Monday, May 20, 2024


Paul Newman Dead at 83

UPDATE Paul Newman died at his Westport home Friday night. He was Image
Paul Newman: A Westporter for almost 50 years. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WN file photo

Newman had been ill for some time with what published reports said was lung cancer. Publicist Jeff Sanderson said he was surrounded by his family and close friends.

“His death was as private and discreet as the way he had lived his life,” Sanderson said in a statement. He said that a week ago, Newman sat with one of his daughters in a garden, took in the late summer beauty, and said very quietly, “It’s been a privilege to be here.”

An actor, film director, entrepreneur, race car driver, racing team owner and humanitarian, Newman won numerous awards, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, and an Emmy award.

He was also the founder of Newman’s Own, a Westport-based food company which has donated more than $250 million in profits and royalties to charity.

“I know all Westporters join me in mourning his loss,” said First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff. He said he learned of Newman’s death early Friday evening.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joanne (Woodward) and all the Newman family. He loved Westport and was an avid and enthusiastic supporter of this community for 50 years. We will miss him greatly.” Image
Paul Newman appeared with wife Joanne Woodward in February 2007 at the Westport Country Playhouse for readings of love poems for Valentine’s Day. Kerry Long/Westport Country Playhouse photo

Former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell also mourned his loss

“From icon to philanthropic entrepreneur, Paul entertained, enthralled and inspired,” she said in a statement.

“His dedication to democratic ideals and the help he gave me during my campaigns for First Selectwoman and Congress were so very much appreciated. Paul embodied the phrase ‘walk the walk’ not just ‘talk the talk’ when it came to everything he did.”

Farrell said the Newmans’ decision to settle in Westport “will be characterized in the town’s history not simply as the élan of stardom but an enduring commitment to enriching the community. Their combined generosity has resulted in numerous open space initiatives, preservation of the arts, history and too numerous to mention unselfish acts of kindness.”

As word spread of Newman’s death, the media showed up at both the North Avenue and Coleytown Road entrances to the family property.

Reporters and television crews fanned out across town to interview Westport residents about his passing, which came as a shock to many despite months of rumors his health was failing.

Newman, responding to a flurry of reports last June that he was gravely ill with cancer, issued a terse, cryptic statement that he was “doing nicely.” (See WestportNow June 10, 2008)

A new round of media reports had repeated what had been reported earlier by some tabloids—that Newman had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was undergoing out-patient treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Newman announced in 2007 he was essentially retiring from a half-century career in acting because of his age.

In May, he stepped down as director of a stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” set to open Oct. 7 at the Westport Country Playhouse, citing unspecified health issues.

In August, tabloids reported Newman had finished chemotherapy and had told his family he wished to die at home.

Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park race track in Lakeville was closed for a period one afternoon in August so Newman could take a few last laps there in his GT1 Corvette and say goodbye.

Woodward was at a Playhouse gala earlier this month with many of Newman’s celebrity friends, including Julia Roberts, Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Bernadette Peters. She told friends Newman had hoped very much to attend.

Woodward was also seen on Sunday at the Concours d’Elegance antique car show at Westport’s Fairfield County Hunt Club.

Throughout Newman’s illness, his close Westport friends maintained a wall of silence about him and his health problems out of respect for him and his family.

“He has his good days and his bad days,” one longtime friend said last month, quickly turning a conversation to other topics.

Appearing on the ABC News “Nightline” broadcast in May 2007, Newman said his acting career was a “closed book” so he could concentrate on his Dressing Room restaurant at the Playhouse and other activities. (See WestportNow May 25, 2007)

Newman said that he was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a high level of performance so was ditching the silver screen to promote the restaurant and other ventures, including his Hole in the Wall camps for critically ill children.

“I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” he said. “You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention.

“So that’s pretty much a closed book for me. I’ve been doing it for 50 years. That’s enough. I won’t miss it because I know I can’t work at my optimum anymore. I would miss it if I was ready to go to work and didn’t get any offers.”

Newman and Woodward first came to Westport in 1958 after the Hollywood filming of “Rally Round the Flag, Boys!,” based on the best-selling novel by Westporter Max Shulman. The comedy focused on the uproar caused in Westport when the Army set up a missile base on North Avenue where Bedford Middle School is now located.

