ToquiNotes: The Passion, Sincerity and Motherly Ways of Melinda Lindsey and Loss of a Community Icon

By Jeff Toquinto on March 09, 2019 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

There were tributes. There was shock. And there were tears.
 
Wednesday morning was no typical morning in Bridgeport and it had nothing to do with the weather system passing through the area. Wednesday, as it would turn out, saw the passing of beloved resident Melinda Lindsey.
 
For those of you who didn’t know Melinda Lindsey, you missed out. You missed out on a person who was good from the soul out. You missed out on knowing someone as important and valuable to Bridgeport as any person who has ever walked these city streets. You missed out on knowing what giving back was truly about.
 
The good news was Melinda Lindsey knew and touched a whole lot of people. Again, if you didn't know her, you truly missed out.
 
I knew the loss was huge when the news broke early Wednesday. Had I not known, it would have been hammered home when I talked to three individuals who were close to her and dealt with her in any number of community-based endeavors she found herself involved with including working with my friend Joe Shuttleworth who told me the news to me that morning.
 
Joe used the word “motherly” immediately to describe her. He wasn’t wrong.
 
“She just looked out for you in a way a mother does and she was like that with everyone I saw her with in my more than 20 years with the city,” said  Shuttleworth, the director of Bridgeport Parks and Recreation. “She was involved with everything in the city and I don’t mean casually involved. Her focus was on the community and she gave to the community and she also did a lot of little things for people that were special.”
 
Shuttleworth happily recalled his annual “special” thing Lindsey did for him. He said many years ago he told Lindsey about his wife Kellee’s grandmother, who had since passed away, making the Italian pastry pizzelles. Once she found out Joe’s love for the treat Italians make at Christmas time, he knew what was coming.
 
“I told Melinda how much I liked them and she let me know she made them. After that, whenever her and her sisters made them she would send (husband) Chuck to the Civic Center with a delivery during the holidays. She always remembered,” Shuttleworth said. “I could tell you good things she did for people and this city all day like that. She was a special person; the kind of special person you don’t meet very often in this life. You can tell that’s the case by how hard people are taking it.”
 
Bridgeport Police Department Deputy Chief Randy Hartley was one of those taking it extremely hard. The long-serving officer had to leave work early to gather himself Wednesday and hours after learning of his friend’s passing a man who stares crime in the face for a living was emotionally broken.
 
“The big thing you can say is she was there for us. By ‘us’ I mean myself, the police department, the fire department, events such as Light Up Night, National Night Out, the Hotsinpiller Spaghetti Dinner, the ABB (Associated Businesses of Bridgeport) and more,” said Hartley, his voice cracking with emotion. “She was there for this city.”
 
For nearly 20 minutes Hartley talked about how sincere Melinda Lindsey was and their friendship. He talked about meeting her when her boys were in school and growing close after that. Hartley recalled tailgates at West Virginia University football games, going to dinner, and having a cup of coffee with Lindsey on a regular basis – usually in a favorite location of Main Street.
 
“The thing with Melinda was that she didn’t just help out. When she helped out, you got the entire family and they all pitched in no matter how much that needed to be done; she just got it done,” he said. “The one thing that stood out is she’s helping us, the fire house, watching grandchildren, raising her kids, working and volunteering and she never once complained. I’d sit with her about events we were planning and she’d take care of this and take care of that and you wondered how she got it all done and never once was she not smiling when she handled things. Trust me, she handled things.”
 
Hartley said he talked about his grief with another person of the highest character Wednesday in Pam Hotsinpiller. 
 
“Pam told me something so spot on. She said not one person can fill Melinda Lindsey’s shoes and she’s right,” said Hartley. “It’s just sad knowing her family was her life and Bridgeport was her life and she’s no longer here. That’s a hard reality to face.”
 
For Brad Ford, a person who worked closely with Lindsey on the ABB from day one, there was no hesitation when asked what came to mind when he thought about his friend.
 
“Passion comes to mind. Melinda had passion for her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, passion for her husband and family, her grandchildren and with the ABB. That passion with the ABB was a result of her passion for the community of Bridgeport,” said Ford. “It was her way of giving back.”
 
Ford called her “the glue” of the ABB. He added that when you sit down and think about it, you truly grasp how much she did for an organization that has done plenty of good things for the city.
 
“We’re the beneficiaries of Melinda and Chuck. We’re the beneficiaries of her being raised properly by her mother and father,” said Ford. “Those benefits will continue and she’d want it that way.”
 
I could have picked up the phone Wednesday and called dozens of others. After the first few calls I knew what I already knew. I was going to hear a repeat story of grace personified. And after those first few calls I thought back of my own first encounters and how special she was to me.
 
Much like Randy Hartley, I met Melinda Lindsey through my work when her husband Chuck was on the Bridgeport City Council and her three boys Donnie, Chris and Tim were playing sports at Bridgeport High School. She was behind Chuck every step of the way in his public life as I know she was in his personal one and equally involved in any activities her children were involved with.
 
There was no feeling out period with Melinda Lindsey. I liked her immediately and we became friends in near as quick fashion. We’ve been friends ever since.
 
When word reached me Wednesday, I thought of the last time we talked and couldn’t exactly place it, but I think it was getting information on the city’s Light Up Night, which she was involved with since day one. I’m not sure what we talked about, but I am sure what she asked.
 
“How’s your wife doing?”
 
Every time I talked to her from the time more than a decade ago when she learned my wife was staring down breast cancer, every conversation included that inquiry. It wasn’t small talk. It was sincere. It was part of what made Melinda Lindsey so special on so many levels.
 
I could tell you other things she did, but I’m not sure even the vast space of the internet has room for it. Her obituary, which you can read HERE, only touches the surface of a life well lived.
 
The beauty of her life is that it continues with her family. It continues with three sons who I can honestly say are among the finest young men I’ve ever dealt with. They are a product of Chuck and Melinda Lindsey and show what good parenting and love create when provided in unlimited portions.
 
It will continue with her husband. It will continue with her her immediate family. It will continue with all who share her blood and those whose bonds are just as strong through friendship. And it will definitely continue with her grandchildren.
 
Melinda Lindsey’s life may have ended Wednesday. Her impact, her example, her kindness did not. Not even the ever-moving hands of history can erase or take away what she’s meant to so many.
 
She was good in every way God wants us to be.
 
Rest in Peace Melinda. Your work here is done.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Melinda Lindsey at a Associated Businesses of Bridgeport After Hours event in 2018. In the second photo, she's shown giving her loving touch to one of her grandchildren, while her and husband Chuck are shown doing the same in the third photo. Below, Melinda Lindsey is shown, from left, with Mark Bonamico, Doug Marquette, and Michelle Duez at last year's ABB Summer Kickoff. Top photo by www.benqueenphotography.com.


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