Remembering Cathy Talmadge

Catherine Cassel Talmadge — a longtime Westporter, prominent volunteer in numerous organizations, and beloved wife, mother, sister and friend — died December 30. She was 71 years old.

Cathy’s long and public battle with sarcoidosis and kidney disease was followed by a rapid and private fight with esophageal cancer.

Born on December 9, 1951, Cathy spent her first few years in Oakland, California and Rochester, Minnesota before the family moved back to her parents’ hometown of Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Fairview High School there.

In 1975 Cathy received a BA in dance performance, with  a minor in philosophy, from Denison University. Cathy practiced modern dance and moved to Breckenridge, Colorado where she met her husband, Tom Talmadge, in 1977.

Cathy and Tom Talmadge

Their early years were carefree, on the slopes and spent with friends in local venues.

In 1979 Cathy returned to school to obtain an MBA at University of Denver, with hopes of opening a dance studio. Though that dream never came to fruition, she discovered a talent for business and communications at a time when it was not scommon for women to have MBAs.

She was soon swept into business operations, including a successful career at Time Warner Cable from 1982 to 2001. Cathy rose to become vice president of finance. She was a pioneer for women in the workforce, with many following in her footsteps.

This role brought Cathy, Tom and their infant daughter Carolyn to Westport in 1989. She lived there for the rest of her life.

(From right): Cathy, Tom and Carolyn Talmadge.

After Time Warner Cable she continued as a consultant with telecommunications companies, including Lemur and Juniper Networks.

Cathy’s active participation in the Westport community for over 3 decades began as a mother with school organizations, and at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.

In recent decades Cathy worked energetically and happily to make Westport a better place to live. For over 14 years she was an elected member of the Representative Town Meeting, serving on its Finance, Public Works and Environment Committees.

Cathy Talmadge

She balanced this with leadership roles in local organizations that work to secure a more sustainable future. She was an early organizer for Wakeman Town Farm, and long-term treasurer as it developed into a viable enterprise.

While she served on the boards of WTF, Friends of Sherwood Island State Park and Earthplace, her daily boots-on-the-ground volunteering was equally appreciated.

In her spare time Cathy was an avid cook, gardener, swimmer, skier, reader, tennis player, hiker and world traveler; a lover of animals, all things beautiful, and all things nature.

Cathy Talmadge, among nature.

In addition to their house pets, Cathy and Tom raised chickens, and cared for a pride of feral cats, working with local trap and neuter organization TAILS to keep them healthy and humanely contained.

Cathy is survived by Tom, her husband of 40 years; her daughter Carolyn of Boston; sisters Polly Cassel of Northampton, Massachusetts, Beth Cassel of San Rafael, California and Martha Cassel of Cambridge, Massachusetts; nieces Stella and Eve Cassel and nephew Rudy Cassel, and many beloved friends.

A public memorial service will be held on January 27 at Greenfield Hill Church  in Fairfield (1 p.m., followed by a reception in the hall).

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that those who are able instead make a donation to Wakeman Town Farm, Earthplace or TAILS.

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Last month, “06880” published this tribute to Cathy, from her friend Christy Colasurdo. Her longtime friend and fellow Wakeman Town Farm volunteer wrote:

When I met you more than  15 years ago, I was in awe. You were a wonderful cook, gardener, traveler, swimmer, environmentalist, and served on at least 2 town boards.

And that’s just skimming the surface.

You clearly relished your role as a conduit between the players in town and the organizations you served. You knew everyone who was anyone, and they obviously knew and respected you.

But the thing that impressed me the most was how you were always the first to quietly jump in to lend a hand, whether it was wrangling permits from the liquor control board, rolling up your sleeves to sew masks during COVID or dropping off used file folders to cut down on paper waste.

When I think of you, I picture you in your sunny kitchen with a soup bubbling on the stove and a golden retriever and Siamese cat at your feet, switching out your seasonal planters, or working away at your sewing table. You befriended and surrounded yourself with local environmental “greats” like Sal Gilbertie and Norm Bloom, and you were viewed as a civic leader on par with these giants for your commitment to Earthplace, Sherwood Island, the RTM, Wakeman Town Farm and other local organizations fighting for a more sustainable environment.

Cathy Talmadge, at Wakeman Town Farm.

At the Farm you were one of the pioneers, putting yourself in the mix to ensure a successful initial renovation of the aging Wakeman residence to provide a cozy and warm welcome to the first caretaking family.

After this you took on the dual roles of town liaison and farm treasurer, helping create accounting systems, guiding budget decisions, managing the Farm’s first audit and so much more.

