Avon Today Magazine • June 2019

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JUNE 2019



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JUNE 2019 – www.TodayPublishing.net – AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY

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Veteran voices talk D-Day, WWII




PAGE 5 D-DAY: 75 YEARS LATER World War II veterans from Avon, Canton and Simsbury recall their war days — and where they were on D-Day, the pivotal date that changed the world’s destiny. GOVERNMENT GURUS

Bruce Deckert • Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • Bruce.Deckert@TodayPublishing.net

4 — Lawmakers Debate Key Issues

Confused about the 2019 legislative session? State Sen. Kevin Witkos sheds light on some proposed bills.

Avon Today • Canton Today • Simsbury Today www.TodayPublishing.net – digital editions on website


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9 — Remembering Elie Wiesel

A new book from Simsbury-based Mandel Vilar Press honors the legacy of the legendary Elie Wiesel.

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Contributor — Norm Sondheimer • Editorial Associate — Kayla Tyson

10 — Aire Salon Fuses Passion, Art of Hairstyling

When childhood friends Michael Russo and Sarah Lavoie reconnected, a romance and a business began. HIGHLIGHTS OF AVON HISTORY

13 — Stagecoaches, Canal Boats, Trains

A Native American footpath over Talcott Mountain became Route 44 — and more transport tales.


WHEN I BEGAN researching this month’s cover story on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I figured there might be one or two living World War II veterans in the Avon-Canton-Simsbury tri-town area. It turns out there are 12 known WWII vets who live in these three towns. Our June cover story focuses on three of them — one from each town: John Benjamin (101) of Simsbury, Morton Katz (100) of Avon and Mark Jurras (95) of Canton. A Patriots fan who met Tom Brady would call it an honor. So would a presidential scholar who met George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And a pop music enthusiast who met Beyoncé. For me, the real-life honor of meeting and speaking with these three war heroes surpasses all three of those scenarios. While the above three World War II veterans were serving in the U.S. Army when D-Day transpired on June 6, 1944, only one local vet actually took part in the D-Day invasion: James “Jim” Pethis. He declined to be interviewed because he doesn’t want to be seen as a hero, but his son-in-law Bill Samol spoke to us. “He was in the first wave at Omaha Beach, the first ship to land,” says Samol, an Avon resident and Vietnam veteran. See the story — and a list of all 12 WWII vets from the tri-town area — on page 8. The Today magazines thank and salute these veterans for their bravery and vital service at such a pivotal time in history. +

Photographer — Seshu, Connecticut Headshots • 860-593-0850 www.ConnecticutHeadshots.com • info@ConnecticutHeadshots.com

Contributing Photographer — Wendy Rosenberg • 860-305-1655 Cover Photo by Seshu — WWII bomber pilot John Benjamin

QUOTE OF THE MONTH “We knew an invasion was being planned but didn’t know 100

Morton Katz, 100, helped liberate a death camp in WWII

where or when. We were focused on Italy.” — WWII veteran Morton Katz

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AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY – www.TodayPublishing.net – JUNE 2019


Legislators face key issues locally, statewide By Kevin Witkos State Senator • 8th District

Editor’s Note — As of press time, the legislation discussed in this column is still being debated by lawmakers. The legislative session officially ends June 5 but could be extended. WELCOME to my first column in the Today magazines. I am pleased to bring you an update from the Legislative Office Building as we work through the 2019 legislative session. As expected, the major issues that dominated the airwaves during the campaign season have now taken center stage. In recent months, hearings have been held on issues such as paid family medical leave, the implementation of tolls, forced school regionalization, a $15 minimum wage and more. I am thankful for all of you who have taken the time and effort to submit testimony on these or other pieces of proposed legislation. As legislators, we need to hear directly from you, the voters, when you feel strongly about an issue. As the ranking member on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, I have a unique opportunity to join with my colleagues in discussing the myriad new and expanded taxes that Gov. Ned Lamont (D) has proposed. From eliminating sales tax exemptions on goods and services — including accounting and legal services, haircuts, bicycle helmets and more — to imposing increased taxes on sugary beverages, to repealing the recently enacted tax exemptions on pensions and social security, I am extremely disheartened that our residents are faced with an even higher cost of living here in Connecticut. The proposal to implement a paid


family medical leave program is an important issue. Three similar proposals are being actively considered by the state legislature: Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 881 and House Bill 5003. Under these proposals, employees are eligible to take a paid leave of absence from their job upon the birth or adoption of a child, to care for any seriously ill relative related by blood or marriage, to care for oneself while suffering from a serious health condition (or for the donation or transplant of an organ or bone marrow) or to care for a family member injured in the course of his or her service in the U.S. Armed Forces. One caveat is that an individual may use the family and medical leave to care for someone who is not related but whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family member. Under the three bills, employees who need to use the benefit are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid time off per year.

