Today Magazine • August 2021

Page 1

TODAY Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

HISTORIC HEARTBEAT OF A FARM Holcomb Farm’s Legacy, Granby’s History Interweave



Nine more SPJ awards for Today Magazine High school student nabs rare pro honor Special to Today Magazine

TODAY MAGAZINE has received nine more awards in 2021 from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) — one firstplace, five second-place and three thirdplace prizes. The Connecticut SPJ Chapter presents annual awards via its Excellence in Journalism contest. Noelle Blake won the magazine’s first-place award in the General Column category. She also received a second-place award in the COVID News category. Today Magazine editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert won six awards — four secondplace and two third-place awards … for details, click the link at the end of this article. He has received 11 SPJ awards overall in his career. “I’m thrilled that one of our student contributors has won two awards, including a first-place honor,” says Deckert, who also serves as the magazine’s publisher. “This magazine aims to be fertile ground for young journalists to grow and thrive — and we likewise appreciate the stellar contributions from many skilled adult writers who help us cover the underreported upside of the Farmington Valley community.” Blake is about to enter her senior year at Avon High School. Whether she is the first high school student to ever win an SPJ award is unknown. When Today Magazine asked the Connecticut SPJ if Blake is the youngest writer to be honored in its yearly contest, a representative said the organization doesn’t keep track of such information. Meanwhile, Wendy Rosenberg

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Wendy Rosenberg, a Today Magazine contributing photographer, won an SPJ award for this photo of a clearwing hummingbird moth and butterfly bush

garnered a third-place award in the Feature Photo category. A Canton resident, Rosenberg has been a contributing photographer for Today Magazine since January 2019. She has received numerous prizes and honors for her photography, focusing on wildlife and nature. Today Publishing, the producer of Today Magazine, has won 12 awards in three years. The media outlet’s debut cover story in October 2018 garnered a thirdplace award in 2019, and in 2020 two more awards arrived — a first-place and a third-place for two further cover stories. Deckert received those three awards. The other two awards in his total of 11, a first-place and a second-place, came in his pre-Today Magazine career. Deckert has worked in the media realm for 25 years — including 17 years as an editor for and three years as a newspaper editor and reporter in Connecticut for the Journal Register Company. His first postcollege journalism role was with the former Imprint Newspapers group that produced 11 weekly papers for four Farmington Valley towns and seven other towns

in Greater Hartford. Deckert has been a resident of Simsbury since 1995. Born in Newark, N.J., he was raised in Bloomfield and Plainfield — to clarify, the Bloomfield and Plainfield in New Jersey, not their namesakes in Connecticut. He graduated from Gordon College (Wenham, Mass.) and Plainfield (N.J.) High School. The Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was founded in 1966. Today Magazine competes for prizes in the state’s Regional C (Magazine) division. The SPJ is widely considered the preeminent journalism organization in the United States. +

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Today editor Bruce Deckert won an SPJ award for this cover story layout

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Heart of the Farm


4 — Historic + Heartfelt Farming Legacy

Holcomb Farm was rooted and established in the Farmington Valley before the Declaration of Independence was written or even conceived BUSINESS BEAT

8 — Real-World Estate

After immigrating from Cuba, Odalys Bekanich became a police officer and forged a stellar real estate career SCHOOL SCOOP

10 — Calling All Interns

A rare high-school internship program gives students a head start in the business world HONORING FIRST RESPONDERS

13 — Fire Safety Milestone

The Lost Acres Fire Department is celebrating its 85th anniversary — and is seeking volunteers QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“I’m really proud of how our crew rose to the occasion in 2020 — COVID increased the demand for locally grown food” — Holcomb’s Joe O’Grady BY THE NUMBERS


Pounds of food donated — 24,000

FARMS in the Farmington Valley are as palpable and natural and conspicuous as the word “Farm” in the name “Farmington” — for starters. Where I grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey — in the suburban-urban sprawl of the New York metropolitan area — farms were few and far between. But here in the Valley, farms are seemingly as plentiful as baseballs at a ballgame, and a farming ethos remains woven into the fabric of our community. This has been the case in New England for centuries. Holcomb Farm in Granby is closing in on three centuries of existence — in fact, the farm predates the United States. Would you care to hazard a guess as to what year Holcomb was established? Actually, there’s no need for a hazardous guessing game. You can find the answer by continuing to read Today Magazine …. just mosey over to our cover story on page 4 — BWD Today Magazine • Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley Bruce William Deckert — Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • > Digital Editions • Award-Winning Today Magazine Online — 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 19,000 • Today Magazine: print circulation — 42,000+ • Ad Rates — about the same


