Sherman's scholarly 'community watchdog' dies at 90

If you were to Google the name Natalie Sirkin, you'd find letters to the editor of publications from The New York Times to The News-Times.

She wrote on topics from the dangers of DDT, to U.S. international treaties, to zoning issues in the town of Sherman.

Mrs. Sirkin died March 5 at the age of 90 in her home at Big Trail in Sherman -- her hometown of 36 years.

She will be remembered for her passion for preserving the Sherman community in its bucolic state and her conservative commitment to fiscal responsibility in creating town budgets.

"Natalie was a watchdog for the town," said long-time, now retired selectman Tony Hapanowich. "She had an ambitious way of asking things and doing things."

"She kept issues in the public eye," he added. "I always felt in good company when Natalie was at a meeting. She stood for no monkey business."

Born to Russian immigrants in January 1921 in Norfolk, Mass., nee Natalie Robinson, she had completed four years of college when she enlisted in the U.S. Army in December. 1943. Serving in the Women's Army Corps, she was in London during the Blitz by the Germans.

After the war, in 1946, she entered the Columbia University of Economics.

She completed a doctorate begun at the London School of Economics years later at Yale University, where her husband, Gerald, was teaching.

"Gerald brought her to a whole new international life of love, research, discussion and study," said Ellen Burnett, her friend of 35 years. "They traveled to London, India, the Philippines and finally to New Haven, where Gerald taught at Yale."

The couple moved to Sherman in 1975, where they became involved in local land-use issues and matters facing the Sherman School.

Mr. Hapanowich remembered Mrs. Sirkin as always "making sure the budget was reasonable and conservative in spending" -- something he liked.

Mrs. Burnett was also Mrs. Sirkin's editor at The Citizen News in New Fairfield.

Mrs. Sirkin wrote a column for the paper "from the paper's inception" called "Natalie's Corner," producing her last column just days before her death.

She and Gerald, who predeceased her, wrote a blog, "Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes from a Blue State," that covered topics from current conservative American judges to circa 1830 British Whig politicians.

"Natalie and Gerald's home was filled with documents and manuscripts concerning town budgets, taxes and especially zoning," Mrs. Burnett said. "That's zoning with a capital Z."

Former Sherman selectman George Linkletter remembers well Mrs. Sirkin's passion for the issues.

"I think of myself a being very conservative but I wasn't conservative enough for Natalie," he said. "She was really very pure in her views on the role of government."

"Natalie felt government had a limited role," Mr. Linletter recollected. "We live in a liberal state and a lot of people here want government to do more. But Natalie was tireless in calling for limited government."

Andrea O'Connor, the town's current first selectman, notes the respect held for Mrs. Sirkin.

"I don't think there was anybody on the school board, planning and zoning, or Board of Selectmen who didn't think `What will Natalie say?' when making a decision," said Mrs. O'Connor.

"Many people were interested in what Natalie had to say when making a decisions regarding the town," she added. "She was important to the town at a critical period in its development."

"I cherished her as an individual," said Mrs. O'Connor. "You don't forget Natalie. I will never forget Natalie."

"I always felt in good company when Natalie was at a meeting. She stood for no monkey business."

Tony Hapanowich,

Former first selctman in Sherman