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State Sen. Kevin Witkos (R) has served Connecticut’s 8th District since January 2009, representing Avon, Canton, Simsbury, Barkhamsted, Colebrook, Hartland, New Hartford, Norfolk and parts of Granby, Harwinton and Torrington.

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This is where the three proposals begin to differ. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 5003 propose paying employees 100 percent of their weekly pay up to $1,000 per week, while Senate Bill 881 proposes paying employees a portion of their weekly earnings up to a maximum of 60 times the minimum wage rate. (In 2019 the weekly benefit would cap out at $606 per week.) Many people agree that employees and their families need financial support while suffering from health issues, but I am concerned with how the program is funded. Under all three proposals, the funding source for the weekly benefit is a payroll tax of one-half of 1 percent. This payroll tax is involuntary and must be paid regardless of whether an individual wishes to take advantage of the program. Furthermore, Senate Bill 881, which is the governor’s proposal, allows the Department of Labor to increase the percent of the payroll tax without limitation and without any oversight or approval of the General Assembly. Each of these proposals would have a major and long-lasting impact on our residents and our state, and I look forward to discussing these bills on the Senate floor in the weeks to come. As always, my door is open, and I encourage you to reach out to me if the need ever arises. +


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JUNE 2019 – www.TodayPublishing.net – AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY

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Local WWII veterans recall their war days ... and the pivotal day that turned the tide By Bruce Deckert • Editor-in-Chief Avon Today • Canton Today • Simsbury Today

JUNE 6, 1944. If December 7, 1941 is a date that lives in infamy — per the legendary words of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt — June 6, 1944 is the day that gives World War II history its ultimate meaning. While the attack on Pearl Harbor in December ’41 dramatically ushered the United States into World War II, the D-Day invasion by the U.S. and her Allies decisively turned the tide of the war. The math is simple — June 6, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Yet D-Day itself was far from simple. Countless soldiers lost their lives during the intricately planned Allied invasion of Nazioccupied Europe. Remarkably, there are 12 living WWII veterans in the tri-town area, according to officials of local VFWs (Veterans of Foreign Wars). By the end of the war, the U.S. draft age was 18, which factors in some further math: The youngest WWII vets alive today are in their early 90s. The oldest are 100-plus. The Today magazines spoke with three such local veterans — one each from Avon, Canton and Simsbury — about their firsthand experiences and eyewitness accounts of World War II. Benjamin, who turns 102 on June 2, was a WWII bomber pilot who flew 35 combat missions in a B-24 from November 1944 to March ’45, commanding a 10-man crew and flying with six other planes. Their targets included bridges, fuel dumps, military trains and factories in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia and Germany. He served in the 459th Bombardment Group, which was based in Italy. His childhood best friend, Dick Barker, was the pilot of one of the P-38 escorts on Benjamin’s missions. A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism, Benjamin says

emphatically, “I don’t like any notoriety.” Asked if he was ever anxious during his flights, Benjamin matter-of-factly replies, “No — it was my job, that’s all.” But his calm nerves came in the face of significant danger. “We got hit almost every time out,” he says. “We would get out and see the holes in the plane.” For the B-24, even with a full tank of 2000 gallons, Benjamin had a key question for his technician during each mission: “If we keep going, will we have enough gas to get back? That was good info,” he quips. One time, however, they ran out of gas.

