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TODAY Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

FAME AND

THE FORREST GUMP EFFECT

INSIDE

JANUARY 2021 — WWW.TODAYPUBLISHING.NET

MICHAUD: ‘TRUE WAR HERO’ WENDY’S MANY CELEBRITY FRIENDS ALBRYCHT: AMPUTEE CONQUERS PEAKS


Residents displayed holiday resilience during Depression By Nora O. Howard Avon Town Historian

THE HOLIDAYS in the Farmington Valley in the early 1930s were times of hardship, challenge and change. The Depression had started in 1929, and within a few years the national unemployment rate would reach 25 percent. Henry Kopp of Avon and everyone in town took at least a double hit of misery in 1932. Kopp’s general store on East Main Street in Avon burned down in the spring. It was a tragic loss. The building was the old Farmington Canal Warehouse, and it had been a beloved landmark for over a century. Kopp rebuilt fast and better. He reopened on Nov. 24, 1932, in time for the holidays. His new brick store was (he hoped) fireproof, and there was room to add a second story one day. This building today is the DaCapo restaurant block at 5 West Main Street. The Farmington Valley Herald noted on Dec. 22, 1932 that Kopp’s department store carried “all the items needed in a rural community.” The store window was decorated for the holidays, and the gift department “did a rushing business.” There were sections for groceries, sporting shoes and more. Kopp’s meat gained the most attention, with plenty of pork and premium bacon in special Christmas packaging. Swift and Company of Chicago presented a meat exhibit. The company had recently begun marketing fresh meat to brand-conscious consumers under its Select and Premium labels. The meat arrived, presumably, in refrigerated railroad cars on a route from New Haven that passed by the store. The Nov. 24 reopening included a demonstration of how to fry sausages on the new Philgas range oven. Perhaps the

Farmington Canal Warehouse in 1889 > Downtown Avon in 1946, with view of storefronts at 5 West Main Street, where the Canal Warehouse once stood /\

HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS best news of all, however, was that Kopp’s store was “well and uniformly heated by a furnace.” The Herald concluded that the store was a “fine addition to the center of [Avon] and added a good share to the fine appearance of the business section of Main Street.” In 1933, still deep in the Depression, Avon was able to enjoy some holiday festivities. The Girl’s Club and the Mother’s Club made merry, and the children of St. Ann’s parish went to Town Hall for presents and carol singing. The Avon Congregational Church’s play for the community, The Dust of the Road, featured a familiar subject, with its setting in a winter farmhouse at Christmastime. The Herald noted on Dec. 28, 1933 that “Christmas seemed to be a home day around town. While a few families went out of town for reunions, most

Courtesy Photos

families had dinner at home around the family Christmas tree. There was a marked absence of foolish presents this year, whether due to the lesson of the Depression or just ‘because.’ “In any event, the really good old Spanish custom of giving ‘eats’ predominated. The recipient of a handsome basket of assorted fruit was the happiest person in town on Christmas Eve.” The article concluded: “We hope we will remember the joy of it a whole year and pass it on to ourselves when times are really good again.” +

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LEADING OFF

CONTENTS

Fame: Friend or Foe?

COVER STORY

4 — Photographer’s Gump-Like Life From Denzel Washington to Calvin Klein, photographer Wendy Rosenberg has known and met celebrities galore — surpassing Forrest Gump by far HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

6 — WWII Hero Enlisted Way Early Thanks to an alternate birth certificate, Ollie Michaud joined the Army at the remarkable age of 15 SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS

8 — Musical Acclaim Game Songwriter Michael Kelly Blanchard isn’t a household name, but his “hidden” legacy transcends fame VALLEY INTEL

10 — Amputee Lifts Disability Community A Paralympian and onetime world-record holder, Dana Albrycht is leveraging his stardom to benefit others QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Nothing can quite compare to the time, as a teenager, when I met and shook hands with Robert F. Kennedy” — Wendy Rosenberg BY THE NUMBERS

LETTERS

Celebrities Wendy knows – 30+

CHANCES ARE that you’ve wanted to be famous at times. I know I have. At other times, I’ve questioned the value of fame. Sometimes famous people relish the adulation, but sometimes they wish for anonymity — so I’ve heard. In this issue we explore the concept of fame. For those who see fame as a commodity to be pursued — or to be sought at all costs — a counterintuitive view sees a fascination with fame as tricky at best, and troublesome or disturbing at worst. This against-the-grain perspective calls into question the wisdom of a celebrity-obsessed culture, reckoning relative obscurity as a blessing in disguise. Is this the case — is obscurity or celebrity a blessing? In other words, is fame a friend or a foe? Is acclaim a dance partner to be desired or avoided? And is there a one-size-fits-all answer to these queries? If you can definitively resolve this riddle, perhaps you’ll become famous. — BWD Today Magazine • Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley Bruce William Deckert — Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • Bruce.Deckert@TodayPublishing.net www.TodayPublishing.net > Digital Editions • Award-Winning Today Magazine Online — www.TodayPublishing.net/blog Follow Today Magazine CT on social media: Advertising — Contact the Publisher Editorial Associate — Kayla Tyson Contributing Photographer — Wendy Rosenberg Five Towns, One Aim — Exceptional Community Journalism Farmington • Avon • Canton • Simsbury • Granby – CT, USA • Two other Valley magazines: print circulation — less than 20,000 • Today Magazine: print circulation — 42,000+ • Ad Rates — about the same

