Katharine Hepburn gains another honor with 'Legends' stamp

Actor Sam Waterston and Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Chuck Still look on as the Katharine Hepburn com-memorative stamp is unveiled Wednesday at the center in Old Saybrook.
Actor Sam Waterston and Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Chuck Still look on as the Katharine Hepburn com-memorative stamp is unveiled Wednesday at the center in Old Saybrook.

Old Saybrook - A little bit of Hollywood glamour arrived in Old Saybrook Wednesday as the U.S. Postal Service unveiled its new Katharine Hepburn first-class postage stamp.

The stamp, a black-and-white publicity shot from the 1942 movie "Woman of the Year," was a crowd-pleaser. Town officials, residents, fans of the town's most famous resident and avid stamp collectors packed the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center to capacity on what would have been the four-time Academy Award winner's 103rd birthday.

"We are honored to bear the name of one of Connecticut's most celebrated citizens," said Chuck Still, the center's executive director. "She called the place paradise. ... It was here she always came back to. And that says something particularly good about this town, and you, Old Saybrook, for Katharine could have lived anywhere she wanted to."

Many at the ceremony, which lasted under 30 minutes, clutched sheets of Hepburn stamps they had bought at the entrance. Postmaster General John E. Potter encouraged them to use the stamps "often" for mail that he promised would "travel quickly … and affordably."

Hepburn is the 16th inductee into the Postal Service's "Legends of Hollywood" commemorative stamp series, which includes James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock and Audrey Hepburn.

The only actress to have won four "Best Actress" Academy Awards, Hepburn had a notable acting career, Potter said. But it was her strengths as a person that made her stand out, he added.

"Katharine Hepburn will be remembered for her independent personality, which inspired generations of Americans," Potter said.

After the ceremony, fans waited in line patiently for autographs from actor Sam Waterston, the first-day-of-issue master of ceremonies, and Potter, Still and Anthony Harvey, who directed "The Lion in Winter," for which Hepburn won an Academy Award.

"I consider Sam Waterston … one of my boyfriends," Old Saybrook Selectwoman Carol Manning said after the ceremony with what was possibly - no, most definitely - a blush. "I love 'Law & Order.' "

For stamp collector David Kent, Wednesday's ceremony stood out because it was one of only a handful in his 50 years of attending first-day-of-issue ceremonies at which he'd seen the postmaster general.

"I have very rarely seen the postmaster ... come to these things," the New Britain resident said.

For Caryl Moran, who is spending the summer in Westbrook, the ceremony served to enforce her newfound love of the area.

Moran and her husband live in Great Falls, Va., but she said the two Connecticut natives are planning to move to the shoreline area since her husband recently retired from the Postal Service's headquarters.

"We have fallen in love with Old Saybrook," Moran said. "And, of course, we both adored Katharine Hepburn."

j.cho@theday.com

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