The plane went down behind enemy lines in Italy, and Benjamin was MIA (missing in action) for five days. His son Chris Benjamin, also a Simsbury resident, says the family still has the Army’s MIA telegram, which was written in haste … in pencil. Chris attended a recent event that featured Vietnam veteran Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor winner. “When he heard that my dad won the Distinguished Flying Cross,” says Chris, “all this guy wanted to do was talk with my dad.” On D-Day, John Benjamin was in flight training at Maxwell Field in Alabama. “Some of my classmates died in training,”

AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY – www.TodayPublishing.net – JUNE 2019


Photos by Connecticut Headshots • 860-593-0850 www.connecticutheadshots.com


John Benjamin of Simsbury served during World War II as a bomber pilot. His medals: Top medal on lapel — Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and extraordinary achievement in military flight Bottom medal — European Theater Army Air Corps Right — Silver Wings for completing flight school

he recalls. Born in the Bronx, Benjamin lived in West Hartford and Granby before moving to Simsbury in 2006. His full name is John Granby Benjamin because of his family’s ties to the town where his dad was born. What advice would Benjamin give to a young person contemplating the military? “Join the Air Force,” he says. “I love the Air Force.” Regarding the harsh realities he encountered during World War II, he says, “For as long as you live, you cannot forget — you’ll always remember.” These days, he’s grateful for a full life welllived: “How much longer I have, I don’t know. Each morning when I wake up, it’s a blessing.”

Morton Katz and the 505th Parachute Infantry liberated Wobbelin concentration camp.


Courtesy Photo

Katz, who turned 100 in May, hoped to go to West Point, but when that didn’t pan out he went to Connecticut State College (now UConn) and joined the Citizens’ Military Training Camps program. He graduated in ’39 and was commissioned in ’40 as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. He trained as a parachutist with the 502nd Parachute Infantry but never jumped in combat. Instead, he was always part of the ground and amphibious operation. During the Battle of the Bulge his unit suffered heavy losses, and afterward Katz was transferred to the 505th Parachute Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division. The 505th served in Germany and liberated the Wobbelin concentration camp near Ludwigslust. “May 2nd, 1945,” says Katz, who is Jewish. “My scouts had gone out and found a camp. There was a warehouse full of tens of thousands of wooden clogs that had been worn and re-worn by prisoners who had died.” There were also piles of bodies. Katz describes his commanding officer, Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, as “a low-key guy ... but this was too much for him. He

went ballistic. He made the townspeople march out and view the bodies. Then he made them bring the bodies back to Ludwigslust and form a cemetery, which is still there.” Katz had trained at Fort Benning, Ga., and shipped to England in September ’42. He went to North Africa in November ’42, serving in Algiers, Morocco and Tunisia. During the North





JUNE 2019 – www.TodayPublishing.net – AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY

public defender in Hartford Superior Court, and in May the Connecticut Judicial Branch gave him the Lifetime of Public Service Award. Katz participates in the VFW, Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, and the Avon Chamber of Commerce. After the war, he continued to served in the Army Reserve, retiring as a colonel. Asked about his most vivid memories of World War II, his thoughts turn to his band of brothers: “I was privileged to serve with the finest Americans I have ever known — the greatest guys in the world.”

MARK I. JURRAS SR. • 95 • CANTON Courtesy Photo

African Campaign, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Later his unit advanced to Italy and fought in Anzio and Venafro, and then in southern France. At the invasion of Anzio beach, Katz was in the first boat with the commanding officer. On D-Day, he was in Italy. Three U.S. soldiers had died after disobeying orders and going for a swim at the beach, where a booby trap awaited. “We were ordered to take the bodies to Rome,” which the Allies had reclaimed from the Nazis, says Katz. “That’s when I heard on the radio about Normandy. … We knew an invasion was being planned but didn’t know where or when. We were focused on Italy.” Katz recalls another “chilling thing”— the day he and his unit almost fired on fellow U.S. soldiers in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. On a dark gray day, his unit saw some men in dark coats and thought they were Nazi troops. “We had our fingers to the trigger when the clouds broke and the sun came out and we could see they were our guys,” Katz says. “It was as close to a miracle as I’ve ever seen. … Friendly fire is a real thing. I have sympathy for those who get caught up in it.”

