BY KEVIN LITTEN
TORRINGTON — John "Tony" Miscikoski, the former Democratic state representa-tive known locally as "Mr. Route 8" and statewide as the "father of the Connecticut State Lottery," died Tuesday. He was 90.
Miscikoski’s great legacy is the Northwest Connecticut section of the four-lane high-way that stretches from Bridgeport to Winsted, provid-ing access to Waterbury and Interstate 95.
"We didn’t have a highway here and he desperately want-ed Route 8 and thought it would make all the difference in the world," said Zena H. Temkin, a Democrat who served as a House legislator alongside Miscikoski in the early 1960s and was seated next to him in the House chamber.
Miscikoski had originally envisioned the road connecting with the Massachusetts Turnpike, but "we could not get the people in Massachusetts to go along" with the idea, Temkin said. In Hartford, Miscikoski had a particularly difficult job in convincing officials to fund the project because "we didn’t even exist as far as Hartford was concerned. We were considered way, way out there. No one really cared about what happened in the western part of the state."
That changed in part because Miscikoski was such a hard-driving legislator, Temkin said.
"He was a good legislator because he wanted things and he knocked himself out to get them," Temkin said. "He wanted so much to get Route 8 and a lottery, that he would put up with a lot of what he considered nonsense."
His support for the Connecticut Lottery was steeped in controversy, and he dealt with critics who called instituting a state-sponsored numbers game immoral. Miscikoski’s answer to that was straightforward.
"Anything that’s immoral is in the Ten Commandments, and they say nothing about gambling," Miscikoski told the Republican-American in 2002. "They used to laugh at me, but it’s what people want."
Miscikoski served 22 years and didn’t leave without a fight: He was defeated by Republican George Avitabile in 1984. His popularity was buoyed by the fact that he had easy access to people through his restaurant, Tony’s Drive-In on Migeon Avenue, which he opened more than 50 years ago.
State Sen. Andrew W. Roraback said Miscikoski understood well the role food plays in people’s lives, and there is still talk in Hartford about an eatery Miscikoski ran in the capitol called "The Hawaiian Room."
"Politicians, like everyone else, have to eat, and he saw an opportunity to fill a need, as I understand it," Roraback said. "He touched a lot of people’s lives and always had a kind word and a wry smile for people from every walk of life. Torrington has lost a legend."
Miscikoski is survived by sons Mark and John and daughter Janice Bado and his brother, Alphonse.
He was predeceased by wife Loretta and sister Genevieve Beana and brother James. Funeral services will be March 26 at Phalen Funeral Home, 285 Migeon Ave. Calling hours are 10 a.m. to noon.