To many of us at the Farm you were a valued team player and, more than this: family.

I was deeply affected by your fight through serious illnesses, leading to your kidney transplant last year.

Thank you for your friendship, and for being such a wonderful person. Please know that you have always been an inspiration to me and many others. and that we are with you now.

10 responses to “Remembering Cathy Talmadge

  1. Andrew Colabella

    I first met Cathy when I was 15, working at the beach. Her daughter Carolyn was my supervisor. I remember her black Mercedes’ and would have to alert Carolyn when her car was Near, but I would forget after she had stopped to talk to me…and this would continue (sorry Carolyn 🤣).

    Cathy’s tenacious and unwavering love for Westport showed in her volunteering but also her garden at home, and home in general. It was almost like Narnia, tranquil and peaceful but so natural.

    Cathy has left an impression on all of us, to do what’s right and what’s best for all, and as a leader in the business world and Westport, she left this place better than what it once was. In fact, we’re all better because we got to know, work and learn from her.

    Tom and Carolyn, you two are blessed. To be with someone everyday who was so happy, positive, lively, intelligent, driven thoughtful and caring is bliss. I’m so glad to have known her and honored to have served with her.

    Miss you Cathy.

  2. J. Scott Broder

    Thank you Dan for this beautiful tribute to one of Westports true treasures, Cathy Talmadge. Our family was blessed to meet Cathy, Tom and Caroline when they first moved into Westport. Our girls were best friends from nursery school on. One of the many notable qualities anyone fortunate to get to know Cathy was her consistent kindness and time to share her talents with you. Her strong but quiet determination to get whatever she worked on efficiently done was most noticeable. Cathy was a truly exceptional woman and will be missed by anyone lucky enough to have known her. God bless you Cathy, you will be missed by our family 🙏🏼❤️

  3. Kristin Schneeman

    Cathy’s calm, reasoned, principled presence will be dearly missed in our debates. She was a deeply good person, a do-er, and a strong advocate for the environment and sustainability. We were blessed to have her as a colleague.

  4. I was so saddened to hear of Cathy’s passing, but my thoughts quickly turned to her many blessings—her kind and generous nature, her love of the outdoors and healthy living, and her can-do, cooperative spirit. I loved working with Cathy. She had a congenial knack for pulling others into her worthy projects, and if she invited you for soup and sandwiches, you knew she would persuade you to join in. She will be deeply missed, but her spirit will remain with all those she touched.

  5. Cathy was a super star human being. I’ve been blessed to have served with her on the RTM for over a decade. I will always remember that snowy day many years ago when Cathy, and Liz Milwe invited members of the RTM a Saturday meeting in cold room at a small farm on Cross Highway…known as Wakeman Farm…it was small and old.

    Cathy and Liz led a presentation of a vision to create a “community” farm for all of Westport. This included animals, education, entertainment, recreation.

    Today thanks to Cathy and Liz helping to lead the charge, work the funding bodies of Westport, as well as many residents to buy in and donate – This dream known as the Wakeman Town Farm we see today would not exist.

    Thank you my friend for always putting others first.

    Dan, wonderful post

  6. Christy Colasurdo

    Thank you, Dan Woog. You helped us celebrate Cathy while she was still alive and able to enjoy a look back at her many friendships and accomplishments and contributions to the town. Cathy was a truly wonderful woman, and you generously helped show her our collective love.

  7. I knew Cathy to be a lovely, sweet and strong woman. She loved her husband and her daughter, and her face would light up when she spoke about them. Tom and Carolyn, you were so very lucky to have her in your life. There is a quote”
    Don’t cry because I am gone, Smile because I was here.”
    We all are smiling, Cathy.

  8. don Sheila bergmann

    As I said to the RTM on Tuesday before commenting upon the leaf lower ordinance, Cathy and I shared a love of dogs, especially Golden Retrievers. Cathy had more than enough love for animals, people, Westport and all that was deserving of her love. We will miss Cathy Talmadge.

  9. I first met Cathy when we were on opposite sides of the debate over building the Y. She was tough but fair, and always decent.

    Our disagreement at that time never impeded our ability to develop a friendship and a working relationship, and it was always a pleasure to talk with her and to work with her when we had the chance. She had a great sense of humour and openness. She was terrific in her work with and advocacy for the Wakeman Town Farm and Earthplace, and a true Westporter: passionate, committed, and hard working.

    She will be very much missed.

  10. David Shechtman

    I first met Cathy in Breckenridge in the 70s she and Tom were among my closest friends. There will always be a special place in my heart for her. Love you and will miss you. Rest In Peace.

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