Mark Jurras and his battalion were slated at first to be part of the D-Day invasion. Years later, Katz was at a veterans gathering and actually met one of the U.S. soldiers in the dark coats: “I was having a drink with a guy I almost killed.” Born in Hartford, Katz graduated from Weaver High School and, in ’51, from the UConn School of Law. He moved to Avon in ’66. Today, he still works as a special

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Jurras, who turned 95 in May, was drafted in ’43 after graduating in ’42 from Montpelier (Vt.) High School. He served in the 776th AAA Auto Weapons Battalion, an anti-aircraft unit. When Pearl Harbor was attacked in ’41, Jurras recalls “coming out of church on the 7th — people were gathering in groups talking about Hawaii.” One of his uncles, Harold St. Louis, was stationed at an Army fort near Pearl Harbor with his wife and daughter. He later fought in North Africa and Italy. Jurras shipped to England in March ’44 in a 100-ship convoy with more than 800 soldiers. Among all those men, he

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D-Day: He was there OF THE 12 WORLD WAR II veterans who live in the tri-town area, only one was part of the legendary D-Day invasion 75 years ago: James “Jim” Pethis. Pethis declined to be interviewed because, as his son-in-law Bill Samol says, “He doesn’t want to be seen as a hero. He was in the first wave at Omaha Beach, the first ship to land.” Pethis was in the renowned 1st Infantry Division, aka the Big Red One. He resides in Avon during the summer with his daughter and Samol, and in Texas with his son during the winter. Samol, a Vietnam veteran, watched the acclaimed WWII movie Saving Private Ryan with Pethis. “He said the first 20 minutes of the movie were incredibly realistic,” Samol says of the opening sequence that graphically depicts the bloody D-Day assault on Normandy. “By the time they got to the beach many soldiers had died. He said the rest was Hollywood … but [director Steven] Spielberg did a magnificent job.” Born and raised in New Britain, Pethis is 95. Meanwhile, Mitch Billicki of Avon sees himself at the opposite end of the military spectrum. “I’m considered a veteran,” he says, “but I don’t really consider myself a World War II veteran. I was part of the occupation forces — we came into Europe after the war was over.” “I did what I was told, did what I had to do,” says Billicki, 91. “I’m glad to be an American.”

“I was privileged to serve with the finest Americans I have ever known — the greatest guys in the world.” WWII veteran Morton Katz

WWII Veterans These are the 12 known World War II veterans living in the Avon-Canton-Simsbury tri-town area:

John Benjamin Mitch Billicki Daniel Crowley Loering Johnson Morton Katz Mark Jurras Sr. James “Jim” Pethis Robert Snediker Benjamin Walker Tony Giannini Robert Montano James Keane Source: Local VFWs

says, he was the only one who knew how to type. So he was assigned to be the special assistant to the colonel — “he was one desk away,” says Jurras, who lives in Canton and previously lived in Simsbury from 1977-96. On the overseas journey, Jurras remembers an occasional red glare on the night horizon — a sign that one of the U.S. convoy ships had been hit and sunk by a German submarine. In England, his battalion eventually was stationed in Falmouth, a southern harbor that became a launchpad for the D-Day invasion. As the battalion’s de facto secretary, Jurras would collect intel each morning and prepare personnel reports. The original plan was for Jurras and the 776th battalion to be part of the Normandy invasion, and another anti-aircraft unit was slated to take their place in Falmouth. But Jurras’ colonel convinced higher-ups that it made more

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sense to move one battalion directly to Normandy rather than two battalions in a double move. On D-Day, Jurras says, “Eight battleships went by — we knew something was going to happen. … In the days leading up to the invasion, there was a huge gathering of ships. On the morning of D-Day, they were all gone.” The 776th sailed to Normandy’s Omaha Beach about a month after the invasion, with the objective of protecting the Brest peninsula. “Every day was like the Fourth of July,” Jurras says of the mortar explosions that ensued in the fight for France. During the Battle of the Bulge, from December ’44 to January ’45, Jurras was headquartered in Senon, a farming village in France. In Falmouth, Jurras had slept in a horse stall. In Senon, he and other Army personnel stayed with residents. He lived with the town blacksmith and fixed the family’s sewing machine — “my mother had one just like it,” he explains. The blacksmith’s wife then sewed Jurras’ Army promotion patches onto his uniform. Today, Jurras stays in touch with the blacksmith’s granddaughter via email and Facebook. In early ’45, the 776th battalion

