‘His Legacy and Impact Will Live On’: New Canaanites Remember Don Hersam


For Steve Karl, there’s a very short list of New Canaanites whose contributions to the community in business, civic matters, faith and philanthropy exceed what anyone conceivably could imagine in terms of commitment and longevity.

They are “the rare residents who have created a legacy and body of work that the rest of us just sit back and wonder how they could possibly have that much time, that much energy and that much love for one place,” according to Karl, himself a lifelong New Canaanite.

V. Donald Hersam, Jr.

“Don Hersam was one of those extremely rare individuals,” Karl said this week, days after V. Don Hersam, Jr. passed at age 92. 

He was the soul of the community,” Karl told NewCanaanite.com.

“The centerpiece of the 06840 Mt Rushmore,” he continued. “He loved New Canaan, respected its rich history, and consistently endeavored to make it a better place to live, work, and raise a family. If you grew up in New Canaan any time over the past 50 to 60 years you were likely impacted by an initiative or organization that Don supported and promoted through his family’s local newspaper. The New Canaan Advertiser served as the centerpiece of all local news, communication and community thought, for decades under his leadership. Before there were emails, texts and the Internet, there was the weekly arrival of the Advertiser on Thursday mornings across New Canaan. Every gas station, grocery store, convenience store and the train station saw extra foot traffic looking to pick up the latest news from around town. The Advertiser was viewed by residents as the soul of New Canaan, its guide, and its pulse. And if the Advertiser was its soul, then Don was the heart.”

A member of New Canaan Fire Company No. 1 since 1950, and its chief from 1967 to 1969, Hersam served 48 years as town treasurer. He was a third-generation New Canaanite who graduated with the New Canaan High School class of 1948 and went on to serve in the U.S. Navy. He was predeceased by his wife of 65 years, Jeanne, in November 2021.

A Mass of Christian burial will take place at 9 a.m. Thursday at St. Aloysius Church. 

Hersam was the anchor of a local business family that, together with the Francos, Karls and Stewarts, has sponsored, organized and otherwise helped realize scores of community programs and events that have defined this town for a century.

To locals who knew Hersam, the town of New Canaan is unimaginable without him.

The Hersam Legacy started two generations prior, and Don carried on that legacy through his dedication to town, family, church and community,” Carl Franco said. “New Canaan has met many challenges over the years, and has gone from war times to times of prosperity. Our town’s history was reported and documented with accuracy in every edition of the New Canaan Advertiser.  All this was done at a time when local news was something that only arrived on Thursdays, and even when newsworthy events had the public clamoring for details, nothing was ever rushed past Don’s careful editorial eyes. Don was a true New Canaanite. He now joins Jeanie and the rest of the New Canaan families that have gone before, including our own parents, Dick and Gloria, who will be among the first to welcome him as his train departs ‘The Next Station to Heaven.’ ”

The Board of Selectmen during its regular meeting Tuesday observed a moment of silence in memory of Hersam. There, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan called Hersam’s passing “a great loss” for the town.

Selectman Kathleen Corbet said, “He was an opponent of mine 12 years ago when I ran for town treasurer, and never was there a finer gentleman to work with and against on a campaign, and we remained friends many years afterwards, so I’ll miss him.”

Selectman Nick Williams called Hersam “the consummate gentleman.”

“It’s hard to imagine people loving their town more than Don Hersam,” Williams said. “He was an institution. It wasn’t just the Advertiser, which was a terrific newspaper in its day. He also had long years of service to the town as treasurer, and participated in a number of clubs and charitable organizations in town. The Hersam family is well known in large part because of the father that Don was and I think he’s really irreplaceable, because I think generationally even though he wasn’t in World War II, I kind of look at him as the World War II generation, with all the morals, discipline and hard work. A great guy and truly enjoyed his company. He was always, always coming up to me, asking me how I was doing, how the town was doing, asking about events. Even long after he retired, asking about the status of the community and what we were working on in terms of projects. They don’t make them like that anymore, really.”

4 thoughts on “‘His Legacy and Impact Will Live On’: New Canaanites Remember Don Hersam

  1. I remember calling Don when our family moved from New Canaan. We all missed the God’s Acre caroling tradition, and son, Richard, suggested I call Don to see if he would send copies of the song sheets. They arrived right away, and we use them to this day. He was an especially good man.

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