Mae Schmidle, 'Spirit of Newtown," dies at 92

NEWTOWN — Mae Schmidle, a former state legislator who fought successfully to save the town’s iconic flagpole when the state moved to tear it down, died Friday at age 92.

Along with serving four terms as a state representative, Schmidle was also Town Clerk and president of the Connecticut State PTA.

“A familiar figure around Newtown, who always dressed in red, she was as dynamic as she was diligent in given her enthusiastic efforts to the causes she espoused,” her death notice reads.

During her years in the Legislature, she will be remembered for her advocacy on behalf of the historic flagpole, first erected in 1876 on the centennial celebration of the nation’s independence.

The state Department of Transportation touched off a furor by proposing to remove the pole after a fatal car accident in 1979, but Schmidle got legislation passed prohibiting its removal.

That wasn’t her only high-profile fight.

In 1985, Schmidle proposed a bill that would outlaw tossing uncooked rice at weddings because “It kills the birds who ingest it," she said. "They can't digest it."

She instead suggested that people throw birdseed. That would feed the birds and at the same time eliminate cleanup work for the churches.

Sort of like "killing two birds with one stone," she said. “The only ones that will be unhappy are the brides and grooms who will have to pick it out of their hair.”

Her ban the rice at weddings bill made national headlines and even a mention in Ann Landers’ syndicated column.

The bill died in the General Assembly after some representatives vetoed the idea of fining rice throwers.

Schmidle was also a longtime champion of the state’s Freedom of Information law.

She was included in the “Legendary Locals of Newtown” history book, and was flattered to be included.

"I can hardly believe it. I just go about through life doing the things I think are interesting and should be done,” she said. “You just need to step forward and do it; and I think that's a lot of what Newtown is all about.”

Born in Bridgeport in 1926, she married her husband, Robert, and lived briefly in Trumbull before moving to Newtown in the early 1960s. Together, they raised two sons, Robert Jr. and Paul, and a daughter, Lisa.

But it was Mae’s social and political activities that read like bullet points of accomplishment.

After serving with the Newtown PTA (and later as President of the Connecticut State PTA), she was elected to the first of her four terms as Town Clerk.

In 1981, she was elected state Representative for the 106th Assembly District, in which she served five terms.

“Indeed, throughout her long and fruitful life she had much love to give - first, to her husband Robert, her son Robert Jr. and his wife Pamela; her son Paul and his wife, Wendy; her daughter, Lisa and her husband, Rob Keller,” her death notice reads. “It included also their children and in-laws, Nicholas and his wife, Rikki; Christian and his wife, Jen; Heather and her fiancé, Chris; and Hillary Schmidle and Baxter and Clayton Keller, in addition to four great-grandsons, Oscar and Bohan and Charlie and Theo.

“Finally, it continues to touch her legion of friends, neighbors and thousands of Newtowners whose lives she will enrich for years to come.”

Calling hours are from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Honan Funeral Home, 58 Main Street, Newtown.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in St. Rose of Lima Church, Newtown at noon on Tuesday, April 30. Interment will follow in Newtown Village Cemetery.

Contributions can be made to the Newtown Visiting Nurse Association, 45 Main St., Newtown, CT 06470.