advanced into Germany. After the war in Europe ended in May ’45 and more concentration camps were discovered, Jurras says Gen. Dwight Eisenhower “ordered all troops within reasonable range to go to a camp, because in five years the Nazis are going to dispute they did this.” The 776th went to Dachau. “The first thing I noticed was a truckload of bare bodies,” says Jurras. “There was a huge pile of shoes. Everybody who went into the chamber had to take off their shoes and put them in a pile. … You can’t forget it. I can smell the smell still — it was terrible.” Jurras recounts meeting an acquaintance and his wife, a German woman, in the 1970s: “It was exactly what Eisenhower said — she insisted it never happened.” Jurras, Katz, Benjamin and countless other WWII veterans know it did happen. They also know — from firsthand experience — that D-Day made it possible for the Allies to liberate those death camps. Clearly, there’s a reason these veterans and their contemporaries are called the Greatest Generation. + Today Publishing editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is an award-winning journalist.

New book honors legacy of Elie Wiesel

PUBLISHED BY Simsbury-based Mandel Vilar Press, Elie Wiesel: An Extraordinary Life and Legacy presents reflections on Wiesel by friends, colleagues and others. Wiesel (1928-2016), a survivor of Auschwitz, wrote the powerful Holocaust memoir Night. A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, he was a human-rights advocate, professor and author of 50plus books. Wiesel co-founded Moment Magazine in 1975 as a focal point for American Jews. Current editor-in-chief Nadine Epstein, an award-winning journalist, edited this new Wiesel book. Contributors include luminaries Michael Berenbaum, Wolf Blitzer, Ben Kingsley, Itzhak Perlman, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Oprah Winfrey. The foreword is by British rabbi/politician Jonathan Sacks, the afterword by newsman Ted Koppel. MV Press has also published My Real Name Is Hanna, a novel based on a true Holocaust story. www.mvpress.org

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Art of hairstyling is Aire Salon’s passion

By Bruce Deckert • Editor-in-Chief Avon Today • Canton Today • Simsbury Today

THE CLASSIC BOOK “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” was published in the mid-1980s. But childhood friends Sarah Kelly Lavoie and Michael Russo — now the owners of Aire Salon in Avon — could rewrite the book’s title: The Partner I Really Need to Know I Met in Kindergarten. Yes, Sarah and Michael met in kindergarten at Holy Cross School in New Britain, where they were both born and raised. They went to the same schools all the way through 12th grade, graduating from New Britain High. After high school, Michael and Sarah fell out of touch. They reconnected in 2017 after about 15 years, at a less-thanromantic location — a grocery store. Yet this was the beginning of their romance. Before long, they began planning their business partnership at Aire Salon, and they were engaged in December 2018. The wedding is slated for September. “Hands-down, she’s the best hairstylist I’ve known,” says Michael. “It was a nobrainer going into business with her. Her work speaks for itself.”


Michael and Sarah officially opened Aire Salon, located in Avon Village at 41 East Main St., in January. They found the location, which had been vacant for a while, in October and did the renovation work themselves, with help from Michael’s dad. They added an old-school touch: a barber’s chair that dates to 1890. Michael’s grandfather, Sebastian Russo, owned VFW Barber Shop in Berlin,

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Conn. One day, when Michael was about 12, he decided to cut the hair of some of his cousins — for the record, with parental permission. “I’ve been cutting hair ever since,” says Michael, who began barbering professionally as a teenager. When Sarah was a teen, she often styled her friends’ hair before proms and other big events. At first she planned to go into nursing, but she shifted gears and went to hairstyling school, where she came to a realization: “This is what I need to do — I love it.” Sarah, who turned 37 in April, has been a professional hairstylist for a dozen years, renting chairs at local salons. Today, she specializes in weddings, hair extensions, special-events updos and makeup. Meanwhile, Michael specializes in precision men’s cuts and styling (fashion-forward and classic). He also styles and colors women’s hair. Sometimes Sarah and Michael work together as a wedding package deal: She’ll style the bridesmaids’ hair and he’ll take care of the groomsmen. “This comes naturally for me,” Sarah

