanent remembrance of Perry in the city in the near future.

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