Party for retiring Walt Shannon is Nov. 20

LAKEVILLE — The Founders Insurance Group and the Shannon family will host a cocktail reception at The White Hart Friday, Nov. 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. to honor Walt Shannon and his 50 years of service in the insurance industry.  

Anyone wanting to deliver  congratulations in person is welcome to attend.

Shannon was born in 1935, the middle child of three children of working-class Irish immigrants in Waterbury.  He learned the value of a dollar at an early age, taking on a paper route with more than 60 patrons in his pre-teen and teen years.  

He was greatly supported by his aunt, Emily, who lived with the family throughout her life.  With his aunt’s help, Shannon was the first one in his family to go to and graduate from college.

His interest in the insurance industry as a career first came to light when he used to caddy at the Watertown Golf Course as a 13-year-old boy.  He noticed that the best tippers, the best-dressed people and the only ones playing golf mid-week were insurance agents. “Hmmm,â€� Shannon pondered, “that might be the field for me.â€�

In the fall of 1956, during his senior year at Trinity College in Hartford, Shannon got a job at Connecticut General Insurance, in the group insurance area.  The day after he graduated from Trinity in the spring of ’57, he was assigned to the brand new offices of Connecticut General (CG) in Bloomfield.  While CG was still sorting out roles at their new offices, they assigned Shannon to run the elevator.  His first day on the job right after graduation, he bumped into the Trinity president and CG board member, Albert Jacobs, who was at the new offices for a meeting.  Jacobs, recognizing Shannon, said with his characteristically dry sense of humor, “I see you’re really moving up in the world.â€�  They shared a good laugh and Shannon’s career did indeed go up from there.

After serving in the Coast Guard for two years in Connecticut and Alameda, Calif., Shannon returned east and worked briefly as an agent for Walsh Brothers representing Berkshire Life in West Hartford.  In 1961 he met his future bride, Celeste Mayo, as he was taking over the presidency of the Waterbury Trinity Alumnae Association from Dr. Elliott R. Mayo.  Walt and Celeste married in 1964 and proceeded to have “Irish tripletsâ€� — Tracie, Celinda and Tod — over the next three years.

Shannon had another short-term post from 1962 to 1963, where he was employed as an independent agent by Hollis D. Segur in Waterbury.

Shannon’s longest working stint to date was with Root & Boyd, Inc. in Waterbury from 1963 until 1970.  There was a lot of chaos at Root & Boyd at the time and Shannon found himself fired for the first time ever in January 1970, and somewhat happily so.

Shannon and his family enjoyed a nice long summer holiday before his unemployment ran out and he needed to start thinking about full-time work again.  Late in the summer, he was referred to Tom Wagner of Wagner Schwaikert McNeil Insurance in Lakeville by an associate.

Shannon called Wagner on a Friday afternoon to set up an interview.  Wagner asked him to come up to Lakeville the next day, on Saturday morning, to meet him and his wife, Fran.  

Shannon, living in Cheshire at the time, got up early and drove the hour plus north toward Lakeville, getting lost once in Sharon and finally arriving at the Wagners’ home, where they were sitting outside on the porch waiting for him.  They had a nice conversation and Shannon told Tom and Fran he would be interested in working with Wagner if he wanted him to and to discuss the prospect with Fran and then please call him when they had decided.  

Well, apparently Tom and Fran knew a good thing when they saw it as they called Shannon the next morning, on Sunday, while he was still in bed, to offer him the job.  They had about a two-minute conversation in which Shannon accepted the position. When Wagner was asked when he could start, he replied, “How about tomorrow morning?â€�

“Fine, see you then,� was the reply that echoed back through the phone and — CLICK — that was it.

Shannon commuted from Cheshire to Lakeville for about nine months until the home he had built was ready in the spring of 1971.  He and his family have lived in the same home for the past 38 years.

Shannon worked for Tom Wagner from 1970 to 1974 when he purchased the agency from Wagner and grew it to a successful business under the name Wagner McNeil.

Under Shannon’s guidance, Wagner McNeil grew to be a hugely successful independent insurance agency covering the Northwest Corner of Connecticut.  The agency has thrived over the years through its personal, hands-on, small-town approach and Shannon’s genuine demeanor and hard work, along with the support of a faithful and long-term staff.

Shannon served as president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Connecticut from September 1976 to August 1977.  He continued to pursue his own personal growth and service in the insurance industry by serving on the Board of Directors of the Independent Insurance Agents of Connecticut, as well as serving in various chair positions, and eventually went on to serve on several National Insurance Committees, including representing Connecticut as a state national director for the Independent Agents of America.

In 1999, The Founders Group was formed by employees to purchase Wagner McNeil and its local satellite agencies.  Shannon sold his interest in Wagner McNeil to the Founders Insurance Group and remained on board with them as a figurehead and authority in the business and the community.  He will formally step down on Dec. 31, thus ending a 52-year career in the insurance industry.

Shannon has been an active participant in the community over the years, volunteering his time and sitting on several local boards for various community groups such as The Salisbury Bank and Trust, The Western Chapter of the Red Cross, Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance, The 21st Century Group of Housatonic Valley Regional High School, The Bissell Fund and the Judicial Selection Commission of Connecticut.

 Shannon is looking forward to skiing this winter, sharpening his piano skills, spending time with friends and family and travelling with his wife. He plans to continue to serve the community in some capacity.

Celinda Shannon is Walter Shannon’s daughter.

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