Honoring a Greenwich Great as Bridge Renamed for Theis

A rainbow shines brightly over the recently renamed David Theis Memorial Bridge after a rainstorm Tuesday. (Paul SIlverfarb photo)

A rainbow shines brightly over the recently renamed David Theis Memorial Bridge after a rainstorm Tuesday. (Paul SIlverfarb photo)

The late Greenwich Selectman David Theis couldn’t have been prouder of the town he called home. Now Greenwich is showing its pride in Theis, in a perfect visual display.

Theis, who died suddenly back in late December, is getting a bridge named after him. But not just any bridge. It’s the Mianus Bridge, the very one that Theis, with help from volunteers, bedecked with American flags in a show of the town’s patriotic spirit.

“Having the bridge named for Dave Theis pays tribute to a true son of Greenwich,” said Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei. “Dave’s family lived in Cos Cob and his late father owned a liquor store on Diamond Hill, just up the road from the bridge. The fact that Dave brought the American flags to the bridge to pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country means he will forever be joined with them. A most fitting tribute, since he was always the first person to honor, support and pay respect to our country and its servicemen and servicewomen.”

Led by State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151) and Department of Consumer Protection commissioner David Scribner, and with the support of the entire Greenwich delegation, a bill was passed and signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy to officially name the bridge over the Mianus River on Route 1 the David N. Theis Memorial Bridge.

“It was fantastic,” said Kerrin Coyle, Theis’ longtime partner. “I am just so proud of all of them coming together and doing this for David. I know he’s up there saying ‘Wow, this is fantastic.’ I’m really very touched, because David loved those flags.”

Every year around Memorial Day, Theis would take great pride in tying American flags to the bridge. It was one of his favorite times of the year.

“We used to go to Newport every August over his birthday and we would buy so many flags,” Coyle said. “I can’t even tell you how many flags he used to buy, just to make sure there was always one to replace another for the bridge. I know he’s up there now saying ‘Thank you, thank you.’ This is such a wonderful touch.”

This was basically the David Theis Bridge before it was officially called the David N. Theis Memorial Bridge.

“Dave loved his town, his country, and the flag,” said Camillo. “It gave him great joy to lead the effort each year installing the American flags on the bridge he drove over every day. It is my hope that when future generations of Greenwich residents and visitors to our town drive over the bridge and see his name, they will know that he was a special person in this town, his town, once and forever.”

Five years ago, Theis noticed that somebody had put flags up on a bridge in Westport, and he decided to carry the idea through to Mianus Bridge.

“It really meant a lot to him,” Coyle said. “He was always known for somebody that loved the flag and respected it for what it means. I think it’s really important that those flags are still flying high.”

Camillo came up with the idea on renaming the bridge for Theis, and immediately got Scribner’s help.

At the time, Scribner had been the state representative of the 107th District for 16 years, and had spent the last 12 years of them as a ranking member on the Transportation Committee. He knew how important the renaming project was for both Camillo and the Greenwich community.

“I got to know him quite well through our mutual friend, Rep. Camillo, and he was always the most gracious and proud host any time I visited Greenwich. He loved his community, and that was very clear to me as an outsider. He made me feel very much at home. I attended the memorial service for Dave Theis when it was held and was surprised when I saw the volume of genuine love for this community-minded individual. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were there to pay tribute to his life and how much he meant to their community.”

Scribner had already been familiar with Theis’ display of American flags along the bridge.

“It was something he was proud to do and was a true patriot and true Greenwich native,” Scribner said. “He loved his community and that was one of his ways of expressing it.”

Camillo and Scribner put in the request to get the bridge renamed through the Transportation Committee in the first week of January, a short time after Theis died. It garnered strong support from other colleagues, and the wheels were in motion.

“Fred never let up, even after I departed the Transportation Committee and legislature,” Scribner said. “We both stayed on top of it through the legislative process to make sure this would be completed.”

Although the renaming process moved swiftly, it nearly stalled at the last moment. It had been part of a bill that didn’t make it in the general session before the clock struck midnight on June 3.

That’s when Camillo and Scribner made sure it was included as part of the Department of Transportation bill that did pass, during special session on June 30.

“Dave was a true friend and partner in government,” Tesei said. “He was always ready to support our shared objectives and fulfill our vision for Greenwich. He was so looking forward to another election season and continuing our service to Greenwich.”

The one constant throughout the process is how rewarding getting the bridge renamed has been.

“This doesn’t just matter to Mr. Theis’ loved ones, but to the entire community as well,” Scribner said. “It’s keeping his spirit and the practices that he has done alive. Hopefully, the bridge that bears his name from this point forward will encourage other community members to continue his devotions and practices of the flag placement and other things that are visible, patriotic and community-minded.”

The official bridge renaming ceremony is scheduled to take place on a very meaningful day. Coyle said that she was talking to Tesei and that the first selectman came up with the idea of having the ceremony on Aug. 30, Theis’ birthday.

“If we can get the DPW, Highway, and the Connecticut Department of Transportation all together and work it out, we will try for Aug. 30 for the ceremony,” Coyle said. “It will help me get through it.”

“Dave was a strong person both physically and in character,” said Tesei. “He remains with us in spirit, and the David N. Theis Memorial Bridge will forever keep him in the hearts and minds of the Greenwich community.”

About Author: Paul Silverfarb

Paul Silverfarb, editor at the Sentinel, has been covering events in town for nearly a decade. Mr. Silverfarb is quite familiar with Fairfield County, as he grew up in Trumbull, currently resides in Fairfield and worked as sports editor of the Sentinel, Greenwich Post and Norwalk Citizen~News combined for nearly two decades. He graduated from Keene State College in New Hampshire. To get in touch with Paul, email editor@greenwichsentinel.com.

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