The Newmans soon after decided to make Westport their home, eventually settling into a sprawling property on North Avenue near the Weston town line for which they paid $96,000. The property included a barn where the Newmans would often host movie nights for friends as well as the occasional political Image
Former Westporter Martha Stewart got together with Paul Newman at a Greenwich charity event in June and published this photo on her blog. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

Paul Newman sightings in Westport were frequent over the years, with most Westporters respecting his privacy and treating him as just another resident.

One story Westporters like to tell—it’s not known whether it’s fact or fiction—was about a young woman who encountered Newman as she was exiting an ice cream store with an ice cream cone. She supposedly became so flustered seeing the blue-eyed movie star that she put the cone in her purse, much to his amusement.

To some Westporters, seeing Newman and Woodward became a regular occurrence. They helped out at the Westport Historical Society, the Westport Public Library, and, of course, the Westport Country Playhouse (where Woodward is artistic director), among other places, appearing at special events and fundraisers.

Newman would take his grandsons trick or treating on Halloween, for pizza at Westport Pizzeria on Main Street, and he showed up at police softball games. At Town Hall, he gladly posed for a photo with employees in the Town Clerk’s Office and attended a retirement party for a longtime YMCA employee.

When the Westport Y wanted to honor the Newmans in 2000 for its “Faces of Achievement” award, Newman graciously declined.

“On January 26, 1995, which was my 70th birthday, Joanne and I resolved not to accept any more honors,” Newman wrote to Dick Foot, executive director and CEO.

“Not, you understand out of arrogance, just a mellow belief that we had been honored in gracious sufficiency and that more would constitute excess. As the daughter says in Thornton Wilders’ Our Town, ‘Momma, am I pretty?’  Momma replies, ‘You’re pretty enough for all normal purposes.’

“Joanne and I have been fortunate to be honored enough ‘for all normal purposes.’”

The Newmans also maintained a Fifth Avenue apartment in New York.

In addition to his Newman’s Own Foundation and Hole in the Wall camps, he and his wife donated generously, often anonymously, to many Westport charities and causes.

In 1994, a Newsweek interviewer asked Newman what was the best part of getting older.

“I can’t think of anything that gets better with aging,” he said.

“I’m not mellower, I’m not less angry, I’m not less self-critical, I’m not less tenacious. Maybe the best part is that your liver can’t handle those beers at noon anymore.’‘

He recalled his younger days as a time when “the streets were safe. People felt good about the government. You could buy a house for $11,000. And failure was not expensive.”

He went on: “So that’s what’s difficult about getting old—remembering the way things used to be. There were such things as loyalty. The community had not disintegrated. The individual had not been deified at the expense of everything around him.

“Goddam—that’s the difficult part. I don’t think that’s just an old codger, you know, wishing for the old days. Goddam, they were better. There was a lot of ugliness but there was a lot more grace.’‘ Image
Paul Newman actively supported some political candidates, including former Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, shown here during her unsuccessful 2004 run against incumbent Republican Christopher Shays. She also tried again unsuccessfully in 2006. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

Paul Leonard Newman was born Jan. 26, 1925, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, son of Arthur S. (a sporting goods store owner) and Theresa (maiden name, Fetzer) Newman.

He married actress Jacqueline Witte in December 1949, and they were divorced in 1957. He married Joanne Woodward, also an actress, on Jan. 29, 1958.

His children by his first marriage were Scott (deceased), Susan, and Stephanie. His children from his second marriage were Elinor “Nell” Theresa, Melissa “Lissy” Steward, and Claire “Clea” Olivia.

In a statement, the Newman daughters said:

“Paul Newman played many unforgettable roles. But the ones for which he was proudest never had top billing on the marquee.

“Devoted husband. Loving father. Adoring grandfather. Dedicated philanthropist.

“Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special. Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity.

“Always and to the end, Dad was incredibly grateful for his good fortune. In his own words: ‘It’s been a privilege to be here.’

“He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves us with extraordinary inspiration to draw upon.

“During this difficult time, we ask for privacy for our family.”

In a 1997 book about Newman, biographer Lawrence J. Quirk quoted the actor as saying:

“I’d like to be remembered as a guy who tried – tried to be part of his times, tried to help people communicate with one another, tried to find some decency in his own life, tried to extend himself as a human being. Someone who isn’t complacent, who doesn’t cop out.”

