New Haven Mourns Loss of City Historian

Elizabeth Field

Richard Hegel, historian to the city of New Haven, passed away on February 13 in his home. Hegel, 83, did not grow up in New Haven; however, he had an incredible passion for the city as seen by the incredible collection of local memorabilia, old maps of the city, and even an eccentric display of over 100 decoy ducks that were made right here in New Haven.

Hegel was very active in the community, acting as a member for the Yale Club, and he once served as an officer. In 2001, the Richard Hegel award was instituted at Yale, which began at $500 but has since risen significantly. The prize is awarded to a Yale University undergraduate student who submits a well-written essay on an aspect of New Haven.  Hegel, so pleased with the responses, often awarded more than one student the prize.

“He was very anxious to share his knowledge with others,” said close friend Carelton Loucks. “He was an outgoing and friendly person…and a very, very interesting guy.”

New Haven Mayor John Destanfo Jr. also had kind words for Hegel, who he remembers calling anytime he was looking for meaning behind a New Haven artifact. “He reveled in his connection to New Haven,” said Destanfo. “He was a generous temperament…I don’t say anyone’s irreplaceable—not even myself—but he was authentic and unique, a real sweetheart.”

Richard Hegel was a graduate of Gateway Community College, Southern Connecticut University, and Yale University. He holds the distinction of being the first person to graduate from Gateway and continue on to obtain a degree from Yale University.

A man of many skills, Hegel was once the executive director of the New Haven Colony Historical Society and an engineer with the Connecticut Light & Power Company.

John Herzman said that Richard Hegel was “dedicated, thoughtful, supportive, encouraging, and always appreciative,” as he recalls Hegel’s meticulous and complete records of the city.

Hegel also served as president of various New Haven organizations such as the New Haven Preservation Trust as well as the Woman’s Seamen’s Friend Society. Hegel was also a director of the New Haven Historic District Commission and the New Haven Board of Library Directors.

He was survived by his wife, Linda Pratt. They did not have children.