COVER STORY KUDOS Today Magazine’s July cover story featured Air Force veteran Bruce Headle, a Simsbury native whose military career was downright historic, from boosting NASA to a perilous Vietnam tour of duty — THE ARTICLE about my Air Force career looks great — thanks for doing this. I really appreciate what you’ve done for me with the story. For years I’ve had many folks telling me I’ve had so many great experiences and I should get them written down. So you’re getting this done for me. I really appreciate it. — Simsbury native Bruce Headle • Chugiak, Alaska THE JULY EDITION of Today Magazine is very informative, and I am glad to know about Mr. Bruce Headle through your article. Wish we had the chance to meet him in person. He had a treasure of life experiences to learn from. The other news pieces were also informative reads. Thank you so much for sharing the digital magazine. — Sana Syed • Simsbury


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SUBSCRIBE TO DIGITAL MAGAZINE YOU CAN RECEIVE the digital edition of Today Magazine plus news stories from Today Magazine Online — simply go to and click the SUBSCRIBE to NEWS button at the top of the webpage. • So far in 2021, we’ve essentially been forced to go to a digital-exclusive magazine because the lingering impact of the COVID shutdown and other factors have impacted advertising revenue, and therefore our ability to pay for printing and mailing costs. Don’t miss a beat — subscribe and stay up-to-date through our unique community news coverage as we record the underreported upside of the Farmington Valley. + TODAY MAGAZINE – – AUGUST 2021



Photos Courtesy of Holcomb Farm

Legacy of Holcomb Farm Interweaves With Granby’s History By Bruce Deckert Today Magazine Editor-in-Chief

TWENTY YEARS before the Declaration of Independence signaled the firstfruits of a new nation, Holcomb Farm was rooted and established as a labor of love. The slogan on the Holcomb website affirms this fact with historical clarity: “Holcomb Farm — A Place to Grow Since 1756.” July 4, 1776 — on this date embedded in the soil of the American psyche, the legendary Declaration was signed. Two decades prior, the Holcomb family declared their self-evident intent to pursue life, liberty and happiness by farming a winsome tract of fertile land in present-day West Granby. Today, Holcomb Farm is a 312-acre working farmstead and homestead located in the heart of the Farmington Valley. Since 2014, farm manager Joe O’Grady has supervised Holcomb’s agricultural operation, engaged in his own ongoing labor of love, together with his partner Emma. Since their move here from Long Island — where O’Grady was born and raised — daughters Juniper (age 6) and Willow (2) have joined the farming party. They live on the farm property, in the 1790 farmhouse built by Nahum Holcomb. “There is no way to look at our time here 4


“I get great satisfaction in growing the farm family — it takes a village to keep this thing running smoothly, and we are blessed with generous and talented people ...


who are there to help” — Joe O’Grady

without feeling proud, humble and thankful,” O’Grady says on the Holcomb website. “Don’t tell anyone, but we came here in an act of desperation after struggling to find affordable farmland and dealing with insane landowners, not knowing how long — if at all — we’d stay. But … after a decade and a half of searching, we found a farm to love and cultivate, a community to call home and children to raise!” Perhaps the best benefit of buying produce from Holcomb Farm is the obvious one. “We offer fresh produce rather than produce that is weeks old because it’s been trucked here from other parts of the country,” O’Grady says. “Shopping locally for produce reduces the carbon footprint” — that is, the emission of carbon dioxide from vehicles required to transport produce and other food over many miles. Further, O’Grady and his team are committed to growing without chemicals or pesticides — a nontoxic approach focused on careful stewardship of water, soil and other natural resources. Speaking of water, there has been plenty of it this summer on the heels of last summer’s drought — actually, too much. The farming challenges presented by overabundant rain might be counterintuitive, but are real nonetheless. “If you ask farmers, we’d rather have drought than too much rain,” says O’Grady.

