‘HE ONLY SAW PROMISE’
Late founder Michael Bishko’s legacy alive in Darien Depot
DARIEN — Michael Bishko — remembered locally for volunteerism and his role in bringing The Darien Depot to life — died earlier this month, leaving behind a legacy that has impacted thousands of the town’s youth.
Bishko, 80, a founding member and the unofficial first co-chair of The Darien Depot, died Aug. 9 from COVID-19. He was living in Naples, Fla., at the time of his death.
“Although my mom (Carol) is credited as being a co-founder, along with Ed Schmidt, since she brainstormed the idea of a teen center, it was really my dad and Susan (Yezzi) who did all the heavy lifting — along with countless Darien volunteers — and gave hundreds of hours to opening the doors of the Depot,” Bishko’s daughter, Liz Ezbiansky, said.
“The Depot held such a warm place in our dad’s heart,” Ezbiansky said, adding that he was thrilled to see its growth over the years. “My dad always wanted to be sure that the credit of the Depot’s growth went to the hundreds of parent and student volunteers over the years.”
Bishko was born in Passaic, N.J., in 1941 and grew up in Clifton, N.J., attending University of Notre Dame and later its law school. He went to work at Arthur Young & Company in the mid-1960s in New York City, Newark, N.J., and Stamford, with a professional background that included both law and public accounting.
As a longtime resident of Darien, he served on the Representative Town Meeting in the early 1980s. He was also a board member of the Darien United Way and the Darien Nature Center.
The Depot opened its doors in 1990 and recently celebrated its 30th year as a place for Darien’s youth. The Depot offers programs, events and activities throughout the year for Darien students entering sixth through 12th grades whether they attend public, private or homeschool programs.
The Depot also offers volunteer opportunities for parents and collaborates with many local organizations to raise awareness and empower positive youth development. The Depot regularly hosts educational programming and events for youth, parents and families.
“He was a pretty remarkable man,” Alicia Sillars, Darien’s youth director and the Depot’s first executive director, said about Bishko.
“He was one of my first bosses (and) as a founder and leader of the Depot, he only saw promise,” she added. “Mike’s support and expectations made my role clear and easy to fulfill.”
Sillars said that even after he stepped down from his position, he continued to help make her job easier.
“I have always been fortunate to have Mike Bishko as a mentor and friend to me,” she said.
“Our dad absolutely loved Darien,” said Ezbiansky, who was one of Bishko’s three children. “He found such happiness in being able to provide such a wonderful place to raise his children.”
A funeral service will be held for Bishko at 10 a.m. on Saturday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Darien, with a live video stream available for those who will not be in attendance. An outdoor reception will follow at the Country Club of Darien.
For those who wish to consider a donation, Bishko was particularly moved by the work of St. Jude Children’s Hospital and The Tunnel to Towers Foundation, according to his daughter.