Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Marcham remembered for bipartisan dedication, decency

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, March 20, 2009 11:59 AM EDT

VERNON — One of Vernon’s best loved mayors died Thursday at home after battling cancer for more than a year.

Stephen C. Marcham, 60, who could reach across party aisles and bridge political differences, was remembered today for his unwavering dedication to the town and his family.

“It’s a definite loss to the community,” said Councilwoman Marie Herbst, who served with Marcham on the council during the 1980s. “When you count the pillars of the community, his name is on one.”

Marcham, a pharmacist by trade and former owner of Vincent’s Pharmacy in downtown Rockville, started his political career while still in college. At age 21 the Democrat became the youngest official elected in Vernon when he won a seat on the Board of Education in 1969.

Herbst said Democrats and voters didn’t see his age, but instead saw an intelligent young man and a person who worked easily with everyone.

“He studied the issues and was not afraid to take a stand based upon what he believed was fact — he was no rubber-stamper,” Herbst said.

Marcham would compromise and negotiate, doing what was best for the town, and because of that, he was respected in both business and political circles, she added.

“He gave it his all,” Herbst said. “And he never gave up that feeling that everybody should give something back to the community — even as ill as he was he continued to work for the Rockville Downtown Association.”

Last month Marcham was honored for his public service during a reception attended by many residents, business associates, and politicians from all parties. Mayor Jason L. McCoy, a Republican, designated Feb. 18, 2009 as “Steve Marcham Day.”

At the reception, Marcham called on the current Town Council members to reject the historically banal rancor that has dominated local politics in favor of coming together for a common goal: the good of Vernon.

“I want to plant a kernel of that in this town, even if it is an election year,” Marcham told the crowd.

Marcham served as Vernon’s mayor in the 1980s and again from 1997 to 2001. In the first round he won the council seat and assumed the town’s highest post when Herbst, herself a former mayor, was elected to the state legislature in 1986. Marcham served until 1989, and won the post again in 1997.

He bought Vincent’s Pharmacy with co-owner Fred Artz after graduation from UConn. The two sold their stake in the business last year to Big Y Pharmacy after Marcham was diagnosed with cancer.

Marcham also was president of the Rockville Downtown Association, and served on its board of directors before stepping away from public life.

Marcham could bridge all walks of life because he was a true listener, longtime Democratic school board member Armijit Buttar said.

“Once in a lifetime we do meet a gentleman, and he was one,” Buttar added. Marcham was “low key, courteous, polite, and most importantly, respectful to anyone who came along.”

Rep. Claire Janowski, D-Vernon, who worked with Marcham on the RDA, said his passing was a terrible loss for his family and to the town.

“He was one of the best mayors I have ever encountered here in Vernon and throughout the state,” Janowski said. “He was fair, very knowledgeable, and passionate about Vernon and doing the best for Vernon that he could.

Marcham always conducted himself in a manner that showed a great deal of honesty, caring, and need to do the right thing, Janowski said, adding: “I’m going to miss him terribly.”

Marcham is survived by his wife, Janice; his daughter, Ashley, and her husband, David MacDougall, of Melrose, Mass.; and his mother, Frances Marcham of Tolland.

His wake will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at the Ladd-Turkington & Carmon Funeral Home, 551 Talcottville Road (Route 83).

A memorial service will be held Monday, March 23, at 1 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Vernon, 695 Hartford Turnpike, Vernon. Burial will be private and at the convenience of his family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to Visiting Nurse and Health Services of Connecticut Inc. Hospice, 8 Keynote Drive, Vernon, CT 06066, or Hockanum Valley Community Council, 155 W. Main St., Vernon, CT 06066.

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