Richard Weaver-Bey Was A Hartford Community Juggernaut
May 21, 2008
I'd feign hearing loss when Richard Weaver-Bey called.
"What's that, Richard? ... You're breaking up," I'd tell him. "Are you on Dick Robinson's yacht again?"
Usually the Hartford community leader and businessman, who died Saturday, was the one who delivered the zingers. But not in this case. Years ago, there was an item in The Courant's Java column about a bash on media entrepreneur Robinson's 70-foot boat "Air Waves." Weaver-Bey, naturally, was one of Robinson's guests. The two were longtime pals and loved each other's company.
I'd tease Weaver-Bey that if he wasn't careful with all that hobnobbing, he could lose his street cred at sea. He was too big-time now, I'd tell him, for me.
It wasn't entirely an exaggeration.
Weaver-Bey was an enormous presence in Greater Hartford. A tall, charming, handsome guy — and an incorrigible flirt — he dedicated his life to uplifting Hartford's African American community. He ran a real estate management company, owned small local urban radio stations, served on the state oversight board after the Hartford public schools imploded, chaired community boards, spearheaded fundraisers and personally established scholarship funds for Greater Hartford youths.
He was a community juggernaut.
Weaver-Bey in 1999 became the first African American president of The Hartford Club, a watershed moment. His ascension highlighted the changing complexion of business leaders in the city and reaffirmed the exclusive business club's desire to become more inclusive.
"We lost a Hartford icon," said businessman Sanford Cloud, a former state senator and childhood friend of Weaver-Bey's. "He was a good friend. Hartford was Richard's heart and soul. He loved this community as much as he loved anything in the world. And he served it well throughout his life."
Weaver-Bey, 63, died Saturday after collapsing during a bicycle ride, a family friend confirmed. Word of his death spread Saturday night at the Jackie McLean jazz festival at the Artists Collective. Weaver-Bey was a past president of the Collective's board of directors.
Though Weaver-Bey was about business and making money, serving his community was never far from his conscience.
"He was just the most generous man I'd ever met," said Pamela Churchill, a fundraising consultant who knew Weaver-Bey for 18 years. They talked weekly, the last time on Friday, when they discussed details for a scholarship that Weaver-Bey wanted to set up at the University of Hartford. He had established similar scholarships at Central Connecticut State University and Eastern Connecticut State University.
What was impressive about Weaver-Bey, the son of a Bloomfield oil truck driver, is that he kept a broad social circle — whites, blacks, Latinos, Jews — even though his focus was on uplifting African Americans. He loved all people, but wanted to see HIS people, in particular, achieve. He had no formal post-high school education — street smarts, the gift of gab and a strong work ethic keyed his success — but Weaver-Bey implored young people to go to college.
He cherished an honorary degree he received from Capital Community College years ago after giving a commencement address there.
Weaver-Bey, the father of four, was a good guy who enjoyed a good time. Like any other man, he was imperfect. His personal life was at times complicated, though in recent years he was settling down. He moved to Simsbury and was engaged to be married. His business affairs, sadly, turned embarrassingly messy, including a public falling out with a partner.
His friends say his giving spirit will be his legacy. Dick Robinson, yacht owner and a founder of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, recalls being in the hospital in 1975 with painful kidney stones. Weaver-Bey and a friend of Robinson's would sneak in regularly at midnight, staying all night and making sure their friend was taking a special liquid to help the stones pass.
"I'd start to get groggy, and he'd say 'Dickie, c'mon you've got to drink this [bleep].' He was making me drink this stuff," Robinson said Tuesday, upon arrival from Palm Beach, Fla.
"He was like a brother. We were very close. There's nothing you could ask of Richard that he wouldn't do in a New York minute. I'm just glad he passed my way. You don't find many Richard Weaver-Beys in life."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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