Harry Weichsel, Raconteur, Youth Tennis Mentor, Dead At 85

Harry Weichsel was a pisser in the best sense: fun-loving, engaging, community-minded Bridgeport institution. He formed Grassroots Tennis of Bridgeport introducing a sport to inner-city youth that otherwise would have eluded them.

Harry passed away last week at age 85. The video above by local documentarian Frank Borres and snippet below by writer Michael Daly capture the spirit of his legacy.

The story of Harry Weichsel should be recounted periodically as a reminder to us all of the Holocaust in particular and of man’s capacity for vicious, ignorant intolerance in general.

The story resonates especially during this time of year, the Jewish High Holy Days, with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, beginning at sunset Sunday.

It is the story of a gentle man, but one with a spine of steel and a welcoming heart, a man with convictions and conscience and, finally, one who was unafraid to exercise them. In short, he is an example for these times.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Harry was no pious pontificator; he was funny, urbane, charming, a loyal friend and bon vivant. Even now, I can’t recall exactly when or where it was, but it was some 50 years ago, I’d imagine, that out paths met on a tennis court.

In one sense, Harry’s story begins and ends in the same place, the German town of Wetter (pron. VETT-er), where a young Helmut Kutsch was born in 1933, the son of Flori Hess, a Jew, and Fritz Kutsch, a Christian. This inter-marriage was by no means a common practice in 1930s Germany. And, in fact, as the malignancy of Hitler and his Nazis metastasized, by 1936 such unions were banned.

Full story here



  1. I, too, have met and worked with Harry on Bridgeport community concerns. His attention to tennis and Bridgeport youth in particular likely is a reason why there are courts in many neighborhoods with requests for maintenance made to the City to keep them up. Youth grow to adulthood when provided an opportunity and support and tennis as Mike Daly will attest can be a lifetime passion.

    Harry saw an opportunity and he actively promoted an opportunity. It is one reason he will be remembered with fondness and respect. This year I have attempted to seize opportunities for calling attention to the failure of the City of Bridgeport to train youth in water safety skills and swimming specifically. Pools seem to be the problem. The expense of maintaining pools, and providing safe experiences for all who use them. We have seen the actual destruction of pools in the demolition of the Boys and Girls Club with no replacement in the much larger replacement essayed by Wakeman’s. Others have deteriorated without maintenance and are no longer available for teaching young folks respect for the water present at sound beaches, in flowing rivers, and even in a lake within our borders. Why no programs? When a person drowns in one of these bodies, does no one see a possible connection to this lifetime avocation when skills are learned young and maintained along with the bodies of water that call for skills rather than fear? Time will tell.

  2. I served on the Ethics Commission with Harry, for a time, and found him to be calm, thoughtful, personable, and fair-minded. His demeanor helped to facilitate objectivity and fairness in the consideration of matters brought to the Commission. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve on the Commission with him.

    Shalom, Harry. RIP… Sincerest condolences to all of Harry’s family and those others close to him.


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