When Barbara Walters once asked him what he wanted his epitaph to be, he replied, “That I was part of our times.”
An audio portrait of Newman’s impact on Westport by WSHU reporter Alison Freeland is available here.

27 thoughts on “Paul Newman Dead at 83

  1. Paul Newman was a great man who lived a wonderful life of giving, both through his art and through his financial contributions.

    Thank you for everything Mr. Newman. May the earth rest lightly on you.

  2. A wonderful article from the perspective that matters—the hometown that Mr. Newman and his wife have loved for 50 years. We’ve lost our greatest celebrity philanthropist since Danny Thomas. However like Mr. Thomas, the Newman legacy will thrive, grow and continue for generations. What a fabulous legacy—to be so generous of the heart to have established a “forever gift” to society such as The Newman’s countless and as this article states, many times anonomous, altruistic gestures. Here’s to a prolific actor, giver and friend to thousands—Mr. Paul Newman. I know that when we say so-long to folks like him it’s only the beginning of their cosmic journey. Positive energy such as his lives on forever and continues to give, heal, encourage, embrace & love through eternity. All the best to his dear family & friends—you were so lucky to have him race through your lives.

  3. Truly a gentleman and philanthropist.  He and Joanne have been wonderful supporters of those less fortunate. 

    I was excited as a high school student, hanging out at Compo Boat Basin while my Dad worked as a marine policeman, when I saw Paul on one of the docks.  Even from that distance I could see his beautiful blue eyes.  Rest in peace!!!

  4. My heart is heavy and saddened by the lost of a wonderful person. We had occasion to see him at the Playhouse and at Compo Marina and have and will have fond memories of his being. Love to his wonderful family and friends. We were fortunate to have had him here for all these many years.
    Dan and Jean Murdoch

  5. A class act, and one of the last.  Westport will miss him, and we will all be poorer lacking the example he set for philanthropy, support for the arts and community service.  There are plenty of people in town with more money, but nobody who did more for so many.  Our thoughts are with Joanne and their family. 

    Here’s the challenge, Westporters: who will pick up the mantle?  It might not be as hard as we think.  Remember –
    “If we ever have a plan, we’re screwed.”

  6. When I think of Paul and his legend, yes, I think of his films and how he entranced us all into the roles he took on and made his own, but truly his legacy has been deeply threaded in to his beloved wife of 50 years, his children, and carry in each childs eyes and hearts that have been lifted at the hole in the wall camp that has changed so many lives of cancer children.  As a multiple cancer survivor, I salute Paul for being so very humble and inspiring us all in a world that needs strong role models more than ever.
    With all my love and prayers to Paul’s family,
    Christine Swedell

  7. While many tributes emphasize his outstanding achievement in films, locally perhaps we most remember his dazzling career as a Westport citizen and mensch about town.

    Thank you Mr. Newman.

  8. Farewell to one of the great men of the last century.  Not just a superb actor – forever modest, and not needing the adulation of fans that most stars seem to live by – but also a kind and generous soul who realised that with great power came the opportunity to help so many others.

    From Melbourne, Australia, we salute one of the best.

  9. What a sad day.  To be sure, Paul Newman was an international celebrity.  But here in Westport, we knew him as a citizen who was active in our community, and as a philanthropist whose generosity made a difference in the lives of the many people he sought to help.  I can’t count the number of times when people learned you were from from Westport, they would invariably say – “Oh!, that’s where Paul Newman lives.”  He enriched our town just by living here.

    Mark. J. Marcus

  10. What a sad day indeed. We are all better for having his magic in our lives. Eternally grateful.

    We are with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, and have seen how it is possible to use fame and fortune for the greater good, and how one man

  11. Although we are not from your community my mother and I both want to express our condolences to the Newman Family at this time of loss.

    When Mr. Newman and his wife were working in Skowhegan, Maine creating the movie, Empire Falls, we were fortunate to have seen them many times in the Skowhegan, Winslow, Waterville area.

    While here Mr. Newman helped many area organizations and the people of the area enjoyed the presence of all the cast and crew.

    We appreciate the fact that Mr. Newman gave so much to charity and to the world through the many hours of entertainment enjoyment he produced.

    May God Bless you all.