VINCE TULLY

newsroom@TodayPublishing.net

GREAT ARTICLE on the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center (December issue) — thank you! Sharing our story encourages public support for SMPAC as we look toward the 2021 season. Lynne Adame • SMPAC Marketing Chair RECEIVED MY COPY of the recent issue of Today Magazine. Looks great! Thank you. David K. Leff • Canton Poet Laureate AS USUAL it was fun working my way through the digital issues of Today Magazine. I enjoy both the quality of your product, and the clips it gives me of an entirely different subculture also on the East Coast of the USA. Julian Alexander • Sarasota, Florida FACEBOOK KUDOS Facebook friends posted about a recent cover story on Simsbury resident and Canton native Dana Albrycht, a two-time swimming Paralympian and accomplished wrestler who is a lifelong above-knee amputee: Marge Harmon — Proud of you Dana! Brian Sowa — Went to high school with Dana. Amazing to watch him swim, wrestle and ride a bike! Good guy. Gerry DeSimas Jr. — Nicely written ... I recall covering Dana when he was wrestling for Canton High a few years ago. OK, it was more than a few years ago. Love the positive spirit from Dana! Susan Levesque — Yea Dana! I used to babysit for him! More on Albrycht — pages 10-12

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LETTERS POLICY Letters to the editor are welcome. Keep them brief: 100-150 words max. We may edit for style and space considerations. Be sure to provide your full name, hometown, email address and phone number — the phone and email won’t be published. The publisher is a political independent, and that is the editorial stance of the magazine. TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – JANUARY 2021

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FAME AND

THE FORREST GUMP EFFECT

famous • adjective — well-known • known about by many people

fame • noun — acclaim, renown • the state of being known or recognized

by many people because of your achievements, skills, etc.

By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

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Tom Hanks won an Oscar for Best Actor and Forrest Gump won Best Picture

THE FAME ISSUE

THE CLASSIC MOVIE Forrest Gump is about a peculiar man who has copious encounters with famous people and events— sometimes by chance, sometimes planned — as his fictional life story intersects and intertwines with pivotal moments in actual American history. Forrest’s unique meet-and-greet episodes include Elvis Presley and John Lennon as well as Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. In this first Today Magazine issue of 2021, we contemplate the concept of fame: • As usual, we feature separate sections of the magazine devoted to the five core Farmington Valley towns. • What’s different this issue is that each town section connects with our cover story theme — and four of those five features revisit the subjects of 2020 cover stories. • Since these story subjects have been highlighted previously in this award-winning magazine — delivered to more than double the print audience of other Valley mags — they have a degree of fame here in the Valley … but does that make these people truly famous? What is fame worth, anyway? What is it good for? Is it a smart play to desire fame for the sake of fame? Since fame means to be well-known, maybe everyone is famous — because we’re all well-known by our friends and family. Or maybe no one is famous — for given the complexity of our inner lives, is it possible for anyone (even so-called famous people) to be fully well-known, even by family and friends? Perhaps fame is like a tool — a hammer or ax or spade that can be utilized to help or to harm … to benefit others or (weapon-like) to injure. Perhaps, due to our inner complexity, we all engage in an internal tug of war between these competing constructive and detrimental tendencies — a dance paradoxically fraught with both danger and promise. Perhaps the best fame can be found by persevering in the direction of a constructive way of life. It’s safe to say that we’re wise to turn our backs on fame’s downside — note the metaphor inherent in this issue’s cover photo. Meanwhile, how can we leverage whatever fame we experience to benefit our neighbors and communities? We invite you to consider these questions as you peruse this issue — and if our focus on fame helps you arrive at fruitful answers, we’ll count our efforts a famous success. +

COVER STORY

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Avon • page 6 — WWII vet Ollie Michaud a ‘true war hero’ Canton • 5+7 — Wendy Rosenberg’s Gump-like encounters Farmington • 8 — MKB’s Gump-ish story: Lincoln, Twain, Custer Granby • 9 — Cross-Atlantic first for Tim Ryan, Row4ALS team Simsbury • 10 — ‘Crutchwalker’ boosts disability community


Rosenberg has known and met celebrities galore Canton photographer has led Gump-like life

————————————————————— Claim to Fame Today Magazine contributing photographer Farmington Valley photo exhibits Today Magazine cover story July 2020 www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions By Wendy Rosenberg Special to Today Magazine

EDITOR’S NOTE: Canton resident Wendy Rosenberg has been a Today Magazine contributing photographer since January 2019, gracing our pages with her amazing wildlife photos, and has displayed her work at numerous exhibits across the Farmington Valley. 70 years young, Wendy was born and raised in the Bronx — in the iconic “city that never sleeps” — and her formative years in the cultural epicenter of NYC intersected with plentiful celebrities. Her brushes with famous people have continued throughout her adulthood, lending a Forrest Gump-like quality to her life — in the classic movie, Forrest meets many famous people while his life story connects with major moments in U.S. history. In Wendy’s own words, here is a who’s who list of people she knows and has met... ————————————————————— Rock music legend Jimi Hendrix was a dear friend of mine in my teenage years in the mid-1960s. We met through a mutual musician friend and hung out together a lot during practice sessions and at recording studios and friends’ homes, and also at Cafe Wha? — the popular live-music club in NYC’s Greenwich Village where littleknown performers (at that time) like Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Louis Gossett Jr., Richard Pryor and many others sharpened their skills before becoming well-known. By the way, the question mark is part of the name, according to the website of Cafe Wha? — “The club’s odd name was a shortening of the word what, intended continued on page 7