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says. “I just love what I do. Making my design and the ability to make our clients feel good makes me feel good.” clients smile. Michael, who will turn 37 in August, sounds the same note: “This is my passion. What are some obstacles you face, and how can you overcome them? I love working with clients. I love working There are obstacles from time to time. with people and helping someone else feel We treat each one on an individual basis good about their look.” with honesty and concern for a positive For these childhood friends, their outcome. enthusiasm for hairstyling is matched by What is your most satisfying their long history together. accomplishment so far? “Both of us have trained with the best To combine our individual talents and in the business,” Michael says. “We knew create Aire Salon — to be able to provide it was time to open a place. We have a individual attention to serve our clients is passion for the business and the art of the not only rewarding but also exciting and business. The artistic side of this business enjoyable. is a huge thing. … There’s love here — it’s What are your goals for the next inside you.” five years? Michael and Sarah plan to hire some Education and training. Staying focused part-time employees, rather than rent out responsible for grammatical errors) on the latest trends and providing chairs to independent hairstylists. Why outstanding service to our clients. that model? What do you appreciate most about “We’re trying to build a family here,” the local business climate? Michael affirms. The loyalty and the fact that the businesses 374 Hopmeadow Street • Simsbury, CT 06089 He further explains their business 860-651-8236 work together to provide quality service. model in the following Q-and-A: www.Insuranceagentswhocare.com Michael Russo and Sarah Lavoie Why did you choose this profession? What constructive change would Find out how you can get improved value and peace Michael + Sarah: A lifelong passion and you like to see regarding the local of mind. Call or visit our office today! business climate? commitment toward seeing people happy AIRE SALON through our talents and combined abilities We are new to the Avon community and Avon Village • 41 East Main Street, Avon, CT are excited to see the changes that areOnly — we offer the cutting edge. 860-470-7158 Preview being made at our Avon Village location. What do you enjoy most about www.airesalon.com • airesalonavon@gmail.com (Layout includes clear of text and graphics We are looking forward to aallmargin the positive your work? Established — January 2019 this informationthat mayare beunderway. covered by frame and/or clips during installation) + The challenge of helping each individual as improvements

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Local author writes book about WWII hero MERG, by Canton author Peter Lion, tells the true story of George Mergenthaler, grandson of Ottmar, who invented the Linotype in the late 1800s and earned the Mergenthaler family fame and fortune. George, of Rye, N.Y., was erudite, charismatic and athletic. In September 1939, he entered Princeton University. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December ’41, George, like many of his generation, enlisted to fight for his country. His service was deferred until January ’43, when he graduated in an accelerated program. Discovering George’s fluency in German and French, the Army assigned him to a reconnaissance unit with the 28th Infantry Division, which arrived in France in July ’44 and began the bloody trek to Berlin. In mid-November the division was sent to the rear for muchneeded rest. The recon troop settled in the farming village of Eschweiler in

Luxembourg. For the next month the soldiers lived with the townspeople. Christmas beckoned and spirits were high. In mid-December, however, the Battle of the Bulge erupted and Eschweiler was among the towns at the spearhead of the surprise German assault. On the afternoon of Dec. 16 the recon troop assembled in a convoy and headed south. Less than a mile outside town they were ambushed by advancing German troops. Pinned down and taking heavy fire, death or capture seemed likely. George unflinchingly jumped into the command jeep and manned a machine gun, allowing his fellow soldiers to escape safely to the woods. Miraculously, all survived the ambush and the war … except for George. Seconds after his courageous act, the machine gun jammed. While trying to clear the breech, George was killed by a volley of bullets.

In mid-March ’45, after the snow melted, villagers found George buried in a shallow grave. They reburied him in the town cemetery, across from the church of St. Mauritius. The parish priest informed George’s parents via letter. So moved were the Mergenthalers by the love the people of Eschweiler had shown their only son, they funded the rebuilding of the war-damaged church. Reconstruction was completed in ’49. The hand-painted mural behind the altar, depicting Jesus feeding the masses, included a helpful apostle wearing an army uniform and bearing the likeness of George Mergenthaler. + Peter Lion will speak June 29 at the New England Author’s Expo in Haverhill, Mass. • www.MERGbook.com

