Friday, August 2, 2013

Wales Lines deBussy (1891-1942)

From the Meriden Daily Journal, October 11, 1933.

  Multifaceted Connecticut resident Wales Line Debussy made quite a name for himself in his short life of fifty years, being both a WWI Navy aviator and later a director of a successful construction firm. His public career reached its apex in 1925 when he was elected as Mayor of the city of Meriden, Connecticut for the first of three terms.
  Born in New Haven on February 3, 1891, Wales Lines deBussy was the son of Roger Baldwin (1863-1943) and Clara Lines deBussy (1867-1949). He inherited his first and middle names in honor of his grandfather, Henry Wales Lines (1838-1927) a former Meriden mayor and state representative who was the founder of the H. Wales Lines Company, a successful building construction company responsible for erecting many of Meriden's homes and public buildings.
  Wales L. deBussy attended public school in Winchester, Massachusetts and is remarked by the Meriden Record as removing with his family to Mt. Vernon, New York, where he graduated high school. At age eighteen he joined his grandfather's business and remained in this employ until the onset of American involvement in World War I. He enlisted in April 1917 and spent the next few months in service. In February of the next year, he was detailed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he began preparations for training as an aviator in the U.S. Navy. 
   At the conclusion of his aviation training, deBussy remained at MIT, serving as an instructor. He was commissioned as a navy ensign in June 1918 and left MIT in January 1919 for Florida, where he completed his training and officially qualified as a naval aviator. In May 1919 he was discharged from service and shortly thereafter returned to his earlier duties with the H. Wales Lines Company. In 1920 he was elected as the director and secretary of the aforementioned company, and during his stewardship took charge of building projects involving a number of Meriden businesses, including the Meriden Savings Bank, the Meriden Hospital, the Center Congregational Church, the Meriden Gas Light company and the Meriden Electric Light Company. In addition to these public buildings, the H. Wales Lines Company built many personal residences in Meriden, including the home of Charles H. Cuno (1888-1978) a Meriden civic leader, industrialist and founder of the Cuno Engineering Company, prominent in the manufacture of automobile parts.
   In 1923 deBussy made his first move into politics, running as a Republican for Mayor of Meriden. He was defeated by Democrat Henry T. King (1867-1956). deBussy again ran for mayor in 1925 and was successful in his candidacy, taking office on January 4, 1926. He was interviewed by the Meriden Record shortly before his inauguration and was reported as stating "There is only one thing certain, and that is that only thoroughly competent persons will be appointed to the various city positions." 

Mayor deBussy, from the January 12, 1942 edition of the Meriden Record.

  deBussy was re-elected as Mayor in 1927 and 1928 and in the former year took over the Presidency of the H. Wales Lines Company, succeeding his grandfather, who had died at age 89. At the conclusion of his mayoral term in January 1930 deBussy retired from political life, due to what the Meriden Record referred to as "business pressure". In 1933 he was induced by city Republicans to once again run for Mayor, but was unsuccessful in his attempt, losing in that year's primary to Democrat Joseph Dispersio by a vote of 914 to 1157.
  Following his term as mayor deBussy continued as President of the Lines Company until 1935, when he left that office to serve as a company vice president under new executive Charles S. Phelps. In December 1937 he married Ms. Anne Sullivan (1898-1991) and is recorded as having at least one daughter, Barbara. In addition to his business activities, deBussy was one of Meriden's most prominent Masonic leaders, being a past master of the Meriden Lodge #77 and was a member of the Keystone Chapter No. 27 of the Royal Arch Masons, the Meriden Knights Templar Lodge, the Meriden Elks Club and the American Legion. 
  Wales L. deBussy died of a "short illness" on January 11, 1942, just a few weeks short of his 51st birthday. He was shortly thereafter buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Meriden. He was survived by both his parents, wife, daughter and an elder sister, Beatrice. Anne Sullivan deBussy survived her husband by nearly fifty years, dying at age 93 on February 12, 1991, and following her death was interred alongside her husband in the Walnut Grove Cemetery.

From the front page of the Meriden Record, January 12, 1942.

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