Wendy and Jeffrey Rosenberg have lived in Canton since 2002

Courtesy Photo

FAN MALE + FAN FEMALE Wendy Rosenberg has met oodles of celebrities, but who is her biggest fan? Statistics show that the mutual fandom that keeps marriages growing can be elusive — yet when couples together seek to be each other’s fans, what a difference that makes. One of a husband’s roles is to be his wife’s biggest fan — and while no husband lives up to this ideal, Jeffrey Rosenberg continues to aim for this in their 49th year of marriage: “Wendy’s photography success is no surprise to me as she has so many creative and artistic skills and talents. However, the ‘celebrity status’ is surprising but well-deserved and long overdue. It’s quite enjoyable to watch from arm’s length. … Neither of us ever expected the fame, as Wendy is usually a very private person and never thought anyone would enjoy her work. This has been truly wonderful for her in so many ways.” TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – JANUARY 2021

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AVON TODAY

Michaud enlisted for WWII at age 15

GQ GI Regarding her father, WWII vet Olivin Michaud, Simsbury resident Cynthia Crouch says: “Everyone who knew Dad considered him a war hero. He was a modest man and called all who were in the war heroes for their service to their country, especially the fallen heroes.”

Joined early via new birth certificate ———————————————————————————— Claim to Fame World War II hero — part of Greatest Generation Today Magazine cover story August 2020 www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

WORLD WAR II VETERAN Olivin “Ollie” Michaud, an Avon resident who died in May 2020 at age 90, was part of the aptly named Greatest Generation who stepped up at a pivotal time in history. Ollie enlisted when he was only 15 years old — a daring move since by law a recruit had to be 16 to enlist with parental consent. How did he circumvent the age limit? With some deft help from a cousin, who produced an alternate birth certificate that misreported Ollie’s birthdate. Michaud’s parents — keenly aware of their son’s desire to serve — supported his use of the dissembling document, according to his daughter, Cynthia Crouch. “I still have both of my father’s birth certificates,” she says. Ollie enlisted on July 21, 1944 and served in Europe until continued on page 15

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CANTON TODAY Wendy Rosenberg: à la Gump continued from page 5 to convey incredulity” — at the amazing entertainers! A friend and I hung out quite a bit with singer and actress Barbra Streisand. My friend was Sharon Kaufman, and in the 1950s and ’60s her dad Jack owned Kaufman Furs on West 30th Street in NYC. Guess who was one of his original customers — yes, Streisand, one of the few people who has won Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards. I met The Chambers Brothers (the R&B soul band) through mutual friends. One time at the Fillmore East — another famous music club, in NYC’s East Village — they called me up on stage, sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and surprised me by bringing out Janis Joplin to sing and dance with me. The Fillmore East was open for just three years (1968-71) but the club’s headliners included Hendrix, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Sly and the Family Stone. Singer-songwriter Richie Havens — we met in August 1969 while I attended the epic Woodstock music festival, where he performed. We hit it off and stayed in touch. Many years ago, at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, he actually dedicated a song to me (“Back to the Garden”) and sang it to me from the stage, saying, “This is for my friend Wendy.” Jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk — I met him while doing volunteer work at a private NYC hospital where he was a patient. We sat for hours and hours each day talking and kept continued on page 13 ———————————————————————————————————————————

NOTE-WORTHY

On this photo of Barbra Streisand, Streisand herself wrote a note to Jack Kaufman, who owned Kaufman Furs in NYC — Streisand was a customer of the store Photo courtesy of Wendy Rosenberg

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FARMINGTON TODAY

MKB’s friends muse about musical acclaim ————————————————————— Claim to Fame Songwriter and Recording Artist Today Magazine cover story October 2020 www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

PERHAPS YOU KNOW someone who has experienced Forrest Gump-type encounters with famous people and events. About 25 years ago, songwriter Michael Kelly Blanchard says a friend who was then in his 70s told stories about his grandmother’s life history — she clearly preceded the Forrest Gump movie but lived a similar phenomenon. Consider this historical trifecta: “His grandmother was traveling once in the Midwest and heard Abraham Lincoln speak,” Blanchard says. “Not only that — when she lived in Hannibal, Missouri, her next-door neighbor was Samuel Clemens (aka celebrated author Mark Twain). And not only that — she was friends with George Custer’s wife.” Blanchard (aka MKB) prefers to maintain his friend’s anonymity — he has

since died. And for the uninitiated: U.S. Army officer George Armstrong Custer fought in the Civil War from 1861-65 and died in 1876 at the legendary Battle of Little Bighorn, known as Custer’s Last Stand. His wife, Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon Custer, was only 34 when he died … and 90 when she died in 1933. Songwriters and musicians tend to be associated with fame and celebrity — more than teachers or social workers or nurses. Yet anyone who knows a skilled songwriter or talented musician realizes that skill and talent don’t always translate to runaway fame. Chances are you know a gifted guitarist and vocalist in a local band, or a piano virtuoso and songleader at a local church, who is a prime example of this reality. A Farmington resident and native — Unionville born and bred, to be specific — Blanchard has recorded 20 albums in a 50-year musical journey and performed in every U.S. state except Alaska. His wife Greta has appeared in concerts as a backup vocalist and on all 20 albums — their 2020 release is Twilight Mostly in E. While Michael, 72, has enjoyed a productive and dynamic career, he has