Memorial Day Parade marks 75th D-Day anniversary Special to Today Publishing

THE THEME of Simsbury’s Memorial Day parade was the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the United States and her Allies invaded northern France by means of strategic beach landings in Normandy. The D-Day invasion was the beginning of the end of World War II. Maj. Thomas J. Saadi, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, was slated to march in Simsbury’s parade and to speak at the post-parade ceremony near the Veterans Memorial at Simsbury Public Library (press time was before Memorial Day). Other scheduled speakers included Boy Scouts telling stories of Simsbury’s veterans, including those who lost their lives in World War II. An expected highlight of the parade:

A float by Simsbury’s Abigail Phelps Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) with members in period costumes. Traditionally, two parades have been held in Simsbury every Memorial Day — in Tariffville (morning) and downtown Simsbury (afternoon). This year’s parade committee was comprised of volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Metacomet Post 1926 and American Legion Post 84. Memorial Day events are only one of many activities that the VFW and the American Legion sponsor to support the Simsbury community. If you are a veteran and want to join or learn more, contact the posts for info. Len Lanza (Legion) • 860-658-2128 John Romano (VFW) • 860-651-9202

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JUNE 2019 – www.TodayPublishing.net – AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY

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Avon: Stop for stagecoaches, canal boats, trains By Norm Sondheimer Avon Historical Society

Courtesy Photo

A NATIVE AMERICAN footpath over Talcott Mountain became part of Albany Turnpike (today’s Route 44). Stagecoaches on the turnpike carried freight and passengers. The Farmington Canal was built through the center of Avon. The Farmington Canal Company was formed in 1822, and six years later the canal opened from New Haven to Simsbury. In 1835, the route went to Northampton, Mass. Segments of the canal operated for almost 20 years, but the full length of the canal from New Haven to Northampton operated from 1835-47. The 10-hour trip from Avon to New Haven cost $1.75. The canal was 36 feet wide, built mostly with Irish labor, and offered passenger service along the 56-mile New Haven-to-Northampton route. It also carried local products such as lumber, tobacco, cider, oats, hay, butter and cheese to other locales. The Farmington Canal Railroad from New Haven to Avon opened in


Avon Center on Nov. 29, 1899: Steam billows from a train crossing the intersection of Routes 10 and 44, near Avon Congregational Church. 1850, following the route of the former Farmington Canal, and operated until 1991. The line to Northampton opened in 1856. Passenger service ended in the 1940s, and freight service in ’91 when the railroad ceased operation. Railroad tracks crossed the intersection of Routes 10 and 44 near Avon Congregational Church. Today the railroad route is the

Farmington Valley Greenway rails-totrails system, enjoyed by walkers, bikers and runners. Meanwhile, the O’Neil (spelled with one “l” in the early days) blacksmith shop and transportation business began in 1886 and today is O’Neill’s Chevrolet-Buick. The blacksmith shop building is still on Route 10, visible when turning onto Route 10 from the Avon Post Office.

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Natural World Photo Exhibit Roaring Brook Nature Center, Canton – June-July Investors Center, Avon – June-Aug. Amazing nature photos by Canton photographer Wendy Rosenberg Member/Guest Art Exhibit Gallery on the Green, Canton Thru Sunday 6/23 – Fri-Sat-Sun 1-5 Free • Solo shows: Holly Hall, Mark Snyder Historic Pine Grove Schoolhouse Route 167-West Avon Road, Avon Sundays thru September – 2-4 pm National Register of Historic Places, opens 6/2 for summer season +++ Concerts + Comedy at Bridge Street Live 41 Bridge Street, Collinsville Box office: 860-693-9762 Ticket to Ride: Beatles Tribute Saturday 6/1 – 8 pm • $20-$30 Brother Joscephus & Love Revolution Sunday 6/2 – 7 pm • $15-$25 Brothers From Another Mother Comedy Tour Friday 6/7 – 8 pm • $15-$25 Father’s Day Brunch Sunday 6/16 – 10 am-3 pm Best of Philly Comedy Show Saturday 6/22 – 8 pm • $15-$25 Lurrie Bell in concert Friday 6/28 – 8 pm –$30-$40 FOCUS ROCKS: Benefit Concert for FOCUS Center for Autism Sunday 6/30 – 5 pm • $25-$45 Eilen Jewell in concert Saturday 7/20 – 8 pm • $22-$32


