NAUGATUCK — Robert Woodfield Sr., a onetime mayoral candidate who served on the Board of Mayor and Burgesses for decades, died Thursday morning at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury. He was 76.
After 17 terms on the borough board, Woodfield, a Republican, decided not to run again last May due mostly to declining health, said his son Robert Woodfield Jr.
The former burgess, who lived on Field Street, fell at home last weekend and was taken to Saint Mary’s Hospital, where he succumbed to a lung infection similar to pneumonia.
“He wasn’t in the best of health, but it was quite quick and quite unexpected,” said Robert Woodfield Jr., who is 55 and lives in Clifton Park, N.Y.
Robert Woodfield Sr. was born and raised in the borough, going through its public school system and attending New Haven College, now the University of New Haven.
He worked for at least 20 years as a computer analyst at the Uniroyal chemical manufacturing company and owned ACE Computer Enterprises, which he ran out of the borough.
Woodfield had five sons with his wife, Shirley, and became active in Peter J. Foley Little League and the Naugatuck Lodge of Elks. As he grew more active in the community, friends encouraged him to run for burgess, Robert Woodfield Jr said. Woodfield won his first election in 1973.
“He had grown up there, and I think he had a vested interest in keeping it a nice place for people to grow up and raise their kids,” his son said. “I think he probably had a concern that that wasn’t what was happening.”
As a burgess, Woodfield supported creating youth activities and recreational areas in the borough. He helped found and was later inducted into the Naugatuck Hall of Fame and served on the Human Resource Development board of directors.
Woodfield’s position as a Republican in a majority Democrat town could sometimes be compared to his position in the family — a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan against all five of his New York Yankee-supporting sons.
“He liked to be on the other side of a debate,” his son said.
Woodfield contemplated a run for mayor in 1986 but decided against it, saying the campaign would be too expensive.
He secured the Republican nomination for mayor about 11 years later, but lost in the primary election to Timothy Barth, who went on to win the general election.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said when he was growing up in the borough, Woodfield was already a well-known figure.
“He was just one of those pillars of the community that you identified with public service,” Mezzo said.
More than anything, Woodfield was a family man, according to those who knew him. He spent 10 years taking care of his wife after she suffered a stroke, his son said. She died three years ago.
“I think when she passed it took a little out of him,” Robert Woodfield Jr. said. “He wasn’t quite the same after that.”
Two of Woodfield’s sons, Gregory and Jeffery, live in the borough. His son Michael lives in Oxford, and his son Gary lives in New Britain.
Toward the end of his life, Woodfield found it harder to leave the house, but he did make a point to attend the Naugatuck High School football game against Ansonia on Thanksgiving Day, where his grandson, Tim, a senior, was playing.
“If Mr. Woodfield had never chosen to run for elected office, you’d still be talking about his accomplishments, because they were so much beyond just being a burgess,” Mezzo said. “If you’re a young person and you want to say, ‘How should I live life?’ Mr. Woodfield would be a good example.”