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flown under the radar relative to other songwriters of his generation. Since 1985, his official title has been director of operations for Quail Ministries, the nonprofit he established as the foundation for his creative work. Many MKB fans believe his musical dexterity ought to have led to more continued on page 14

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GRANBY TODAY

After rare cross-Atlantic voyage, Granby native preps for Pacific First to make trip with ALS-diagnosed rower By John R. Nieb Special to Today Magazine

TIM RYAN has already completed one of the world’s toughest rowing voyages, and he plans to tackle another. Ryan and his Row4ALS team are preparing to row across the Pacific Ocean next year. In February 2019, they finished

the Atlantic Challenge rowing race from the Canary Islands of Spain to the Caribbean island of Antigua. Their 3000-mile crossing took 51 days and raised funds to combat ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease. Ryan’s friend Alan Alderman has ALS and was one of his four teammates — their team became the first to accomplish a crossAtlantic voyage with a rower who has ALS.

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————————————————————— Claim to Fame Cross-Atlantic voyage in 28-foot boat —————————————————————

“I’m very proud of our team,” says Ryan, a Granby native and 1984 Granby Memorial High School alum. “My first aha moment was rowing out of the harbor on a beautiful continued on page 15

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SIMSBURY TODAY

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‘Crutchwalker’ boosts disability community ————————————————————— Claim to Fame Paralympian Marathon world-record holder

Today Magazine cover story September 2020 www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

AT FIRST GLANCE, Dana Albrycht’s life comprises a paradox. He is a lifelong above-knee amputee, yet he is also an accomplished athlete. He lost his right leg to a birth defect and subsequent amputation at 11 months old, yet he affirms, “I’m extremely fortunate to have lived the life I have so far and wouldn’t change anything for a second.” Upon closer inspection — as is the case with the best paradoxes — his life experiences and perspective blend and apparently make perfect sense. He is seeking to leverage both his struggles and triumphs for the greater goal of giving back and boosting his community. With three trail-mates, Albrycht (pronounced All-bright) undertook a

Because he cares, amputee conquers peaks formidable fundraising hike in September to benefit the disability community, scaling eight 4000-foot peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains — on crutches. The self-proclaimed “Crutchwalker” set aside his prosthetic leg three years ago due to arthritic pain. You can contribute to his altruistic cause at www. GoFundMe.com — search Crutchwalker. Albrycht, 43, is a two-time Paralympian (as a swimmer) and a onetime world-record holder for Fastest Marathon On Crutches. He was captain of both his Canton High wrestling team and University of Vermont swim team. Yet given these distinctive titles, two other titles matter most to him: husband and Dad. A Canton native and current Simsbury resident, Albrycht voices appreciation for his family, his hometown and more in this wide-ranging Q&A:

at 8 months old and practically grew up at the pool every summer swimming all day with my friends. My first job at 13 was at Mills Pond working in the locker room — which was affectionately called “the pit” ... I then became a lifeguard, went on to teach swim lessons, and at 17 was the swim coach while still a swimmer myself, and finally I became the pool director at 18 and did that for several years. I loved teaching kids to swim and taught many children over the years. To this day I still have kids — they are no longer kids and often in their 20s or 30s — approach me and let me know they appreciated me teaching them. Playing such a big part of Mills Pond back in the ’90s allowed me to have a real close connection to the people of Canton and to the town itself, which I have a deep appreciation for.

Your best memories of growing up in Canton?

What stands out from your days at Canton High School — and which teachers were most influential?

Many of my favorite memories come from Mills Pond Pool. I started swimming

Bill Phelps was my hero and biggest

LOOKING UP Dana Albrycht is the co-owner (with Michael Norton) of True Adaptive, a company that creates innovative adaptive equipment for individuals with disabilities

ON THE COVER Dana Albrycht (center) is flanked by Michael Thompson and Brett Attmore — in the background: Mount Adams (center) and Mount Madison (on right) in New Hampshire’s White Mountains TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – JANUARY 2021

