It was a day William “Bill” J. Kupinse Jr. would have enjoyed outdoors, pursuing one of his many hobbies. Sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures greeted guests who turned out April 24 at Aspetuck Park to remember him.
Family, friends and colleagues celebrated various aspects of his life and the way he chose to live it. His adult children, Bill, Andrew and Jennifer, crafted a moving eulogy, citing his roles as statesman, father and man of faith.
The Rev. Robert Genevicz conducted the service. Bill taught Sunday school, and both the pastor and one of Bill’s kids spoke of Bill as a teacher: the way he didn’t lecture but asked questions and led the kids to draw their own conclusions.
Andrew read first. “Our father had very two distinct sides: Dad was a serious lawyer and town official. He wore a suit and tie. He was smart and focused. Dad was dignified, and polite, and old-school. And yet, he was just a big kid, who loved doing things outdoors and having fun.”
Andrew recalled his dad’s campaigns for Easton’s first selectman’s seat, which he occupied from 1997 to 2007, the most familiar of his many roles in the community. “He loved the town and enjoyed serving and solving problems,” Andrew said. “But the re-election process, if done well, required a lot of effort and every two years, for 10 years, he’d knock on virtually every door in town to present his case for being re-elected. Once in office, he would post notices by nailing them on the colonial-era sign boards around town in what he called K-Mail.”
Perhaps the most memorable parts of the eulogy were about Bill’s role as a family man. “Dad also loved to learn about the history and culture of other parts of the world, but because he put his children’s interests ahead of his own, it wasn’t until after all three of his children had graduated college that he himself travelled beyond the U.S. and Canada,” his son Bill said. “By then, he had sent Andrew and me to Europe and Jenny to the Soviet Union and India. He finally got his own opportunity to travel when he and Mom came to see Jenny when she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sri Lanka. Dad arrived, carrying bottles of Easton well water so that Jenny could ‘taste’ home.”
Jennifer shared her recollections. “What a wonderful grandfather he was! ” she said. “He built a log cabin for playing in, raked huge leaf piles for jumping on, and planted potatoes just so the kids could dig them up like treasure … He helped them learn to ski, took them on their first amusement park rides and was the organizer for camping trips. As the kids got bigger, he taught them the art of stamp collecting, how to play pool and poker, and made them watch his favorite movies … Dad’s secret to being such a good grandfather was that he loved all of those activities as much as the grandkids did.”
Jennifer also recalled her Dad’s spiritual side. “Dad’s sense of worldly, brotherly love and forgiveness was rooted in his humanity and spirituality … He believed that God is good and that learning more about this goodness is an adventure that helps us now and goes on beyond our days here on earth.”
To enhance the mood of the day guitarist Bob Morrill played and sang hymns the family chose, among them, How Great Thou Art, Be Thou My Vision, and In The Garden. Lifelong friend Paul Trotta read a poem, “A Departed Friend,” by Julie Ann Moore. Jennifer said that Trotta was her dad’s childhood friend and stayed close to him all of his life.
Bill’s love for Easton included his longstanding membership in the Aspetuck Land Trust and Citizens for Easton. Several speakers fondly recalled serving with him in these local groups.
Community Comments and Remembrances
“Bill understood and loved the heartbeat of Easton,” longtime friend Dolly Curtis said. “He saw the bigger picture of what was most important here, which is the protection and stewardship of the water resources. He coined the phase ‘Easton is the jewel of Fairfield County.’ That description is widely used today.
“He always believed that our zoning and open spaces, our walking trails and undeveloped land were what made us different than the other nine towns in Fairfield County. We were filled with sadness by his passing but full of respect for how he lived his life. He was a role model for all of us.”
Dolly interviewed Bill for the Easton 175th Anniversary Oral History Project. It is available here.
Leslie Minasi described the day: “The setting to say farewell to Bill was perfect. It was on the far side of the ‘mud hole’ over the bridge in a beautiful copse of trees, very nearly backing up to the property Bill was instrumental in saving: Trout Brook Valley. White chairs spaced appropriately, with beautiful flowers placed at the base of every tree. Very bittersweet as it is hard to say goodbye to a man who was so well loved.
“Each of his children spoke eloquently about the gentleness of Bill’s soul, and his desire to help others, and how well he loved the land and Easton, as well as about Bill’s fun side … Family first, and I know how well Bill loved his wife and children and how proud he was of each of them.
“Dolly spoke about Bill and how much he achieved for Easton, as well as some fun anecdotes like joining the PT Barnum parade with a tractor, red bandana and overalls, exemplifying Easton’s down-to-earth agricultural character. She also talked about how he supported her in times of terrible adversity, and how much of a loyal and steadfast friend he was.
“As all who spoke said, Bill left the world in a better place than when he entered it,” Minasi said.
Lea Sylvestro said, “The setting embodied Bill’s love of Easton’s natural beauty and his years of working to preserve it through Citizens for Easton, as First Selectman, and literally until he passed … It was so good to see everyone! Given Covid, it was a reunion of sorts. There was a warm and wonderful feeling in that — in seeing each other after this trying year — as well as being brought together because of someone we all loved and valued so highly.
“As an example of Bill’s faith and philosophy of life, the pastor told the story of the Good Samaritan: caring for one’s neighbors, no matter who they are. Bill’s caring and being careful in word and deed were also the theme of Jennifer Kupinse Narula’s eulogy. Her brothers Andrew and Bill also spoke about Bill as a father. His honor, dignity, calm, caring … his love of his work and his years at Goldstein and Peck; his adventurous spirit, his love of travel.
“Whenever he traveled, Bill always bought a language book and tried to learn as much as he could about the language of the countries they visited. Bill was ‘the opposite of the ugly American’ in his respect and interest in the places he visited. Of course the children mentioned his love of his grandchildren and the way he relished and nurtured their interests,” Sylvestro said.
Selectman Robert Lessler commented on Bill’s passing at the April 22 Board of Selectmen meeting. The two men served together on the board when Bill was first selectman. Bill “had a vision for our town to which he was fully committed and for which he fought like few ever have, ever could, or ever will again,” Lessler said. “He served as the chairman of the Charter Commission back in the 80’s. He was the heart and soul of Citizens for Easton. He was a key member of the Republican Town Committee for decades. He was the leader of the town when we purchased the Morehouse Road property.
“He led the fight to preserve all of the Trout Brook Valley. He continued to work on behalf of his vision for our town after he left office. He was a frequent moderator at town meetings. He was a regular presence at Board of Selectmen meetings and Planning and Zoning meetings at least through last summer … Bill gave Easton much of his time and talents … May his memory be for a blessing and may he rest in peace.”
Daughter Jennifer added what is perhaps the most timely of comments. “Dad is leaving the world better for having been here. Contributing kindness, helping preserve green spaces, giving to so many causes — from Native American education to ways to make political discourse more civil. We hope that he has touched each of you in a way that will radiate further.”