__________________ HOLCOMB FARM Ownership Town of Granby since 2012, under stewardship of Holcomb Farm Inc.

Address Farm Store & CSA 111 Simsbury Road, West Granby, CT Administrative Offices 113 Simsbury Road, West Granby, CT Phone — 860-844-8616

Website — Email — ________________________________ The research backs him up — excessive rainfall affects crop productivity in many ways, according to, such as “direct physical damage, delayed planting and harvesting, restricted root growth, oxygen deficiency and nutrient loss.” Data from the past 30 years indicate that extreme rainfall can affect crop yield as much as excessive heat and drought. “An overabundance of water can result in root damage, crop disease and plant mortality in ponded areas,” per — and says excessive wet weather “keeps pollinators at bay, affecting bloom and fruiting.” The blooming and growing enterprise at Holcomb Farm has been a cherished Granby heritage for 265 years. In the insightful and informative Q&A that follows, O’Grady and Friends of Holcomb Farm executive director Jenny Emery address a wide range of farmrelated topics. Holcomb Farm principals: Joe O’Grady, farm manager • Bob Bystrowski, board president, Friends of Holcomb Farm • Jenny Emery, volunteer executive director, Friends of Holcomb Employees — 1 full-time (Joe O’Grady) • Up to 12 during the summer Where were you born and raised? Where do you live now? • Jenny — born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin, and have lived in West and North Granby since 1982 • Joe — born and raised on Long Island, N.Y., and now live in West Granby (since 2014) Mission and focus of your farm: The mission of the Friends of Holcomb Farm — the nonprofit organization that oversees the farming operation at Holcomb Farm and stewards the larger

Farm manager Joe O’Grady harvests a plentiful variety of vegetables — including carrots

“Granby is a generous community, and Holcomb Farm is an important outlet for them to share their time, talents and treasure — I love helping to create that outlet” — Jenny Emery TODAY MAGAZINE – – AUGUST 2021


property — is to preserve, promote and utilize a historic, working New England farm. • We do this by engaging the community in this town treasure, supporting the broader agricultural community, practicing sustainable agricultural practices and responsible land stewardship, and providing clean, healthy, local food to residents of the Farmington Valley and to foodinsecure families in our town and region. • We farm without chemicals, and we organically enrich and rest the soil as needed. • We seek grants and donations to support providing a portion of the food we grow to people in need who otherwise would not have access. • We build and maintain trails — including the new Tree Trail — so people can experience and learn about this historic New England landscape. • And we do all of this with an eye toward the appropriate use and permanent preservation of this special place — this is all part and parcel of a sustainability ethos. 6

What do you enjoy most about your work with Holcomb Farm? • Joe — It’s impossible to pick one thing. On a personal level, I have a 2-year-old and 6-year-old both born here on the farm, and taking them to pick and/or eat the first peas, the first tomatoes, the first flowers, etc., are some of my happiest moments. On the managerial level, I get great satisfaction in growing the farm family. It takes a village to keep this thing running smoothly, and we are blessed with generous and talented people in our community who are there to help — my Rolodex is full of welders, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, volunteers, you name it, who I can call or text in a pinch when something goes sideways. • Jenny — Granby is a generous community, and Holcomb Farm is an important outlet for them to share their time, talents and treasure. I love helping to create that outlet. More specifically, it’s rewarding to be part of Granby’s vibrant agriculture community, and provide Granby residents with a local source


of chemical-free produce and a way to connect with the land through the trails and Tree Trail. Keeping local farms, local food production and open spaces central to life in Granby — it honors the legacy of Tudor and Laura Holcomb, the siblings who donated this property to the town. Your main obstacle, and how you overcome it? • Joe — Hands down, a farmer’s biggest obstacle in 2021 is climate change. Every year, we are seeing more extreme weather events — this year it is high humidity and constant rain — and extreme weather exacts a toll on our crops, on our yield, and our farm crew, who must work twice as hard to deliver a quality product. • Jenny — Time. The Friends of Holcomb Farm need passionate volunteers to lead and serve, and people are busy. As each generation of board members and volunteers ages, we are always looking to engage the next generation. What’s the biggest challenge facing farms in CT today? the biggest opportunity?

• Jenny — Sustainability. Small, diversified New England farms have never been profitable; there has always been someone helping make ends meet through additional occupations. And ultimately, the burnout from trying to be financially sustainable puts the land at risk. Too many have had to sell and develop the land as their retirement plan, and who can blame them? This is why it is so important that we preserve the Holcomb family’s gift to the people of Granby and the greater Farmington Valley forever. • Joe — I agree with Jenny: Real estate is the biggest problem. New and young farmers cannot afford to buy land, and established farms struggle to make enough money to hold on to any land they do own. Most satisfying accomplishment in recent years?