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Being a lifelong amputee, experiencing the absolute highs and going through the lowest of lows ... I have experienced almost every emotion and situation one can go through with having a disability, and I want to use that knowledge to help others in the disability community influence growing up. When he started as a physical education teacher, I was in one of his first classes, and he kind of took me under his wing. In third grade he suggested I start wrestling, which I did and never stopped. My favorite memory of high school was my junior year on the wrestling team. We had a really good team that year but had never beaten Avon High in over 25 years, and that year both our teams were ranked in the Top 10 in the state, which was a big deal for a couple of Class S schools. When Avon came to Canton to wrestle, the gymnasium was absolutely packed to the brim and we were able to pull off the victory, which was a pretty cool moment — and we were glad we could do that for Bill. He was such a big influence on me and really helped teach me about hard work and not doubting myself. He gave me a ton of confidence growing up and I’ll forever appreciate the lessons he instilled in me. Family • My wife is Jessica DeMeo — she grew up in Simsbury and is Canton’s director of Senior & Social Services • Children — daughters Scottlyn and Acadia and son Denali • Parents — Richard and Cherilyn Albrycht My dad grew up in Collinsville and my grandfather Adam Albrycht moved to Collinsville at a young age and worked at the Collins Company making axes, so I appreciate my lineage and connection to my hometown. When were you married, and how did you meet? Jessica and I met on Match.com, which was a pretty new thing back in 2010, and our first date was at the Starbucks in Farmington. We got married in October 2011 at 41 Bridge Street (Bridge Street Live) in Collinsville — an amazing wedding overlooking the Farmington River. My connection to Canton and Collinsville is extremely meaningful, and I couldn’t have been happier that I was able to actually get married right in Collinsville.

pride and joy, and I want to create an amazing life for them like the life my parents provided for me. I am also highly motivated to serve the disability community on a macro level. I’ve always enjoyed helping people —whether teaching and coaching swimming when I was younger, helping individuals with intellectual disabilities, or helping students as a school counselor at Har-Bur Middle School in Burlington. However, I had a revelation several years ago when I lost the ability to use my prosthesis that I’m in a unique position to help people with disabilities because of all my experiences. Being a lifelong amputee, experiencing the absolute highs and going through the lowest of lows, and being able to come out the other side with my head held high, I have experienced almost every emotion and situation one can go through with having a disability, and I want to use that knowledge to help others in the disability community and hopefully inspire people to be kind and helpful to their fellow human beings. Goals for the next 1-5 years? In 2019 my good friend (and now business partner) Michael Norton and I started a company called True Adaptive — a research and product-development company with the goal of creating innovative adaptive equipment to empower individuals with disabilities. Our first product specifically helps crutch and cane users, and is currently in development. The ultimate goal is not only to help empower individuals with our new and innovative products, but also to give back and help the disability community on a major level —whether through funding adaptive programs, developing new programs, or being a voice for social change for individuals with disabilities.

What motivates and inspires you each day?

Hobbies — I spend a lot time with my children, taking them out on local hikes — Canton Land Trust and Simsbury Land Trust have many amazing hikes — and to places like Roaring Brook Nature Center, a favorite of ours, so they can hopefully gain the same appreciation and love of nature that I have. I’ve known director Jay Kaplan since I was a young child, and he is a hero of mine.

My children, for sure. They give me such

Volunteer work — Adaptive Sports

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Program and camp counselor for Ivan Lendl Adaptive Sports Camp — both affiliated with New Britain-based Hospital for Special Care Favorite sports teams — Patriots, Celtics and obviously my guys on the CT Spokebenders Wheelchair Basketball Team Favorite spots in the Farmington Valley: I love riding on the Farmington River Trail in Collinsville with my family on our bikes. Collinsville is so full of energy and I love seeing all the people. You can also often find me using my sports wheelchair in the early mornings on the trail — it’s so peaceful when it’s just me and the various birds and animals in the Farmington River. That’s my “me” time. Favorite books — A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is up there, and anything by R.A. Salvatore, who writes fantasy novels — I’m a big dork at heart. Favorite TV shows — Love any type of survival show, or shows about people living out their dreams, like Homestead Rescue or Naked and Afraid. What do you appreciate most about living in the Valley? I genuinely appreciate the beauty and diversity of living in the Farmington Valley. I can go on a hike and feel like I’m in the White Mountains of New Hampshire or find a creek or river to go swimming in, which is a favorite pastime. I also greatly appreciate the “smallness” of the Valley and the various connections I’ve made over the years. It’s rare that I go into Collinsville and don’t see someone I know — or anywhere in the Valley, for that matter. That makes it feel special. What constructive change would you like to see in the Valley? I like the small-town feel and just hope we don’t ever lose that. Further comment — I’m extremely fortunate to have lived the life I have so far, and wouldn’t change anything for a second because these experiences have molded me into the person I am today. Hopefully I can continue to be a positive influence on not only my local Valley community but also the disability community moving forward. + www.GoFundMe.com – search: Crutchwalker


Wendy Rosenberg met singer-songwriter Richie Havens at the Woodstock music festival in August 1969

in touch for several years. At that same hospital I met Tim Hardin, the folk singersongwriter and activist who also played at Woodstock. I met Peter Yarrow — of the legendary folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary — through Steve Seskin, my Grammynominated singer-songwriter cousin. He and Peter work on many projects together, such as Operation Respect, an anti-bullying program that has been used in more than 20,000 schools across the country to teach kids kindness and respect. My cousin wrote the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” with country music songwriter Allen Shamblin and it inspired Yarrow to start Operation Respect. “Don’t Laugh at Me” won Music Row Magazine Song of the Year and NSAI Song of the Year (Nashville Songwriters Association International). Peter, Paul and Mary also recorded the song. Celebrated pianist George Winston — we met many years ago and became friends. He stays in touch with me and sends tickets whenever he is playing nearby. Before the COVID shutdown, he sent me tickets for a show at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, and asked me to stay after the concert so we could hang out and catch up. Other notable iconic musicians I have had encounters with include Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger — we worked together with other teenage volunteers on the sloop John B when cleaning up the Hudson River in the 1960s. While I grew up in the Bronx, several future famous people lived in my neighborhood, attended the same schools and were even friends — such as Emmy-winning actor and Oscar-nominated director

