NORWALK, Conn. – Mark Schlegel embraces Norwalk’s maritime history. He’s also willing to share his passion with anyone who might not have the same level of appreciation.
Schlegel, a Norwalk resident since the early 1970s, has served various roles with the Norwalk Seaport Association since joining the group in 1978. He is currently the chairman of the Flotilla Committee and co-chairs the Lighthouse Committee with his wife, Pauline, and Peter Bondi.
He is also a Captain on the ferry to Sheffield Island, taking visitors out to the Historic 1868 Sheffield Island Lighthouse during the summer.
While Schlegel loves his association with the group, he encourages the community to explore and understand Norwalk's maritime heritage.
“It gets lost to a certain degree,’’ Schlegel said. “The harbor is a gift. The islands are a gift. I don’t think people really appreciate just how wonderful this area is. I don’t think as a city we do a wonderful job of promoting and preserving our heritage.”
Few people appreciate the region like Schlegel. He particularly enjoys spending time at Sheffield Island, where he feels far removed from life’s stresses.
“I love it out there,’’ Schlegel said. “It’s a wonderful educational platform, which is something not a lot of people realize. You could close your eyes, listen to the birds, take in the views and it feels you can be anywhere. You don’t hear the noise pollution; all you hear is the nature around you. You can see the skylines of Stamford and New York. It’s a very peaceful place.”
Schlegel grew up in Weston but was always drawn to the water. “I grew up right next door to a river,’’ he said. “I was always down there. In the 1960s, my stepmother had a place on Lake Champlain in Vermont, and I always loved going up there. I spent the majority of my time outside. I was already interested in boating when I was 10 years old.”
The interest intensified when he moved to Norwalk. His daughter played on a softball team in the Norwalk Athletic Association, and one of her friends had parents who were involved in the Seaport Association. Schlegel joined shortly afterwards. “It just blossomed from there,’’ he said.
Most recently Schlegel volunteered at the Association’s annual Oyster Festival, and in the past few years he and his wife, Pauline, along with other volunteers, have hosted a party for volunteers the day after the Festival closes. “That’s always a fun evening,’’ Schlegel said. “And I don’t have to walk around and say hello to everybody at the Festival because I will see them all on Monday night. “
The friendships Schlegel and his wife have made through the Seaport Association have enriched his life. And so has the water that helped him discover a passion that he has enjoyed for nearly four decades.
“I’ve learned to appreciate the harbor and what it is,’’ said Schlegel, who is retired from a commercial printing business in Norwalk. “When you get out of the woods and on to the water, it’s just a whole different world.”