The city of Bridgeport lost one of its true originals on Aug. 4 when Barry Piesner died at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. He was 73 and was in failing health for several years.
Barry will always be fondly remembered here at the Independent. He was one of the founders of the newspaper’s first incarnation, The Bridgeport Independent, helming the fledgling community paper until August 2010.
Barry used to tell me that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would often telephone and refer to Barry as Bridgeport’s No. 1 muckraker.
When the Park City Independent — now the Fairfield County Independent — began publishing this year under new ownership, Barry did some reporting for us. In recent months, he had been mainly occupied with managing Charlie Coviello’s mayoral campaign. Not long before Barry’s death, Charlie dropped out of the race to run for the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Politics was Barry’s lifeblood. Until recently, he was a regular at City Council meetings and he and Charlie always had something to say during the public speaking portions of the meetings. He was also an inveterate writer of letters to the editor.
Barry always had an issue he was championing. Many times the issue was housing as his professional background was in real estate. More recently it has been education and last fall he staged a massive press conference decrying the elimination of the successful Peer to Peer Leadership Group at Central High School.
I first met Barry years ago when he used to hold court at Downtown Cappuccino’s, a small restaurant on Fairfield Avenue across from the courthouse. The place was owned by then and current City Councilman Carlos Silva.
Over coffee he would talk about the subject of the day, which was usually politics but could also be about fishing, real estate or some other topic. Often it was about one of his many proposed business enterprises and, believe me, Barry always had many irons in the fire and continued to do so right up until last week.
Among other ventures, he once owned Integrity Marketing in Newtown and IMS Capital in Monroe. He also was chairman of the Bridgeport Business Alliance, an advertising and public relations services company. But there would always be something else on his plate. Always.
He loved newspapers and longed to be involved with a community paper long before the Independent came along. So one time, he approached me and told me he wanted to buy the Bridgeport Banner. I really didn’t have much success in selling it, which is why I suppose I still run it.
In any event, it wouldn’t hurt to hear him out. So Barry, myself and my two silent partners met at Las Vetas Lounge, a coffee shop in Fairfield to discuss the proposition. As we talked, it became clear to us that Barry’s idea was for us to cede ownership of the paper to Barry, and then we would pay him several thousand dollars to write articles for it. Nice try Barry, but no thanks. The man certainly had chutzpah.
But most of all, Barry was a nice guy and he was always in there trying. He and Charlie were always tackling some perceived wrong in Bridgeport. Maybe they were tilting at windmills but they called attention to a lot of problems here.
And this newspaper and website you are reading now exists in great measure because Barry J. Piesner believed in community newspapers and the power of the press.
Rest in Peace, Barry.