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Hartford Mourns Death Of Daniel Carey, City And Town Clerk

JEFFREY B. COHEN and STEVEN GOODE

September 12, 2009

When the crowd gathers today for Mayor Mike's tailgate party at Rentschler Field, the familiar face at the grill won't be there.

Daniel M. Carey the affable Hartford city and town clerk with a football heart in New York, a baseball heart in Boston and a UConn heart on fall Saturdays was found dead in his home in the city's South End Friday. Today, he was supposed to do what he has done for years cook burgers at the tailgate traditionnamed for his good friend, the late Mayor Mike Peters.

"He was an integral part of the tailgates, more fun than life itself, and he didn't know how to cook a hamburger," friend and fellow tailgater Pat Ryan said. "He kept pressing down on it."

The cause of Carey's death remains under investigation. An autopsy is scheduled for this morning. Carey was 51.

"We do not suspect any foul play," said Nancy Mulroy, police spokeswoman. "We'll wait for the medical examiner."

"Bless his heart," Mulroy said. "He was just such a bright light in the city."

It's been a hard, sad year for Democrats in the city, and for the city itself. Peters, the city's cheerleader-in-chief, died in early January, which Carey took particularly hard. And then, early Friday, came news that police and firefighters had found Carey a man known for his love of the New York Giants, the Boston Red Sox, the UConn Huskies, golf, Ireland, and, according to one friend, "women, wine and song" dead in his home.

A source close to Carey said he didn't return from lunch on Thursday. When he didn't come in Friday morning, city employees called the police.

"It is with great shock and sadness that [we] receive this sad news of this loss of a dedicated public servant, friend, and someone we all considered family," Mayor Eddie A. Perez said in a statement.

Carey was ill earlier this year with what several friends, including Ryan, said was pancreatitis. Both Ryan and former Newington Mayor Tom McBride said that the illness meant some lifestyle changes for Carey including changing what he ate and drank and how he exercised.

"He actually said to me, 'This is a lifestyle change, and it sucks,'" Ryan said. "He lived life large, and I don't think he wanted to live life diminished."

But he was back in service this summer, literally, being the same loud-talking clerk everyone knew.

"Every day was just a happy day at the town clerk's office with him, you know?" said Kelly Bilodeau, who worked for Carey for a decade. "The best thing you can say about Dan was that he loved his job but he loved the people the same."

It was that style that enabled Carey, who became the city's clerk in 1993, to remain above the fray in the highly politicized atmosphere at Hartford's city hall, said longtime friend and former Councilwoman Marilyn Rossetti.

"He said yes to people he didn't want to say yes to," said Rossetti, who is now executive director of Hartford Areas Rally Together.

Carey called Rossetti a few weeks ago to check in, and he talked about his health. "He said, 'I'm feeling better. I'm back,'" she said.

Former city council President John Bazzano and Carey served together on the city's Democratic town committee three decades ago and have been friends since.

"I don't think I ever heard him say no to anyone," Bazzano said. "Dan was one of the nicest, caring, giving individuals that I knew."

McBride and Carey became friends in politics, too. Lately, a day didn't go by when the two men didn't speak.

"I don't think I ever met a person who was more loyal and who would give you the shirt off his back like Dan Carey would," McBride said.

News of Carey's death spread quickly to town clerk offices around the state, where he was widely known for his universal smile, sense of humor, thoughtfulness and willingness to help.

"He's going to be missed," said East Lyme Town Clerk Esther Williams. "He was highly thought of and respected in the town clerks world."

Arthur Anderson, another friend and tailgater, said Carey was better than the city's 311 information line.

"I used the 311 system once," Anderson said. "There's no reason to when Danny Carey's around. You just call Danny Carey. He knows everybody and everything."

As good a clerk as he was, he wasn't respected at the grill.

"His problem was that he never understood that you weren't supposed to push down on the hamburgers," Anderson said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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