Rob Reiner (and of course his father Carl Reiner) … Ralph Lipschitz, who changed his name to Ralph Lauren and then became the internationally known fashion designer and billionaire businessman … and another fashion designer with an international brand, Calvin Klein, who I did some early modeling for and who got his first job in the NYC garment industry through my mother. Calvin and I shared a last name — my maiden name is Klein — and we were often mistaken as brother and sister. After the first big opening of his fashion design company, thanks to my mom, he sent me a huge box in the mail with several pairs of jeans and a great thank-you note. During my late teens and college years, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I worked as a nanny and child-sitter for some interesting families who provided more celebrity encounters — including Oscar-winning actor and director George C. Scott, who won Best Actor in 1971 for Patton (I took care of his son Campbell Scott, who became an actor and director himself) ... the Cashman family and their young son Brian (yes, the Brian Cashman who became general manager of the New York Yankees) … and the Colombo family — Joseph Colombo was the organized-crime boss of one of the infamous Five Families of the NYC Mafia. As an adult, one of my favorite celebrity meetings was with Oscar-winning actors Denzel Washington and Sidney Poitier — I sat right next to him at a Broadway play and we became instant friends. I was called about an available ticket for the sold-out show Julius Caesar — the Shakespeare drama — starring Denzel in NYC about 15 years ago. The ticket happened to be in the second row. During intermission, I realized

I was sitting next to Mr. Poitier and almost passed out from excitement. After the show, I told him, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve always been a big fan of yours.” He put his arms around me, giving me a huge hug, and introduced me to his family — and then to Denzel after the audience left. What a special day! My serendipitous encounters as an adult continued with such notables as Alan Alda, Krishna Das, Dr. Henry Heimlich, Reggie Jackson, Alvin Lee, Mandy Patinkin, Mr. T, Bernie Williams and Robin Williams. Of all these encounters throughout my life, my friendship with Jimi Hendrix stands out above all but one — nothing can quite compare to the time, as a teenager, when I met and shook hands with Robert F. Kennedy at a 1968 presidential campaign rally in NYC. His touch and his charisma went right through me to my core. + • For Wendy’s Today Magazine photos and her cover story in the July 2020 issue: www.TodayPublishing.net/digital-editions Her wildlife photos appear on the back cover and sometimes inside the magazine • Her memoir chronicles her lengthy, mystifying illness — Getting Threw: A Story of Survival > Amazon.com • By our count, Wendy has met and/or been friends with 30+ legit celebrities throughout her life — surpassing Forrest Gump by far. By the way: If you question any part of her story, how can you confirm whether her account is legit? Hint — the same question applies to every news report ever published by every media outlet worldwide, and so does the same answer. Meanwhile, thanks for perusing this fame issue — and Happy New Year to you and yours!

TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – JANUARY 2021

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Photos courtesy of Wendy Rosenberg

WENDY — continued from page 7

Wendy met Peter Yarrow (of the iconic trio Peter, Paul and Mary) through her Grammy-nominated songwriter cousin, Steve Seskin


MKB — continued from page 8 acclaim — yet those who know him best question the importance of popular acclamation. “It may be that he is too unique, and his writing too intense for easy listening,” says Lynne Schoenhardt, a board member since Quail’s inception. “His subjects are sentimental and often sad, but that makes great connections.” Lynne and her husband Rick, Quail’s board chairman, have been Simsbury residents since 1961. Michael met them in ’70 when he was on staff at The Master’s School — the private school opened in

longtime Canton resident Ralph Mattson, Master’s founding headmaster who taught at Farmington High in the ’60s. Today, Hawley’s paintings are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Michael and Greta have a daughter and a son who are Master’s graduates: Esther (1996) and Reuben (2000) spent many formative years in Unionville. “My dad prioritized his family, and in the music industry that’s tricky to do,” says Esther, a Brooklyn resident and nurse supervisor. “He could have easily taken a

