Frederick Thomas Palmer passed away at his home in Bethlehem, CT on Christmas Day after a long illness. He was 78 years old.
The oldest child of the late Frederick Joseph and Catherine McGuire Palmer, Fred was born on March 22, 1942 and raised in New Haven, CT. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and Quinnipiac College, later completing a master’s degree in public and non-profit management and policy at New York University.
Fred followed his father and grandfather into a career on the railroad, beginning as a clerk in Cedar Hill Freight Yard and later becoming the trainmaster of New London and Danbury Stations. He was recruited by the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Metro-North Railroad soon after it was formed. Although he served in several roles over his 25-year MTA career, Fred always cited his tenure as the first General Superintendent of Grand Central Terminal, overseeing the revitalization of this New York City landmark, as a highlight. He is remembered by his colleagues for his commitment to team-building, his mentorship, and his “constructive attitude.”
A student of history and active follower of current events, Fred kept himself well-informed and engaged throughout his life. He loved politics and policy. As a “small-d democrat,” he supported candidates from both parties who shared his belief in an effective government working to help its constituents. In retirement, Fred served as an advocacy volunteer with AARP, engaging lawmakers in Hartford and Washington on issues ranging from strengthening consumer protections in Connecticut’s electricity market to ensuring the accountability of investment advisors working with seniors.
Above all, Fred was a proud family man and a loyal friend. He took great joy in gathering with those he loved, sharing a perfectly grilled steak, listening to classical music, and spinning yarns. Many will remember him as a hail fellow well met, out enjoying nature with his faithful dog, Towser. As interactions have shifted to virtual, Fred was constantly fielding calls and messages from those who looked to him for reassurance in a tough year, sage advice, or just to chat.
Fred is survived by his beloved wife of 50 years, Carol Szirbik Palmer, of Bethlehem, CT, and their children and grandsons: Laura Palmer Pavlovic, her husband Milan Pavlovic, and their sons, Alexander and Ryan, of Bangkok, Thailand; Gregory Palmer, his wife Abigail Palmer, and their sons, George and Owen, of Brooklyn, NY; and Amanda Palmer, of Baltimore, MD. He also leaves behind his siblings, in-laws, and their families: John and Joanne Palmer, of Los Alamos, NM; Katherine (wife of the late Stephen) Takach of North Haven, CT; Maureen and Peter Condosta of Cheshire, CT; and George and Josephine Szirbik of East Wakefield, NH.
Plans for a celebration of Fred’s life will be deferred until it is safe to do so. Donations in his memory may be made to the Bethlehem Ambulance Association, P.O. Box 401, Bethlehem, CT 06751 or to the South Britain Congregational Church, P.O. Box 64, South Britain, CT 06487. Fred’s family is grateful to the doctors and nurses at Waterbury Hospital and Yale New Haven Hospital for their care and support over the past several years.
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Bethlehem Ambulance Association
PO Box 401, Bethlehem CT 06751
South Britain Congregational Church
P.O. Box 64, South Britain CT 06487