Thomas Hugh Belote

Thomas Hugh BeloteThomas Hugh Belote, an attorney and lifelong Ridgefielder who was active in many aspects of the community, died Sunday, Sept. 6, at Yale New Haven Hospital. He was 68 years old and the husband of Jane Wilson Belote, his law partner.

Tom was born July 15, 1947, in West New York, N.J., son of Madelyn Scala Belote and James Belote. He moved to Ridgefield in 1949 to be closer to his mother’s family.

His first home was an apartment over Squash’s Ridgefield News Store. He later lived at The Elms Inn complex, which was owned by his mother’s family. He worked at The Elms Inn from the age of nine through high school.

“The Elms was a big part of his life,” said his cousin, Michael Martin. “It was a lesson in hard work, but it gave him an introduction to his lifelong love of fine food.”

He attended Ridgefield schools and graduated in 1965 from Ridgefield High School, where he was president of the Student Council, vice president of his senior class and voted most likely to succeed. Earning several scholarships, he attended Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where he graduated in 1969.

He then taught fourth grade for a year at Branchville School to earn money to attend the University of Connecticut law school where he received his law degree with honors in 1973, and was on the law review.

From law school, Tom earned entrance into the Department of Justice Honors Program, and from there was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York where he served as chief of the Immigration and Consular Law Unit.

Tom was simultaneously appointed a special assistant to the U.S. attorney general, working on counter-terrorism and prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the United States.

During his government service, he received the U.S. Department of Justice Award for Exceptional Performance, and a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Award for Outstanding Performance.

“He was particularly remembered as a distinguished appellate attorney,” said his wife, Jane.

In 1983, he decided to leave government service and open a private practice, specializing in immigration and consular law, in New York, Ridgefield and Danbury. His partner, Jane, soon became his wife — the two were married Feb. 17, 1986, in Zermott, Switzerland. The couple continued to practice together as Belote & Belote ever since, in more recent years only in Ridgefield.

Tom was involved in many community efforts, formally and informally.

Active for many years in Ridgefield Old Timers, Tom wrote countless profiles of honorees, and worked on many of the association’s projects, including college scholarships for Ridgefield students.

He was a leader in Ridgefield’s efforts to control the deer population, serving first on a committee that studied the problem and recommended solutions, and then leading the program of controlled hunts for the past nine years.

Long interested in the town’s history, Tom was a volunteer with the Ridgefield Historical Society and worked on the town’s 300th anniversary celebration, especially the History in the Streets project that placed many historical plaques around town.

For the past 15 years, Tom has written the Looking Back column in The Ridgefield Press, focusing on past life in the town as found in old issues of the newspaper.

“People loved his column — they got a real kick out of seeing their names in there,” said Jane Belote.

He also loved Ridgefield oldtimers. “He had a great interest in and affection for the older people in town,” Jane said. “Do you know how many 90th birthday parties he was invited to? He really cared about them.”

His interest in history included antique cars; he owned a 1956 Ford convertible that often appeared in Ridgefield’s Memorial Day parade.

He served on the boards of the Ridgefield Community Center, and the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield, and often provided legal advice to the Police Commission, Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department, American Legion, and other organizations, including the Housing Authority in its early years.

“He was and will always remain a true Ridgefielder who cared a great deal for the right reasons,” said Police Chief John Roche. “Plus he did have a flare for the written word!”

His expertise in immigration issues led to his being elected the Board of Directors of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a non-profit based in Washington, where he served as chairman for many years.

Proud of his Italian heritage, Tom enjoyed traveling in Italy, including visiting family there. He liked preparing Italian dishes, and would make his own salamis, wine, and lemoncello.

He also enjoyed the outdoors, and was an avid hunter and fisherman.

Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Eden Compton Clay and her husband, Richard, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Erin Futterman Lindsay and her husband, Tom, also of Saratoga Springs; and Adam Futterman of Key West, Fla.; two grandsons, Storm and Coltrane Lindsay; a brother and sister-in-law, James and Janet Belote of Ridgefield, and their children, Lauren Lo’Albo and her husband, Rob, and their son, Timmy; Jennifer Hibbard and her husband, John, and their daughter Elizabeth; and many cousins, including Daniel Martin of Ridgefield, and Michael Martin and his wife, Stacy, of Ridgefield, and their children, Ryan and Devin.

“In our family, Tom was always interested in the lives of his younger cousins and relatives,” cousin Michael Martin said. “He was an advocate, advisor and even an instigator of spirited fun. He was a bit of a mischief-maker — in a good way — and proud of this role.”

Friends may call Friday, Sept. 11, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Kane Funeral Home, 25 Catoonah Street. A celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Ridgefield Old Timers Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 436; the Land Conservancy of Ridgefield, P.O. Box 32; or the Ridgefield Community Center, 316 Main Street.

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Jowdy Kane and Kane Funeral Homes