Bill Mitchell’s Birthday Surprise

Every Saturday is “showtime” at Mitchells.

A steady stream of customers – from Brian Williams, Jack Welch and Jim Calhoun to your basic, everyday Joe Hedge Fund Manager and CEO — drops in. They grab a bagel, schmooze, and buy a suit or three.

Today was extra special. Bill Mitchell — son of founders Ed and Norma, father and uncle of the 3rd generation to run the store — turns 70 tomorrow.

The store was packed with well-wishers (and stocked with champagne and cake).

In the midst of all the A-Listers and heavy hitters, it was easy to overlook one older man.

But Walt Melillo was there too. He’s 90 now, but in 1958 he was the 1st non-family member hired by Ed and Norma.

Bill Mitchell (left) and Walt Melillo.

Bill Mitchell (left) and Walt Melillo.

Walt worked Friday nights and all day Saturdays . His real job was as an elementary school teacher (Saugatuck, then Burr Farms). In fact, both Bill and I were Walt’s students.

Today was a great day for Bill Mitchell. He was especially happy to share it with one of Westport’s most important — but seldom recognized — big, big names: Walt Melillo.

36 responses to “Bill Mitchell’s Birthday Surprise

  1. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    Wasn’t Mr Melillo a Phys Ed teacher also? I seem to remember him from Saugatuck Elementary. I remember Bill’s father Ed who was a friend of my dad, Harry Scott. As always, Dan, thank you for your entries and remembrances of Westport.

    • Tom Allen '66

      Bonnie, Mr. Melillo was a classroom teacher, but at recess at Saugatuck he was an unofficial coach and participant in pick-up softball, touch football and basketball games, wearing suit trousers, shirt, tie and street shoes.

      • Bonnie Scott Connolly

        Thanks, Tom. I guess my memory is foggy or I have him confused with someone else. Or it could have been recess. I do remember that face. I don’t think I had him as a classroom teacher, though.

        • Tom Allen '66

          Bonnie, you probably have him confused with Lou Dorsey, the boys PE coach. Walt was one of the best-ever athletes at Staples and has a plaque on the Staples Wall of Fame. Football and baseball were his sports. I think he was in the class of ’42.

          • Bonnie Scott Connolly

            You are totally correct, it was Coach Dorsey I was thinking of. Thanks!

  2. Jack Backiel

    I went to Burr Farms School from 1957 to 1959. As a matter of fact, I have a scanned class photo taken in the “cafetorium” and would be glad to send it to anyone interested. However, when I was there, we had another Principal at the school. If you want a a copy of the 1959 class photo,
    E-mail me at

    • My typo, Jack. Walt was a 3rd grade teacher. The principal was Lenny Metelits. Sorry — it’s been fixed in the story above.

    • Jack Backiel

      I neglected to wish Bill Mitchell a Happy 70th Birthday. He used to hit golf balls at Westport Golf Range. Happy Birthday and may you have many more.

  3. Fred Cantor

    Happy birthday to Bill, who contributes to the community in so many ways. (Hard to believe he’s 70.)

  4. Lisa Kaplan Steier

    Mr. Melillo looks great! Other than the inevitable (and graceful) aging, he looks the same as he did in the 60’s when I was at Burr Farms.

  5. Jean Whitehead

    Wonderful to see Mr. Mellilo! He was a great teacher. Always calm and always wanted to make sure you understood. Hope you’ll have a chance to let him know the kids from Burr Farms remember him so well!
    Thank you Dan.

  6. Yes, Walt was great. Though I didn’t have him as a teacher, I remember him fondly from Burr Farms. And Happy 70th Birthday, Bill! You’re both treasures.

  7. Happy Birthday Bill.

  8. Steve McCoy

    Great article. Walt looke great and just like I remember him. Great memories of the old rooster (wasn’t that our mascot?).

  9. Mr. Melillo looks as handsome as ever. Third grade was wonderful because of him. He’s a great teacher and a great man. Thanks, Dan.

  10. Mary McGee

    Happy birthday, Bill! He’s a class act.

  11. Jeffrey Ruden

    Dan. Awesome story. I too had him at Burr Farms. Great teacher.

  12. Jack Backiel

    Does anyone remember Mr. Pierce from Burr Farms School? (I also had Ms Fournier the first year she became a teacher.) I really liked Mr. Pierce. Does anyone remember these teachers?

