West Haven mourns Fran Withington, former tax collector and ‘good all-rounder’

WEST HAVEN — If you ever needed to find Fran Withington, he was probably smoking a cigar near the shore.

“He was a fixture there,” former mayor Ed O’Brien said.

Withington, a former city tax collector, died on Sunday. He was 74 years old.

O’Brien said he spoke with Withington daily for years as a friend and mentor.

“He was one of those guys that I bounced off of,” O’Brien said. “He had a witty sense of humor and loved being around people. Very kind.

West Haven shoreline

File photo by Helen Bennett/Hearst Connecticut Media

Longtime city clerk Debbie Collins said Withington wasn’t just looking at the glass as half full — he always saw it as completely full.

“He always looked on the sunny side,” she said.

Under the O’Brien administration, Withington was made a part-time complaints officer. Collins said Withington took the task of helping her community so seriously that she became well known at City Hall.

“Every time he had to complain, he ended up helping everyone,” she said, determining who in the community needed new furniture, groceries or a ride and theirs. giving.

“I love West Haven. It’s my home. It’s my family’s home. All my kids are here,” Withington said when he was named complaints officer in 2014. “I want it to be better, just like Ed (O’Brien) wants it to be better, and I’m happy to be part of the team.”

France Whitington

France Whitington

Photo added

Withington is survived by three children – son Gary and daughters Denise and Dawn. The Withington girls described their father as someone who was invested in helping others, with a deep passion for his town.

“He’s always been involved in politics since I was little,” Dawn Withington said. “My sister and I used to get dropped off on the corner to hand out pamphlets.”

Denise Withington said many people her age were once employed by her father at the former Sears Roebuck factory, where he worked for 32 years.

“They all remember it in a positive and fun way,” she said.

Denise Withington said she believes it was family that inspired her father to carry on for so long despite a long illness.

“I have a 15-year-old daughter and she was the highlight of her day,” she said. “Watching her grow has really pushed her forward.”

Collins said Withington had “millions of friends” in the city, many of whom probably didn’t know their last name, but he was extremely generous and helpful to everyone. She said helping others recover from alcoholism was an active cause for him. Denise Withington said her father had been sober for over 30 years.

France Whitington

France Whitington

Photo added /

“He was on the 12-step program. He survived all of that and ran all of those meetings and had such a good connection to his program there and he was just a nice man,” Collins said. “He was just a good person who wanted to help everyone. He knew some people’s demons and your secret was safe with him.

Dawn Withington said after announcing her father’s death there were hundreds of comments on social media platforms. Among those who touched her the most were people who said that her father had saved their lives.

“He wanted to leave West Haven better than when he found it,” she said.

O’Brien said Withington was deeply entrenched in city politics because he wanted what was best for the city.

“He was a Democrat, but he just wanted what was best for West Haven. He backed the person he thought was the best candidate,” he said. a good guy all around.”

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Esther L. Steinbach