Prospect remembers first mayor

George A. Sabo Jr.

PROSPECT — Family and friends on Thursday remembered the town’s first mayor as a father, grandfather, public servant and veteran who helped others and fulfilled his dreams.

George A. Sabo Jr., who served 10 years first as the town’s chief administrative officer and then as its mayor, died Wednesday at his home on Cook Road, surrounded by his family. He was 87.

Sabo suffered from various ailments, but in the end, family members believe, he had a stroke, said his son, George A. Sabo III, 46.

Sabo left a mark not only at the government level, but throughout the community.

As soon as Mayor Robert Chatfield received a call about Sabo on Wednesday, he had the American flag flown at half-staff at Town Hall, and the Volunteer Fire Department of Prospect loaned the town a black and purple cloth to drape above the front entrance.

A Democrat, Sabo became Prospect’s first elected chief administrative officer in 1967, the year the town charter was adopted, Chatfield said. Sabo served in that post until 1975, when the charter was changed to create the position of mayor. Sabo was elected to a two-year term as the town’s first mayor from 1975-77.

Chatfield, who has held the top post since 1977 and served on the Town Council under Sabo, said Sabo always used the word, “tremendous.”

“After saying that, I would say he was a tremendous leader of Prospect,” Chatfield said.

During Sabo’s tenure, Beacon Falls and Prospect formed the Region 16 school district, Long River Middle School was constructed, McGrath Park was built and the public works garage on Cheshire was purchased, he said.

Chatfield said the last time Sabo participated in a town function was last year’s Veterans Day or Pearl Harbor Day observance. He had Sabo next to him, and Chatfield welcomed everyone on behalf of himself and the former mayor.

“We were once rivals and for the last 35 years we have been friends,” Chatfield said.

At the Dairy Bar and Restaurant on Route 69, Carol Jones, business owner, said Sabo was always pleasant and had a great personality.

“I loved him,” Jones said. “He was a sweetheart.”

A World War II veteran, Sabo enlisted in the Army in December 1942 and served until he was honorably discharged in January 1946. He served as a technical sergeant in the 3110th Signal Service Battalion in the Normandy, Northern France and Ardennnes-Alsace campaigns.

After he worked for more than 20 years as a cable splicer for the Southern New England Telephone Company, he served Prospect for 10 years. He then went to work for the state Department of Economic Development until his retirement around 1987.

In 1997, Sabo purchased Samarius Precision Instruments in Wallingford.

He also was the founder and president of Highland Greens Golf Course, a family business that is built on the family farm. It’s the only lighted golf course in Connecticut.

Sabo and his wife, Shirley, raised seven children in their pre-Revolutionary War farmhouse.

“He was a just a great father and role model,” said George Sabo III, of Cheshire.

What he recalls most of his father is what he doesn’t recall: “He never seemed to ask for himself,” he said. “He always seemed to be wanting to help other people.”

An example of his father’s giving nature stood out to him. In a snowstorm, he and his brother Thomas would hop in the car with their father, who was mayor then, and clear their driveway. Then they would drive to other houses and clear those driveways, too.

“He would drive us around town to those folks that he knew needed help,” his son said.

Sabo’s daughter, Virginia Sabo, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., said her father was compassionate and giving, but he also accomplished what he wanted to do. He didn’t hold back, she said.

“He was a man who did not leave behind any unfulfilled dreams,” she said.

She also said her father had a way of greeting people.

“He made everyone feel like they were his favorite,” Virginia Sabo said. “That they had just made his day.”