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• Joe — I’m really proud of how our crew rose to the occasion in 2020. COVID-19 increased the demand for locally grown food — our CSA shares sold out in a flash — and also increased the number of foodinsecure people in our region. Despite last summer’s drought, we were able to increase production and meet the needs of not only our CSA shareholders and Farm Store customers, but also our Fresh Access partners — and all while dealing with new COVID protocols like masking and social distancing for farm crew and customers. We even packaged weekly pickups for customers who were nervous about being in the Farm Store. We were there for the community when they needed us. • Jenny — Growing our Fresh Access program to respond to the COVID crisis. We provide food for food-insecure people throughout the region. We deliver this food to distribution partners, including Wheeler Clinic, Healing Meals, Hispanic Health Council, Town of Granby Social Services, Waste Not Want Not Community Kitchen and Granby Senior Center. These partners get the food to those in need. In 2020, we applied for and received a $15,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s COVID-19 Response Fund. We also appealed to our members for support, and they came through in a big way. As a result, we were able to grow and distribute more product than ever before. We were proud to provide more than 24,000 pounds of healthy food, at a retail

value of over $70,000, to thousands of neighbors in need through Fresh Access in 2020. Goals for the next five years? • Jenny — Holcomb Farm is all about sustainability, and our goals flow from that overarching objective. We will continue to strive to meet our community’s current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Specifically, we plan to: 1 — Continue to “grow the growing season”

so we can make local food available year-round. 2 — Find longer-term funding partners to support Fresh Access — we grow it, our Fresh Access partners get it into the hands of people … we need financial support to make sure this can continue to happen. 3 — Increase the educational programming that will bring people to the farm so they can “Experience Holcomb Farm.” + • 860-844-8616 email —



From Cuba to Connecticut

Immigrant’s journey leads to diverse career path — from police officer to realtor By Odalys Bekanich Special to Today Magazine

I WAS BORN in Havana, Cuba in 1962 under a recently installed Communist regime that promised to end life as we had known and enjoyed under a free government. Within a couple of years, as our basic needs grew more scarce and more difficult to obtain, an unrest among the people caused the president to say that whoever wasn’t happy could leave. My courageous mother wasted no time and was the 98,702nd person out of 1 million people who turned up at the Swiss embassy the very next day to apply to leave the country. But the Cuban government took revenge and cruelly punished us for three years by further diminishing what little sustenance was provided. My family had to wash clothes by hand and do other daily menial jobs to survive until we were able to leave the calamity that consumed us. My father, being of military age at 25 years old, was forced to stay behind to serve as mandated. My father unselfishly allowed us to leave knowing that a better life awaited us. In 1968, my mother, my grandmother, my sister and I entered the USA with just the clothes on our backs. I was taught from a very young age about the sacrifices that were made for us. I was taught also to love America for the freedoms and opportunities we are fortified with, and everything I do is with a zealous heart and the value of our Constitution in mind. My mother went to school by day, learning English, and worked at night until she graduated and became a social worker for the New Britain Welfare Department, where she worked for almost 30 years. My father was never able to leave Cuba, and both my mother and father remarried. In 1984, after successfully passing exams and tests and graduating from the Hartford Police Academy, I became a police officer with the New Britain Police Department. I started out by walking a beat, and then did undercover work for a few years, for New Britain and other towns in a trade-off program arranged by the police departments involved. Eventually I was honored with a special assignment with 8


Odalys Bekanich became a police officer in 1984 ______________________ ODALYS BEKANICH Real Estate Broker Associate HBO Property Group — Coldwell Banker Email Phone 860-676-1200 Website Realty Offices 290 West Main Street Avon, CT 855 Farmington Avenue, Farmington Serving the Farmington Valley and surrounding towns Licensed as Realtor — 1989 Became Broker — 1999 Owned and operated International Realty Plus HBO LLC from 2000-2014 in Avon and Farmington ___________________________________________


the New Britain Police Department’s Community Relations Division, where I was involved in all types of community crime awareness and safety programs such as the Neighborhood Block Watch organizing groups, informative programs for seniors, programs designed for the city’s mayor and dignitaries, and my greatest accomplishment — the introduction and implementation of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or D.A.R.E. For many years, I led and ran the D.A.R.E. program, primarily for 5th-grade students in New Britain, forming strong mentoring relationships with many to this day. I always tell people that my husband Joseph “Joe” Bekanich and I met in jail 34-plus years ago — because we truly did. I was acting as a police matron for a female I had arrested and had to watch all night, since no surveillance cameras were allowed in the female cells. I had to essentially babysit the women prisoners I had arrested until the following day, or until Monday if the arrest was on a Friday, when this particular arrest occurred. Then they would go to court to be arraigned, unless they were bailed out or released by the bail commissioner. Joe was the bail commissioner, and he showed up and freed the prisoner. I was livid and gave him a piece of my mind — and from then on we lived happily ever after. While I was still a police officer, I took an interest in real estate and began assisting my future husband, as he was already a licensed real estate agent. I obtained my real estate license and enjoyed helping people achieve their home and property objectives. Later, Joe became a real estate broker, and I decided I wanted to do this full-time and also became a broker. My husband, myself and our good friend Joseph H. Harper Jr. (the longtime state senator for New Britain) opened our own real estate brokerage in 2000 in Avon, in Plaza 44 on East Main Street — International Realty Plus HBO LLC. Then we moved to Old Avon Village and opened another office in Unionville on Route 177. Through hard work and caring for our clients’ needs, we were successful and grew the company to 27 agents. Later the economy challenged the

market — and our friend, Joseph Harper, began to have health issues — and we mutually agreed to close the company in 2014. We continued to concentrate our efforts on clients’ needs, and now this was achieved by working for another brokerage. I was a manager for another company for several years and eventually joined Coldwell Banker, my current company, which has been the #1 sales company in Connecticut for years. An exceptional company with great management from the top down, Coldwell Banker helps agents and their clients succeed. From a business, client and agent perspective, it is hands-down the best! I feel blessed to have been led to where I find myself in life today, and I am most grateful to God for a wonderful husband who I have been with for 34 years and who is my best friend, for my wonderful family and loved ones, for a loving and selfless mother, and for all of my achievements. As an award-winning agent, I love what I do and take great pride in my work. I have countless clients who tell me that they see how much I do for them and are quick to refer their loved ones to me. It is such an honor to receive those referrals and compliments — I’m humbled by it all. My goal in the next few years is to expand my market in the Farmington Valley and surrounding towns. My marketing campaign with Coldwell Banker is absolutely phenomenal and ensures the very best results for my clients. I share in my blessings and donate regularly to different organizations that are near and dear to my heart: World Vision, Water, CARE International, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Giving Fund and PETA. On Friday, Aug. 20 from 7-10 p.m., I’m sponsoring a Drive-In Movie + Concert event at the Shops at Farmington Valley in Canton— proceeds will benefit Canton-based Roaring Brook Nature Center. See Today Magazine’s Calendar for details — link on page 2. l love to share stories and love to listen to stories. We all have such fantastic lives to share! I have enjoyed living in Avon for 27 years, and I love our community and those of the surrounding Valley towns as well. Joe and I have four grown children — Robert, Leslie, Emily and Julia Bekanich — and seven grandchildren: Felicia, Bella, Layla, Adora, Brandon, Cyrus and Gabriel. We also have four fur babies — our dog Oliver Hazard Perry Bekanich and our three cats: Betti, Ruthie and Arah. +

Joe and Odalys Bekanich met in prison — literally — when she was a police officer and he was bail commissioner

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____________________________________________ Odalys Bekanich — Career Highlights ____________________________________________ New Britain Police Department • D.A.R.E. — established Drug Abuse Resistance Education program • Neighborhood Block Watch • Informative programs for seniors • Designed programs for mayor and dignitaries Real Estate • International President’s Circle Award — two consecutive years • Google & Homesnap — Top 5% Nationwide • Five-Star Professional Award Winner — multiple times • Hartford Magazine Top Selling Agent • Who’s Who in Real Estate ____________________________________________




