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James Kinsella, Former Hartford Mayor, Probate Judge, Dies At 88


October 10, 2012

HARTFORD James H. Kinsella, a former city mayor, councilman and probate judge, has died. He was 88.

Kinsella died at home early Monday, his wife, Anne-Marie Kinsella, said.

He served as mayor of Hartford for two terms, from 1957 to 1960. Prior to that, he served on the city council and as deputy city mayor.

In 1960, he was elected Hartford's probate judge. He retired from the position in 1984 while facing a possible impeachment over his handling of a wealthy West Hartford woman's estate. Until his recent illness, his family said, he remained an active attorney.

In the decades after his stint as probate judge, Kinsella quietly carried out a series of good works for the city. He created scholarships and school trips for city children, bought a piano for the library and an organ for First Church, put the rose window in the Charter Oak Cultural Center, acquired lights for city hall and horses for the police. He also helped with the city's beautification efforts, including developing a small park with trees and a jogging track at the corner of Broad Street and Farmington Avenue, and sponsored classical music on public radio.

Anne-Marie Kinsella said her husband was keen on helping the city he loved.

"He was tremendously focused on the community," she recalled Wednesday. "He always wanted to better Hartford. He tried to improve the city in many ways that he saw needed improving."

Kinsella grew up in Hartford, where several of his family members also worked and served in public office. His grandfather, Richard J. Kinsella, was mayor of Hartford from 1918 to 1920 and from 1922 to 1924. His father, George F. Kinsella, served as the city assessor, and his brother, George B. Kinsella, also served as city mayor from 1965 to 1967.

Anne-Marie Kinsella noted that at the time, her husband wasn't paid for his service as mayor or on the city council.

"It was in his blood," she said. "They were all very focused on the city. They loved the city."

Mayor Pedro Segarra said Kinsella's love for the community "was evident through his commitment to the development and beautification of the city."

"His passion for all things Hartford will be remembered," the mayor said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Kinsella graduated from Trinity College in 1947 and from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1952. He returned to Hartford after law school, where he passed the Connecticut bar and began a private law practice prior to entering city government.

In his free time, Kinsella was an avid musician and enjoyed playing the piano, his wife said.

Calling hours are Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Dillon Baxter Funeral Home, 1276 Berlin Turnpike in Wethersfield. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday at Saint Augustine Church, 10 Campfield Ave. in Hartford, at 10 a.m. A private burial will follow.

In honor of Kinsella's passing, the city has lowered its flags to half-staff until after the funeral.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that charitable contributions be made in Kinsella's name to the Salvation Army, 225 South Marshall St. in Hartford, or to a charity of the donor's choice.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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