Remembering Bill Seiden

William “Bill” Seiden — 1st selectman of Westport from 1981-85 — died August 8 in Bend, Oregon. He was 91. He had been in hospice care, and utilized the state’s Death With Dignity act.

When 2-term Democrat Jacqueline Heneage did not seek reelection, Seiden — a Republican businessman — ran on a ticket with Barbara Butler. They prevailed over Martha Hauhuth and Ralph Sheffer.

According to Woody Klein’s history of Westport, Seiden ran on a platform to “preserve the past, and protect open space.”

Bill Seiden (Photo by Doug Healey, courtesy of Woody Klein)

His most notable accomplishment was the appointment of a Homeless People’s Committee. Overseen by Butler — who later became the town’s human services director — and including Reverend Ted Hoskins and James Bacharach, the group opened the town’s first soup kitchen.

Westporter Phil Donahue featured it on his TV show, as an example of “an affluent town with a social conscience.”

Seiden’s administration was marked by a bitter feud with Arnie Kaye. The entrepreneur wanted to open a video game parlor — “Arnie’s Place” — on the Post Road (where Balducci’s is now). Seiden opposed the idea.

At one point, Kaye chained himself to Town Hall. He later organized a recall petition against Seiden, but failed to get the required 1,600 signatures.

In 1985, Hauhuth again ran against Seiden. This time she and running mate Wally Meyer prevailed, 5,171 votes to 3,393. Seiden would have served as third selectman. But — citing personal commitments and business responsibilities — he declined. Hauhuth appointed Jo Fuchs — who had run with Seiden — to the post.

An obituary has not been published. However, an insight into Seiden’s post-Westport life comes from his friend Carrie Elmore. This summer, she sent a note to “all who are lucky enough to call Bill Seiden a friend”:

As you may know, Bill is nearing the end of a wonderful adventure called life, which he has certainly lived to its fullest. Even now, at 91, he has a desk full of work, engagements on the calendar, phone calls to make and emails to send. From what I can tell, Bill has never been one to slow down.

And slowing down, he is not. Bill is truly excited to begin his next adventure with the guidance of God and the assistance of the Death with Dignity program. However, before he goes, he’s hoping for one last party, one last celebration, with those who meant the most…you!

My family and I have had the honor of getting a glimpse into an amazing life well lived. The lessons he has taught us without even realizing it, will not be forgotten (or laughingly, maybe that was all part of his plan).

And speaking of plans, he is still making them. Bill would love nothing more than to share some time on the afternoon of August 5 with you, at his home. While there is no road map or “right” way to do this, Bill’s only wish is that this will be a party, celebrating the relationships he’s made in this great life. Tears are allowed but what  Bill is really hoping to share is laughter, memories, food and drink, and lots of handshakes and hugs. He’s calling it “”A memorial in which he can  participate.”

Bill requests that you bring questions for the departed. He will try his best to get the answers. But choose the names carefully. He already has ones for Cousin Houdini, Uncle Moe, Larry and Curly.

(Hat tip: Robert Hauck)

5 responses to “Remembering Bill Seiden

  1. RIP, Bill, you presided over the most memorable prank in Westport’s history.

  2. A great guy for Westport! Spoke to Bill not long ago and we shared many memorial events of his administration.

  3. G. Kenneth Bernhard

    I am very sad to learn of Bill’s death. Bill appointed me to serve as his Town Attorney and for that I will be forever grateful. Bill was a terrific mentor, a little quirky at times, but always a great leader and a dedicated First Selectman. He was tireless in his commitment to our community and inspired all of us who had the good fortune to work with him. We just lost a good man. .
    Ken Bernhard

  4. Dear Bill,
    Rest In Peace my friend. We argued and disagreed many times on many subjects but always ended with a handshake smile or drink. When I was ill you where one of the first to come to my aid. You always had Westport first and brought it into the Computerized world of today. You were a mentor to many. You never turned away from a fight. It was an honor to know you.

  5. If anyone is curious about the Death with Dignity program, there is a documentary called “How to Die in Oregon” which is facinating and no doubt Mr Seiden had seen himself. It’s my hope that the program will someday be allowed in all 50 states to allow everyone the right to pass on in their own way, with dignity. RIP

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