Businessman's death shakes Pittsfield's downtown community
PITTSFIELD -- The downtown business community has been shaken by the death of Jeff Winslow, who owned Wild Sage on North Street.
Winslow, who was active in downtown revitalization efforts, died on Saturday, according to his niece, Katie Elmes. He was 67.
Wild Sage, which sells what Winslow once referred to as "memories and treasures" -- recycled furnishings, furniture and books, was closed on Monday due to a "a family emergency," according to a sign placed on the front door.
"When I think of Jeff, I think of his great warmth, his embodied commitment -- with 200 percent enthusiasm -- his amazing curiosity of all things, and profound great love of life," said Mike Elmes, Winslow's brother-in-law.
Winslow, who is originally from Cazenovia, N.Y., according to his niece, also was a longtime member of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., and had served on the organization's quality of life and merchants committees
"I'm shocked," said Rob Proskin, the owner of BBE Office Interiors on North Street, who is president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc.'s board of directors.
"He was a strong supporter of downtown, and he will be missed."
Many of Winslow's colleagues were just as stunned at his passing.
"I just saw him the other day," said Scott Kirchner, the co-owner of Mad Macs on the corner of Union and North streets, which is located across the street from Wild Sage.
"He was friendly, and very civic minded," Kirchner said. "Whenever anybody was trying to do anything up here, he was always trying to do something community-based to bolster downtown's image."
"Jeff was a true advocate for making downtown a safer place for everyone," said Steven Valenti, the owner of Steven Valenti's Clothing for Men on North Street. "His passion for this will truly be missed."
Winslow opened Wild Sage 12 years ago following stints as a Realtor, a district manager for a national publishing company, and as a vice president of marketing at Berkshire Bank.
Julianne Boyd, the artistic director of the Barrington Stage Company on Union Street, said Winslow was one of the first people to contact BSC after the company moved from Sheffield to Pittsfield in 2006. Boyd said Winslow let BSC use several items from his store as props during the theater company's productions.
"He was such a sweetheart," Boyd said. "Jeff was one of the kindest people in Pittsfield, and one of the first to welcome us.
"I'm sorry to hear that we've lost a wonderful friend and a wonderful supporter for everything that Pittsfield does," she said.
Megan Whilden, Pittsfield's Director of Cultural Development, said Winslow helped start the First Friday's Artswalk, and often proposed zany ideas for Third Thursdays, the monthly cultural/social event that the city sponsors in downtown Pittsfield from the spring through the fall.
"He was creative, and he was original. There was no one else like him," Whilden said. "When Third Thursday's started he had this idea about having skydivers land on downtown buildings. I said, ‘I don't know Jeff.'
"He will be missed."
Steve Winslow, Jeff's brother, described his sibling's enthusiasm as "contagious."
"A typical family gathering usually seemed to involve Jeff trying to enlighten us on a new idea about which he had become passionate," he said. "This usually resulted in the need for a dictionary or some other means to verify his ‘facts.'"
Winslow was the second oldest of six siblings. Funeral arrangements were incomplete on Monday, family members said.
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