  13. Pamela Kinsey

    Dan, another great story which brings back memories…Yes, I remember Mr. Melillo. Hard to believe he is 90! Remakably, he does still look the same! Also, I worked at Ed Mitchell’s just before and briefly while in College. Bill looks great too! Jack Backiel, yes, I remember Ms. Fournier quite well….I had her for Grade 6 and remember the file cabinets with the ‘New Math’ pages! Thanks again, Dan!

  14. Pamela Kinsey

    One more quick question…where is Ed Mitchell now? I remember it moved from the place across from Saugatuck Congregational Church up closer to Roseville Rd…I think? Is it still there?

    • Ed passed away at the age of 99 in Florida. “Mitchells” is alive and well on the Post Road on the hill, just west of Roseville and MacDonald’s. They also own five (5) other stores from Greenwich to San Franicisco.

  15. Happy Birthday, Billy! I had the good fortune to work at Ed Mitchell’s (Colonial Green) during my senior year at Staples (’66) and several Christmas holidays thereafter. The family was and remains THE class act of Westport. Walt was a Staples (’41) graduate and magnificent athlete. Classmates with Joey Karmanosky, Erwin Waterbury, Jared Harrison and the Andersens. The latter, Mrs., remains alive and still painting in Texas.

  16. Timothy Woodruff

    Bill Mitchell has always done so many cool things for people… From the hockey tickets he handed me as a Bedford JHS 9th Grader – Caps / Rangers when the Caps were expansion awful to the subtle suit upgrade at no cost to my parents, he made 20 years later when I was getting married the first time around… It was a simple matter of
    “Your parents picked this navy suit for you but you’re going on a honeymoon in this one…” All with that million dollar smile he got from his Dad.

    The kicker was when he posted for my Dad’s memorial service at Saugatuck Congregational… Bill Mitchell is simply more than a “class act,” he is a business / customer service / human being model for the world – Please see “Hug Your Customers!” He never fails to amaze. Happy Birthday Bill!

  17. Mr. Melillo was one of my most inspirational teachers I had at Burr Farms (late 60’s early 70’s). He taught me how to do math fast. He would do a horse race game on the chalk board. He’d put up a math equation – first to get it right – their horse would advance. The prize was always candy – so as a “candy addict” – I learned how to calculate fast enough to win!

  18. I worked with Walt at Beach School. I remember is license plate BBBC, Bruce, Brian Bret & Carol, his children. My brother Keith had him as a third grade teacher at Burr Farms. Somehow I was in his class and I remember as each student left his class he would shake hands with them, what a great guy.

  19. Katie Chase

    Walt Melillo ended his teaching career at the reconfigured Long Lots Elementary School, still teaching 3rd grade, in the 1980s. I’m not sure when he retired. My son was his student and when I first mentioned to Mr. M that my son could be somewhat distracting–to himself & others–he said “Mrs. Chase, don’t you worry about a thing.” And that 3rd grade year was a very good one!

  20. Bart Shuldman

    Happy Birthday Bill. You have shown us all how important it is to have great customer service. And your commitment to our community is outstanding.

  21. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Happy Birthday Bill!!

  22. marc bailin

    Dan thanks so much for this. Mr. Melillo looks wonderful. I remember him so fondly from Burr Farms. My mom went to high school (Bassick.High) in Bridgeport with Lenny Metellits (sp?).

    • Jack Backiel

      If I remember correctly, there was a Mrs Carpenter that also taught at Burr Farms in the late 1950s when I was there. Does anyone remember her? How about Mr. Pierce…does anyone remember him?

      • I remember Mrs. (or Miss) Carpenter. I don’t remember Mr. Pierce, but for an elementary school we had many male teachers: Walt Melillo, Lou Dorsey, Ace Mahakian, Matt Rudd, Ed Morrison, and the principal Lenny Metelits.

        • Jack Backiel

          Are you sure Ace Mahakian was at Burr Farms? I don’t remember him there, but I know he was at Saugatuck School. Unless he was there after June 1959 when I left Burr Farms.

  23. Michele Wrubel

    Happy Birthday, Bill! He is one of the reasons Westport is such a special place… he is so giving to our community!

  24. James Cushing

    I was in Mr. Melillo’s 3rd grade class at Burr Farms and remember him very well. I especially remember being surprised when I saw him one Saturday selling menswear at Mitchells downtown!

  25. Bev Breault

    first of all Happy Birthday Bill. Started buying your clothes way back when you were in that tiny store at Compo Center. However, I would love to say a great big hello to Walt whom I’ve known from the early 50’s. He also was a beach school teacher at Compo for my sons. You still look as handsome as you did way back then.