  12. I am originally from Dearborn, Michigan. Mr. Newman had given some money to The Henry Ford and did the narration for one of our race car displays. In 2006, Mr. Newman visited the museum when I worked there, and I saw he was looking for something. I went up to see if he needed help and he said “No” at first, then asked for me to come back and answer some “Car” questions he had. We talked through most of my Lunch Time, and what a gentleman he was, he worried that he had taken up all my time and I had not eaten yet. Mr. Newman to me difined the word Gentleman. He talked to me as an equal and never did I find that he talked down to me. 
    I had always admired Mr. Newman, and it was a real honor that he graced my preasence to talk with me. To his wife , Joanne Woodward, thank you for sharing your husband with us.
    One last thing, my three favorite movies of Mr. Newman were, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Slap Shot which makes me laugh so hard, it hurts.

  13. It just does not seem real.  My thoughts are so much with Joanne today, and the Newman daughters and grandchildren.  I shall always remember Mr. Newman as I last saw him during a chance encounter at Aspetuck Valley Orchards two years ago, swingin’ a bag of apples at the checkout counter in chinos and sneakers, chatting and grinning with the clerk while Joanne inspected the cider donuts nearby. My Audrey and I were so happy to see them, and just as glad not to bother them.  Could he have ever understood how loved he was?  My heart is just broken.

  14. Farewell to one of the great men, actor. My thoughts are so much with Joanne, his daughters and rest of the family.
    Dear Paul, rest in peace.

    Selva Sagazio, from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

  15. Thank you for being, Mr. Newman. It has been a privilege to have you among us. Thank you for your graciousness and generosity and for being an example of what a life well lived can be.

    In celebration of this loving life and for those who hold Mr. Newman dear to their hearts, I offer the following…

    “But it may be that the way of life he chose for himself, the strength and sweetness of his character may have an ever-growing influence over his fellow creatures so that, long after his passing perhaps, it may be realized that there lived in this age a very remarkable man.”

    -W. Somerset Maugham-
    The Razor’s Edge

  16. It’s interesting how we take people for granted until they are gone. I always thought that Paul Newman would always be there. We, as individuals and as a Nation, have truly lost one of our truest and most honest points of light. Thank you Paul for teaching us how to share and care unconditionally. May the gentleness of your soul cradle your family and friends during this difficult time. God Bless You.

  17. The Universe has suffered a tremendous loss.  I extend my deepest sympathy to all who loved, knew, and admired Mr. Newman.  He brought joy to so many people and accomplished achievements some of us dream about.  I envy people who knew him personally, but I adored him in his many films.  “Cool Hand Luke” was my favorite because the character reminded me of my Dad.  My Dad was also 83 and the Angels called my father’s name on a Friday.  They both gave from their heart and oul.
    Your faith and fond memories will help repair the hole in your heart.  Now Mr. Newman has a larger assignment and has received the highest award.  I will keep you all in my prayers.  You were blessed to have Mr. Paul Newman for so many wonderful years.
    A special prayer for his loving wife, Joanne Woodard and family.

  18. I always wanted to meet Mr. Newman. Sure, I would’ve liked to tell him how much I’ve enjoyed his movies over the years—I never saw a bad Paul Newman movie—but much more than this I wanted to thank him for being such a great human being, for showing everyone how much one person can accomplish in giving back to the world. Mr. Newman never ceased astonishing me with the amount of good he did. Our planet is a better place for him having been here.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family.

  19. To the Newman Family:
    I grew up in Westport and misspent my High School years hanging out in the Staples Players.  Since moving to Colorado in 1980, my wife and I were instrumental in helping start an independent school in our Valley, a Waldorf School with a strong performing Arts curriculum.  After seeing your Our Town in DVD form, a group of parents and students were so inspired, we assembled a cast, some financial backing and put on 4 performances last Thanksgiving, donating 100% of our ticket sales revenue to the School.  The 50 people who were involved in the project will tell you that this was one of the 5 most incredible experiences in their lives and it will take a lot to knock it from that exalted position.  I want to thank all of you for the wonderful inspiration that your lives and this version you created have had on our Valley.

  20. Dear Mr Newman,

    thank you very much for everything, for being here.

    Rest in peace, in heaven.

    It’s still very sad. We all miss you.

    Our thoughts are with your lovely family.

    All the best for you Mrs Woodward and your familiy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *