Steven D. Park, a former city councilman who in the late 1990s was considered one of Hartford's rising political stars, died Sunday from an infection associated with kidney disease, his family and friends said. He was 58.
Park served on the city council from 1996 to 1999, having taken over in the middle of a term for Art Feltman, who had been elected to the state legislature. He was then elected to a full term. After failing to get the Democratic town committee's endorsement in 1999, Park chose not to seek re-election.
Park was known as a fun-loving man and an idealist who was always looking for ways to help others. He was the type of person to rush outside in the mornings after winter storms to help push neighbors' cars from the snow, his mother, Christine Park, said.
"That was his thing," Christine Park said. "His whole thrust was that people should help each other."
And while Park was known for reaching out to those in need, he also struggled with his own demon — alcoholism — that may have contributed to his health problems, his family and friends said.
Park often preached the mantra passed down to him from his father and grandfather of doing "two kindnesses" a day — a lesson his mother said Park also gave to his two sons, Michael and Alexander.
While Park's earnest side kept him committed to public service — he had a knack for galvanizing people of diverse opinions and backgrounds — he also liked a good laugh, she said. As he lay in a hospital bed before his death, his mother pointed out that he had become quite popular with the hospital staff.
"He had all these pretty nurses coming in and I said, 'Look at this, all these pretty nurses coming to see you,'" Christine Park said. "He looked up at me and said, 'That's because I'm a fun person.'"
Former Mayor Mike Peters, a longtime friend, said Park would be greatly missed as a man whose primary goal was to contribute to his community. As Peters reflected on his friend's life, he fondly remembered one of his friend's quirks — Park had a simple but distinctive taste in clothing.
"The good thing about Steve is that he always had a pink shirt on, so you always knew when he was coming from, like, 30 blocks away," Peters said. "I think that was his favorite color. He must have had about 50 shirts like that."
Park was raised in Cohasset, Mass., and moved to Hartford after graduating from Drew University in New Jersey. He worked in the insurance industry and then in real estate. With a vast knowledge of the city's real estate market, Park helped the city plan for its economic future. He also pushed for a transit plan and an independent parking authority to run the city's parking lots.
He was also known for his involvement in other civic efforts. He was president of the West End Civic Association and was deeply involved in planning the city's Thomas Hooker Day Parade.
Dan Carey, the Hartford city clerk, said he worked with Park on the parade's planning committee.
"He smiled, laughed a lot, and had a lot of friends," Carey said. "When he lived, he was a happy-go-lucky guy."
Funeral services for Park will be Saturday at noon in the meeting house of the First Church of Christ, 75 Main St.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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