“Michael’s success is hidden in the many individuals over generations that his songwriting has touched” — Artist Steve Hawley Simsbury that year and moved to West Simsbury in ’80. Rick and Lynne have been associated with the school for five decades, including tenures as both parents and grandparents of Master’s students. Greta’s full-time gig was at Master’s: For 30 years, she was a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher before retiring in June 2019. “Many great souls have labored in semiobscurity and yet left an indelible mark on the lives of others,” says Joe Dietrich, a longtime Quail board member and retired Master’s teacher/administrator. “It is to his credit that he has not compromised for the fleeting fame of today’s celebrity culture. I have no doubt he will hear ‘well done good and faithful servant’ at his homecoming. We have no concept of the lives that his gift has touched, and that legacy is greater than acclaim here and now.” Marion Dietrich, Joe’s wife, has served on the board and as Quail’s office manager. “Michael and Greta are extremely humble and private,” she notes, “and it is a privilege to call them friends.” Other American songwriters in their 70s include Jackson Browne, Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder — these are proverbial household names in the who’s who directory of American music. MKB fans will attest that his exquisite songwriting places him in the elite company identified with such celebrated tunesmiths. “One is always grappling with the ‘why’ when one individual receives more or less acclaim,” says artist Steve Hawley. “It is part of the landscape, whatever form of the arts — visual, musical or theatrical — that you participate in. Michael’s success is hidden in the many individuals over generations that his songwriting has touched.” Blanchard (class of 1966) and Hawley (’68) are Farmington High graduates who have been friends for five-plus decades. Hawley was Master’s artist-in-residence in the school’s first year and Michael was musician-in-residence. They were hired by 14

very different route that would have led to more accolades and recognition, but he chose us first.” Reuben, an L.A. resident and writer, quips, “I’m just glad he never sold out and had a rhinestone-suit-and-three-showsa-day-in-Vegas phase — although that would’ve been funny.” On a more philosophical note, he says, “Art is personal, so acclaim doesn’t really mean much to me. My dad has made the music he wants to make and is lucky and talented enough for that music to have a positive impact on people’s lives. I have seen firsthand how his music can affect folks. So I’d feel stoked to make one piece of art that hits people half as hard as his songs do — and he’s put out 20 albums.” Esther concurs: “The last time I went to one of his concerts I was crying along with the audience — I’ve heard his songs many times before but they still get me every time. His songs force people to ... open themselves to emotions they have long buried or didn’t even know were there.” In one of his earlier songs, Blanchard acknowledges the pull of celebrity, referring to “the port of fame I wait for just downstream.” Yet he has seen firsthand enough cautionary tales in the music business to understand the pitfalls of the white-hot spotlight. “With Forrest Gump, his brushes with fame and his own fame haven’t changed him at all — he wasn’t contaminated by that,” he says. “With many stories about fame, there’s a certain contamination.” As MKB’s tuneful pilgrimage enters the twilight stage — the apt metaphor of his Twilight album — a further metaphor from one of his favorite movie genres applies: The classic western ends with the cowboy riding into the sunset. “Just grateful for the ride thus far,” he says. “Fame may still be a lure, but as I’ve come to the end of my career, I’m thankful — more likely, I was spared.” + www.michaelkellyblanchard.com New album — Twilight Mostly in E

JANUARY 2021 – www.TodayPublishing.net – TODAY MAGAZINE

VALLEY INTEL

Chamber honors Katz The Avon Chamber of Commerce has honored Morton Katz with the 2020 Loren Bristol Spirit Award. Katz, 101, is the Chamber’s oldest living member and has resided in Avon since 1966. A World War II veteran, he has served for years as a special public defender in Morton Katz and the Hartford Superior Court. 505th Parachute Infantry Born in Hartford, Katz liberated Wobbelin concentration camp graduated from Weaver High and UConn School of Law. In May 2020 the Connecticut Judicial Branch gave him the Lifetime of Public Service Award.

SCTV receives $30K Simsbury’s American Legion Post 84 has donated $30,000 to Simsbury Community Television, a longtime supporter of veterans programming. The grant will renovate the SCTV studio.

Musicians recognized Four Canton High School musicians have been chosen for a select Connecticut Music Educators Association festival: Grace Asmar and Tommy Purcell (trumpet), Olivia Daigneault (soprano) and Lauren Marze (percussion). Their college-level auditions required sight-reading.

CTCSB tabs Dolch Scott Dolch of Simsbury, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, has been elected to the board of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTCSB), Connecticut’s only statewide marketing organization for conventions and sports events.

King attains new title Leigh King of Simsbury has received the Accredited Investment Fiduciary designation. He is a wealth advisor with King, Prell & Associates, an Ameriprise affiliate.

VFW salutes citizens Simsbury’s VFW Post has given four local first responders Outstanding Citizenship Awards for their contributions to the community: patrol officer Laurel Harrington, paramedic Shannon Harvil, and firefighters James Traficante and Fred Arnold.

Singing for manhood Three local songwriters, including Chris Amorosino of Unionville, have together released two original songs that praise fatherhood and encourage struggling youth. “Yes A Man Can” is an uplifting anthem that celebrates fathers, while “No One But Me” speaks to overcoming life’s trials to reach surprising heights. +


RYAN — continued from page 9

The whales would swim just below the 28-foot-long boat, popping up on the other side panel solar-energy system, desalination water maker and automatic identification system to keep the tiny boat from being run over by a large ship. Sixty miles from Antigua, they could see light coming from the island. “Just seeing the green foliage in the distance was incredible after days on end of blue,” Ryan says of seeing the hills of Antigua. The Row4ALS team was welcomed by hundreds of cheering people and ship horns sounding as they pulled up to the dock, where they were greeted with hugs and high-fives and reunited with wives, children, family and friends. After the extreme physical challenge of the cross-Atlantic voyage, returning to land also had its challenges. For the first few days, nobody on the team could rightly stand up or walk without assistance. They would teeter off in the wrong direction or simply fall over. It took more than two months for the team to return to normal life. The route and schedule for the team’s cross-Pacific trip in 2022 are in the works. + Reporter John Nieb is a Granby resident.