Internship program gives HS students head start

nd Sanitizing Billboard By Nishant Gopalachar Special to Today Magazine

Real-world experience has helped 500+

internship program — Brisco says her best guess is ELIZABETH BRISCO started the Avon High School that the number is from 5-10. Hard-and-fast numbers Internship Program for 13 students in 2014, not are difficult to identify. Avon was one of the first and knowing that seven years later, over 500 students “I would love other schools have followed suit. overall would be involved in the program. The primary goals of the internship program are to acknowledge “Every student intern definitely benefits from to enhance your learning objectives, such as: having an internship,” Brisco says. “Not just in the • gaining self-understanding and self-confidence and thank all content area, but equally important is improving their • improving interpersonal skills transferable skills, such as displaying initiative and a of the many • developing practical skills in a real-world setting strong work ethic.” • and being proactive and learning more about Brisco retired this summer as Avon High’s businesses and your strengths and striving to enhance them … Coordinator of Internships after seven years at the and the list goes on. high school and 26 years in the business world. organizations The new manager of the internship program is The internship program has been a hit — about responsible for grammatical errors) Dr. Eileen O’Neil, the student and family services 40 businesses are working with the program this that have coordinator for the Avon Public Schools. summer. Brisco gives further background on the program supported the Other skills and traits that interns acquire, she in the following Q&A with Today Magazine: explains, include “being organized, responsible Hopmeadow Street • Simsbury, CT 06089 AHS Internship What was374your and punctual as well as being willing to be trained motivation and/or 860-651-8236 and showing enthusiasm and a consistent positive reasoning for starting the Avon Program” attitude.” Find out how you can get improved value and peace High Internship Program? of mind. Call or visit our office today! As someone who is experiencing the Avon High It was the previous superintendent’s idea. I applied — Elizabeth Internship Program firsthand, I’ve had a great time for the job opening because I had 26 years of working with Today Magazine and have learned Brisco experience in the business world developing systems great things from both Brisco and Bruce Deckert, the Preview andOnly processes for people and at that time had been in magazine’s publisher and editor-in-chief. (Layout includes a marginthe clear of text and graphics education field for about five years. Few high schools in Connecticut have anas this information may be covered by frame and/or clips during installation) continued on page 15

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By Anne Raftery Special to Today Magazine

CASE’S GROCERY STORE in Collinsville and Mr. and Mrs. Case were fixtures in my family’s life, and the grocery store was our lifeline. My mother never got her driver’s license, so Case’s was our store. Dickie Case, who delivered the groceries most times, was a celebrity in our household — we loved those deliveries! My mother called us “healthy-looking.” I think they have another term for it in today’s vernacular, but I digress. I can’t remember the timing of when I asked for and received this answer — $100 — as to how much we spent each week at Case’s to feed us. When I think about that number and another number my father shared with me — $30,000, the highest earning year for him at the Aetna — it makes more sense as to why we were good for food, but maybe not so fully supplied on other items. Never lacking, but we were never the first when it came to buying other things that our friends were getting. Let’s stay with the numbers — since among the many questions that are asked

Gift of ring a fond Collinsville memory of me these days, here are two: How many miles do you walk each day? And what is your step goal each day? I can’t answer either of those questions, but now I can tell you it is 250 steps (more or less) from where I grew up to what would have been the front steps of Case’s market. As I stepped that off the other day, I reviewed what would have been along that route — bank, dentist, hardware store, Case’s, and right beyond Case’s would have been the pharmacy (all I can remember are the soda options and the counter). Across the street was the candy store, where I am curious how many red licorice shoestrings I ate — those colored sugarwater-encased-in-wax treats — and of course how much paper had to be ingested in order to eat the button candies. We really had no need unmet in a matter of about 250 steps. That was also where we had our bus

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stop, at the auditorium entrance of the Town Hall when that part of the building was THE town hall. The timeline for my “prime time on Main Street” was circa 1956-66. Post-flood and pre-being distracted by the trials and tribulations of high school. So enough of the numbers — the real reason I’ve been moved to write is about the ring. I don’t remember many details, but what I do know is that I have a beautiful ring thanks to Mrs. Case … and thanks to her daughter Linda, who wasn’t born in the “right” month. Mrs. Case did not want to give her daughter the ring because it would be bad luck since it was not her birthstone. Because of my birthdate, Mrs. Case gave me the ring. It is beautiful, and I have a romantic notion that my son will give it to the girl he wants to marry or a future daughter. I know the order is not as important these days, but neither recipient is in the picture as we speak. Now that I am looking at the ring

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Fire Department Marks 85th Anniversary By Pranav Anandavel Special to Today Magazine

