The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 
Longtime Bedford resident, community activist, ‘Pete’ Haskell dies
Paul Thomson “Pete” Haskell
 


By MARY LEGRAND

Years ago, during a previous recession, Paul Thomson “Pete” Haskell started a support group at St. Matthew’s Church in Bedford for people out of work. Showing his typical, idiosyncratic sense of humor, Mr. Haskell said it served those “in a period of independent study and research.”

Following Mr. Haskell’s death Wednesday, Nov. 16, at age 70, surrounded by family at his home, loved ones and friends celebrated his life while grieving the loss. Fellow St. Matthew’s parishioner John Belknap remembered his friend’s “incredibly positive” attitude in spite of news that cancer had returned. Mr. Haskell was open about his mortality, speaking about it to the congregation in recent weeks.

Born in Salem, Mass., on June 30, 1941, the son of the late Paul T. Haskell and Rebecca Benson Haskell, Mr. Haskell was a graduate of the Hill School and Trinity College. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Mr. Haskell served with the U.S. Navy as a communications officer on various destroyer-class ships.

Mr. Haskell began his career with American Motors Corporation and later worked for Peugeot Motor America, Alfa Romeo and Yugo America in various corporate roles. He retired from Sarah Lawrence College’s development office in 2009.

A 37-year Bedford resident, Mr. Haskell was a member of the Bedford Village Lions Club, Bedford Golf & Tennis Club, Bedford Village Chowder & Marching Club, United Way, Westchester Antique Automobile Club, Antique Automobile Club of America, and a member and former vestry member of St. Matthew’s Church.

A “car addict,” according to son Livingston, Mr. Haskell was a lifelong car enthusiast who spent much of his free time at car shows and working on his antique Willys Jeepsters, 1965 Willys Utility Wagon and Studebaker pickup truck. “Rare was the conversation that did not, at some point, touch upon cars in some form or fashion,” family members said.

Fellow enthusiast Piers MacDonald called Mr. Haskell’s knowledge of automobile makes and models “encyclopedic.” He would go to “any car show, anywhere,” and attended the AACA fall meet in Hershey, Pa., “for at least 40 years,” said Mr. MacDonald.

“We all knew this day was coming,” said Mr. MacDonald, “but ever since Pete knew he was sick he lived his life with a lot of grace and kept a sunny disposition. I saw him in Hershey last month, and he just had this bounce in his step and smile on his face. I thought, it’s great to see Pete so happy and doing what he really liked to do.”

Friend Jack Lange said Mr. Haskell “always took a personal interest in what you were doing, whether your job, health or how your kids were doing. Kids knew him, too, and were very fond of him.”

Mr. Haskell and Mr. Lange shared a love of college sports. “Pete was the kind of guy who, if your team was playing on national television, would call to make sure you were watching the game. He’d call at halftime or during the game if there was a great play. That never ceased to be an endearing trait to my wife and me.”

Mr. Haskell’s friends “are going to dearly miss him, because right to the end, even when he knew that his cancer was terminal and he had a short time, he still seemed to keep his spirits up and didn’t let others around him get depressed over his problems,” Mr. Lange said. “He was the go-to guy who you knew would help out in almost any situation. He would be so happy that you asked him.”

Serving the community was a passion for Mr. Haskell. Bedford Village Lions Club president George Fernandez said he “had his hands in everything. Pete was always there and loved doing things, whether it be the pancake breakfast or Halloween parade.”

Had this year’s parade not been canceled, Mr. Haskell “would have dressed up in a lion costume and led the procession,” Mr. Fernandez said. “Yes, he liked helping others — you could see it in his eyes at events — but people liked having Pete there, too. We’ve lost a great Bedford resident, a caring Bedford resident, let’s put it that way.”

Supervisor Lee Roberts said Wednesday that Mr. Haskell was the Community Organizations Committee’s first president. “He loved having a forum to represent various community groups and talk about issues offline with town board members about concerns people had but might not want to speak about publicly at a board meeting.”

Mr. Haskell “always had a point of view,” she said, “but he was willing to listen to others. He was always genial and cared so much about this town. He talked about the Lions club, how great it was to have the generations together at the pancake breakfast. He always reveled in the camaraderie and caring of our community.”

“Throughout his life, Pete was intensely devoted to his faith, family and numerous friends,” Mr. Haskell’s family said Wednesday.

“Pete was a staunch member of St. Matthew’s Church,” church rector, the Rev. Terry Elsberry, said. “He was always here  — for worship, all of our activities. He would take volunteer jobs that had the least glory associated with them, was always on the cleanup crews for social events. Pete served for many years on our property and worship commissions and was also an usher for many years.”

Mr. Haskell “was the definition of what it means to be the pillar of a church,” Mr. Elsberry continued. “That’s a cliché, but in Pete’s case it really was true. So he has many friends here who are grieving today, but he was also a wonderful inspiration on how to be a faithful Christian.”

Mr. Haskell is survived by his wife of 44 years, Burrill Watson Haskell; son P. Thomson Haskell III and daughter-in-law, Jill, of Dana Point, Calif.; and son E. Livingston B. Haskell and daughter-in-law, Katy, of Richmond, Va., and their children, Henry Benson and Timothy MacFarlane. He is also survived by his sister, Elizabeth V. Mack, and her husband, Charlie, of New Canaan, Conn.

An 11 a.m. memorial service takes place tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 19, at St. Matthew’s Church.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Matthew’s Church, P.O. Box 293, Bedford NY 10506, or Trinity College, Trinity Commons, 300 Summit St., Hartford CT 06106, attention Trinity Fund Office, Class of 1963.

Arrangements are by the Clark Associates Funeral Home in Katonah.


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November 18, 2011