Boy gives up Christmas gifts for Gifts of Love Special to Today Magazine

AN AVON 6th-GRADER decided he didn’t want Christmas presents this holiday season. Instead, he asked family and friends to donate to Gifts of Love, the Avon-based social service agency that provides food, clothing and more for families impacted by financial crises. Nicholas Savino, 11, wrote a letter and put it in neighborhood mailboxes: “This year I am going to do something different for Christmas to try and help out those in need who have been so impacted by COVID-19. I am going to donate to Gifts of Love charity to help those in need instead of receiving Christmas gifts. I think this is an important thing to do because many people who have lost their jobs during COVID-19 need to be helped more than I need to have gifts for Christmas. I have plenty of food to eat and plenty of gifts from the earlier years.” Ken Savino, Nicholas’ dad, was so moved by his son’s act of charity that he matched every donation. Overall, Nicholas’ efforts raised $4870 for Gifts of Love. The nonprofit agency distributes more than $300,000 worth of goods and services annually, per its website. His fundraiser ran through Christmas

“People who have lost their jobs during COVID-19 need to be helped more than I need to have gifts for Christmas” Day, but of course local food banks seek to meet basic needs all year long. “This was totally his idea,” says Ken, who owns Savino Wealth Management in East Hartford. “He wrote the letter. He made the calls. At first it was just to family, but then he decided to ask [others] to participate.” Gifts of Love debuted in 1989. “We are truly moved by the selflessness and generosity of this 6th-grader,” says executive director Ryan Pettengill. “With Nicholas’ help and our neighbors’ generosity we hope to serve more clients in 2021.” The nonprofit has offices in Avon and Hartford and also runs the Gifts of Love Farm in Simsbury. Nicholas learned about the agency’s work as a Cub Scout. In his letter he explains his motivation: “Nobody deserves to risk starvation just because of COVID-19. People need others’ help and we need to be the ones to help them.” + www.giftsoflovect.org • 860-676-2323

WWII HERO — continued from page 6 September 2, 1945 — at the U.S. Army Garrison in Ansbach, Germany and in Normandy, France. The war ended in midAugust. He also fought in the Korean War from 1950-53. “My father was a true war hero,” says Cynthia, a 24-year Simsbury resident. “As soon as he was old enough, he jumped at the opportunity and volunteered to join the Army. He enlisted in two wars without hesitation.” When World War II began, a recruit had to be 21 or older, but the eligible age was lowered to 18 in November 1942 — or 16 with parental approval. The youngest WWII military member was Texas native Calvin Graham, who joined the Navy at age 12 via a fake birth certificate … yes, he was big for his age. Ollie’s four brothers also served in WWII, echoing the classic film Saving Private Ryan — “and all volunteered,” Cynthia says. Born in Saint Francis, Maine, Ollie met his wife Yolande while he was in the Army. “My mother fell madly in love with my father — he was in his formal uniform,” says Cynthia, noting that her Dad was GQhandsome. “They began dating after the Korean War ended and were married on September 8, 1956.” They lived in West Hartford before moving to Avon in 2003. Yolande died in November 2010.

Olivin “Ollie” Michaud

Ollie was a mechanical engineer at Chandler Evans, then a division of Pratt & Whitney. “He made fighter engines for the federal government, and he loved his job because he was still contributing to the military,” notes Cynthia, who is president and CEO of Simsbury-based accounting firm CMI Associates. “My father was so proud to serve his country.” +

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NOTEWORTHY NONPROFITS

morning … it took about three days until the tall peaks of the Canaries disappeared below the horizon behind us, and from that moment on, things got real really fast.” Once the team was no longer protected by the wind shadow created by the islands, the winds got stronger. Soon they faced 25-foot waves in the pitch night darkness. The strong winds upended the team’s rowing schedule and threatened their ability to continue. Only two men were available to row while the others recuperated from seasickness over those initial days. They rowed morning, noon and night so the team could stay in the race. One night at around midnight in a dead-calm ocean, about 700 miles into the journey, they encountered their first whale. “We were enveloped in a cloak of utter silence when, from just beyond the range of our navigation light, I caught the unmistakable sound of a whale breathing,” says Ryan, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Just listening to her amazingly rhythmic breaths was so incredible — I’ll never forget it.” One day they found themselves in a pod of 20 to 30 pilot whales. They saw humpback whales on multiple occasions. The whales would come close and swim just below the 28-foot-long boat, popping up on the other side. Dolphins and porpoises leaped and flipped around the boat, a custom-built carbon-fiber masterpiece with GPS navigation, three satellite phones, seven-


ANTIDOTE FOR WINTER BLUES? A bluebird finds a holiday treat in a Canton backyard. Perhaps you love winter in New England, or perhaps you merely count the days until spring arrives — either way, some wintertime gratitude for the beauty of local wildlife could be a helpful antidote for any winter blues that come your way … not an automatic panacea, but helpful nonetheless. Here’s hoping — and by the way, Happy New Year!

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Today Magazine • January 2021  

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