OVER THE PAST 85 YEARS, the Farmington Valley has taken a new identity. Transforming from what once were towns with primarily farm workers and skilled laborers, the Valley has become a hotspot that now also includes successful entrepreneurs and professionals. Reflecting on all the changes over the past near-century, there are likely more differences than similarities. Yet over that span, one of the unwavering constants has been the Lost Acres Fire Department (LAFD). Defending the town of Granby since 1936, the LAFD celebrates its 85th anniversary this year. Yet this is not the department’s only accolade. 2021 is also the monumental 100th anniversary of the LAFD’s very first fire truck, known as LA-1. Purchased from the Simsbury-based Ensign Bickford fire department, this truck served the Valley into the 1950s. LAFD fire chief John Horr Jr. has been a member of the department for 41 years. In commemoration of the department’s milestone, Today Magazine has interviewed Horr — Part 1 of his wide-ranging Q&A follows:

Lost Acres FD seeks volunteers who want to make vital difference “We have a dedicated membership, but our numbers are dwindling, as is the case with most volunteer organizations” — Fire chief John Horr Jr. Lost Acres Fire Department — Granby, CT

Routine phone calls: 860-653-6668 — — Facebook: @lostacaresfd

Nonprofit Officers — Fire chief John Horr Jr. Board Members — President David Demchak, VP Nate Jansen, Secretary Raul Guinazu, Treasurer Joe Harmon Number of Employees — full-time: 0 — part-time: 35 Year Established — June 1, 1936 Mission — To provide fire and emergency services to the residents of the town of Granby Most fulfilling aspect of your work? Helping others in their time of greatest need. Our mission has us responding to calls for help when someone is undergoing one of the worst events of their lives. With our training and experience, we can stop the event and any further damage/problems from continuing to occur. We bring peace of mind that when called, we can help. Your biggest obstacle, and how you overcome it? Resources — people, equipment and money. On the people side, we have a dedicated membership, but our numbers are dwindling, as is the case with most volunteer organizations. We are always looking for new people to join. We provide all the continued on page 16 TODAY MAGAZINE – – AUGUST 2021




Steam train and riverboat are portals to past By Shayaan Khan Special to Today Magazine

A soon-to-be 6th-grader, Shayaan Khan lives in Simsbury with his parents HAVE YOU EVER been on a train? Even if you have, I bet you might not have been on a 100-year-old steam train. Or have you ever been on a steamboat? I got to visit a place where I could ride both. It inspired me to learn more about these historic pieces of technology. I got to know how the steam engine works and originated, why the Essex steam train was built, who William Gillette was, and a lot more. My favorite part of the visit to Essex Steam Train & Riverboat was to see what it was actually like to be on something so old and related to so much history. I felt like I was in the past when the train was in its prime time. “This steam train is 100 years old to the day,” said the conductor.

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The Steam Train The Essex train is a rather interesting contraption. It worked smoothly for something so old. Quite different from your average car — noisy, yes. I could barely talk with my family. I liked the conductor. He was funny. At one point, he said, “The train tracks are not round and we need to go the other way — I want everybody to get out and push the train!” The travelers erupted with laughter. Luckily, we did not have to push an old locomotive. Another funny incident was when the conductor said, “We have a flat tire!” I shouted, “Trains cannot have flat tires!” Again, as if on cue, the train erupted with laughter. The Riverboat Next, we headed to the dock where the riverboat would pick us up. I was quite excited to board the riverboat, and we sat on the lowest of the three levels. I got to learn about the Connecticut River’s largest island, Selden Neck. After a while, my family and I went to the topmost level because it had a beautiful view. Soon I could see Gillette Castle, named after William Gillette, who was an actor, playwright and stage manager. Did you know that William played a part as Sherlock Holmes and starred in two silent films? The water looked very deep and I loved the cruise. History The steam engine is one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern science, with endless possibilities. Steam engines are rather simple machines. Water is boiled, which produces steam, which pushes pistons making the engine run. The steam engine took hold during the Industrial Revolution. Traveling across long distances became easy with either the steamboat or steam train. They seem slow today, but back then they were the fastest means of transportation. The Essex steam train’s history began on July 17, 1868, when a successful businessman named James C. Walkely was given permission to make a railroad from Hartford to Old Saybrook. On Aug. 24, 1871, the train was open to the public. Financial trouble hit the railroad in 1876. On July 1, 1880, the Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad took control of the line. After World War I, the quality of automobiles improved, so less people used the railroad. In 1961 New Haven fell into bankruptcy. The Valley Railroad’s last trip was in March 1968. Soon the railroad was given to the state of Connecticut. On July 29, 1971, after much work from volunteers, the first trip of the new River Valley train steamed from Essex to Deep River, and has been steaming ever since. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat cruise taught me a ton — what an amazing portal to the past! + Shayaan Khan contributed a cogent article to our June 2020 edition: “COVID-19 in the eyes of a 9-year-old” •

INTERNSHIP — continued from page 10 I thought it was a great fit for me as I love working with students and creating new programs. What grade level is a good starting point for students to begin the program? Juniors and seniors. Why would you encourage a student to join the program? So they can explore an area of interest outside the constructs of their formal education. They will also gain real-life work experience, better understand their strengths, learn what they like and don’t like, and improve their communication skills in a professional setting. Would you like to see every AHS student work an internship through this program? Why/why not?

