If you want to know what Bill Kupinse meant to Easton, best to know what Easton meant to him. That’s easy enough. After his family and his beloved wife, Pat, Easton meant almost everything.
From Silverman’s, on down the road to Greiser’s. From the Saugatuck, on over to the Hemlock. From the Aspetuck River, over to the Mill River. East to west, north to south. All of it, as if a famous line from a famous song appealed to him: This land was made for you and me…
This land was certainly made for Bill.
He had an unusual bond to the land, an enlightened bond. It was rooted in the past, when Easton was a hard-scrabble farm town which seemed especially adept at growing rocks. A couple hundred years ago, those rocks were stacked into stone walls. Those cleaved the woodlands, representing someone’s hard work and also their futility.
Who was that “someone,” he wondered. Were their lives and efforts in vain?
With a few notable and enduring exceptions — the Edwards or Sherwood’s, for example — most farmers abandoned Easton in and around 1900. They were happy (or not) to take whatever Bridgeport Hydraulic offered. Their fields turned to brush, brush to trees. Nature rebounded. The Easton past receded and in places disappeared altogether. Easton became a “reservoir town.” Its number-one promoter called it the “Jewel of Fairfield County.”
That number-one promoter knew “jewels” were easily tarnished, easily lost. When that happened, the past was lost and in the bargain, dishonored. He refused to allow that to happen.
In 1972, he helped found Citizens for Easton. It opposed the construction of GE’s corporate headquarters off of South Park. GE gave up, and went across the Merritt instead.
Soon, more challenges to long-standing zoning regulations appeared. Some wanted to commercialize parts of town, or terminate three-acre zoning. Some wanted to build cluster housing. One wanted to put in street lights.
To have just one commercial district would not change the character of the town insisted its proponents, but Bill knew otherwise. It was never about one proposal, but the aggregate of the proposals. Bill’s famous “Camel in the tent” theory. Precedents would be set. One after another. Like dominoes, or stonewalls. A condo complex on one abandoned farm would be followed by a condo complex on another. A “commercial district” here, eventually a Target there.
Nothing against condos, commercial districts or Targets. Like all of us, he patronized them. He wasn’t against anything. Bill was for something — that past, for those who came before, and especially for those who would come in the future.
What is the role of a “citizen”? He wondered about that too. Seems obvious, or superficial enough. Not to Bill. A citizen is someone who believes that he or she has an obligation to other citizens — those living, those gone, those yet to come. It was a complex configuration, a multifaceted one, but not for him. We’re all part of a community and our responsibility is to that community. That’s what a citizen does, who a citizen is. Who he was.
Who was Bill? He was old school. Of course he was. He spoke quietly. He wore a conservative gray suit. His tie was never loosened. He had a slight stoop in his shoulders. He walked with purpose.
Bill Kupinse was an honorable man. We’re blessed to have known him. Above all, Easton was blessed.