“Every student intern definitely benefits from having an internship” — Elizabeth Brisco to reading the local papers and keeping my eyes and ears open about where people work and what they do. Then I follow up with a phone call or email and explain our academic internship program and discuss the possibility of them supporting a student intern further. Of course, anyone can contact AHS as well and outline what they are looking for an intern to do, and we would be happy to add them to our possible internship placement list. Then we try to find a match and a win-win with a student’s interests and subject knowledge and the work expected to be performed.

Additional comment: I would love to acknowledge and thank all of the many businesses and organizations that have supported the AHS Internship Program — with particular thanks to: UConn Health, The Cancer Institute, Ensign Bickford Aerospace & Defense, DeManche Law, Mathnasium and a trio of fabulous physical therapy places: PTSMC, Magna PT and Select PT. Thank you so very much for your willingness to trust me and our students and welcome them into your workplaces. + Nishant Gopalachar is a soon-to-be senior at Avon High School

No, an internship in high school may not be a good fit for everyone. This coming school year, AHS will offer a new class called Work Experience, and that may be a better choice for some students. How many businesses/ organizations have participated in the AHS Internship Program throughout its tenure? Over 250 How many businesses/ organizations are participating this summer? Approximately 40 How many students have participated in the AHS Internship Program throughout its tenure? 524 — as of June How many students are participating this summer? 48 What do you see as the best part of the AHS Internship Program? For me, it is to see the student’s individual growth in both the field of their interest as well as their personal growth and understanding of the world and the workplace. What is the most challenging part, and how are you able to meet that challenge? Without a doubt, the most challenging is finding internship places for our high school students in a very wide range of fields. The internet is a huge source of information that I use regularly in addition TODAY MAGAZINE – – AUGUST 2021



A duo of mourning doves find camouflage on pebble-covered ground — mating pairs are monogamous and often mate for life, per

CASE RING — continued from page 11

FIRE — continued from page 13

again, five decades later, I see that there is an engraving inside the band. I had never noticed it before, and now that it is 50plus years later, I can’t read what is there with my old eyes. I will be on the hunt for a magnifying glass and some younger eyes to help me decipher. Going back to the numbers for a minute, it is always interesting to determine the age of people we interacted with when we were young. Born in 1906, married in 1928, interacting with my Main Street primetime self from 1956-66 … that would make the Mrs. Case of my time between 50 and 60 years old. She seemed old to me — wonder what that makes me now? + A Canton native, Anne Raftery is a 1970 graduate of Canton High School

training. We instituted a cadet program for young men and women from ages 14 to 18. Over half of our new members were former cadets. We have a tax abatement program where those who meet minimum standards get a discount off their property taxes.


On the equipment side, we invest in great equipment that gives us value for years. Most of our trucks are between 12 and 30 years old but are in great condition. We keep them well-maintained and they are thoroughly tested and inspected each year. But there is always a limit and new equipment is expensive. On the money side, we get a tax allotment from the town of Granby. This helps to keep our operational and capital funds with sufficient cash to fulfill our needs. When there is a shortfall, the town of Granby has stepped up to help us, such


Photo by Wendy Rosenberg

as with the replacement of our station generators and paying for our Center Station when it was built in 1987. Most satisfying accomplishment? Continuing the legacy of the LAFD. I have been a member of the department for 41 of the 85 years we have been in operation. How we operate and what we are required to do have changed dramatically in those years, and we continue to improve our capabilities. Watching each of our members learn and grow, each in their own unique way, is a testament to our training and planning. Watching these people from different training, experience, schooling and ages come together during a call to work as one team — that’s the most satisfying to me. + Look for Part 2 of fire chief John Horr’s Q&A in an upcoming edition Pranav Anandavel is a soon-to-be junior at Avon High School

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