Send your events to — newsroom@TodayPublishing.net Canton Public Library lineup These events free • Info: 693-5800 Friday Family Movie Matinee Fridays – 3 pm • Free G or PG film Summer Saturdays Library Hours Saturdays 6/1-8/31 – 10 am-1 pm Deborah Sacks: Printmaker Saturdays 6/1-6/29 • Art display Summer Reading Flyer Release Monday 6/3 – 10 am Invasive Plants in Your Backyard Tuesday 6/4 – 6:30 pm Eric Carle’s Birthday Celebration Tuesday 6/25 – all day Book Buddies Volunteer intro Tuesday 6/25 – 6 pm Wednesday 6/26 – 10 am Summer Teen Nights Begin Thursdays 6/27-8/8 – 6-7:45 pm +++ Simsbury Public Library lineup Register for all events: 658-7663 x2 Mother’s + Father’s Day Concert Sunday 6/2 – 2-3:30 pm AARP Safe Driving Class Tuesday 6/4 – 1:30-5:30 pm There’s an App for That (Senior) Thursdays 6/6-6/27-7/11-7/25–1 pm Intro to Excel: 3-Part Class Tuesdays 7/4-7/11-7/18 – 6:30 pm Why Market to Aging Population Wednesday 7/5 – 6 pm Intro to Therapy Dogs Monday 7/10 – 6 pm Railroad Depot by the Numbers Tuesday 7/11 – 6:30 pm Bicycle Repair & Maint. Workshop Wednesday 7/12 – 6 pm

Avon Public Library lineup These events free • Info: 673-9712 Kilimanjaro: Journey thru Africa Tuesday 6/4 – 2 pm Anniversary Film Series Documentaries on major milestones Thu 6/13–6:30 pm–Paper Clips Fri 6/21–1:30 pm–Mary Cassatt Fri 6/28–1:30 pm–Stonewall Uprising Fri 7/5–1:30 pm–The Circus Fire Fri 7/12–1:30 pm–Making Wiz of Oz Acadia National Park: A History Monday 6/17 – 2 pm Wed. Morning Book Club – 10:30 7/17 – Asymmetry 8/21 – Before We Were Yours 9/18 – Tattoist of Auschwitz +++ Storyteller’s Cottage events Simsbury • 860-877-6099 Tea Party Club for Kids Sundays – 2 pm 6/2 – James and the Giant Peach 7/7 – Pippi Longstocking 8/4 – The Wizard of Oz 9/8 – Beauty and the Beast 10/6 – The Witches 11/3 – Snow White 12/1 – Lion, Witch and Wardrobe $15, $75 for any six months Storytime, crafts and tea party Storytime: Amanda Bannikov Saturday 6/1 – 12 noon Free • Reading of The Smelly Pirate Book Launch Party Sunday 6/2 – 3 pm Free • Magnets & Glue: meet author Kati Mockler, enjoy snacks

Murder She Wrote: Mystery Tea Party Wednesday 6/5 – 1 pm $20 • Mystery room game + snacks Board Game Cafe Storyteller’s Cottage, Simsbury Fridays 6/7, 6/14, 6/28 – 7-9 pm $5 • Play fantasy-themed games in secret castle room • Snacks extra $ Tales from Beyond (Travel) Ban Thursday 6/6 – 7 pm $20 • Live storytelling of oral tales from seven Muslim countries Connecticut Open House Day Saturday 6/8 – 10 am-4 pm Free • Meet local authors, take a tour, enjoy literary-themed treats Live Murder Mystery: Murder at the Timeless Cottage Saturday 6/15 – 8 pm $50, $60 w/ drinks • Murder mystery party includes snacks Grand Tour Revisited: Sunday Book Brunch Sunday 6/16 – 12 noon $5-$10 • Discuss India with “Shantaram” and Indian foods Midsummer Night Fantasy Ball Saturday 6/29 – 8-10 pm $25 • Cosplay, fantasy foods and activities, meet new friends! +++ A Promise to Jordan fundraiser Iron Horse Pizzeria-Pub, Simsbury Thursday 6/6 – all day Mention A Promise to Jordan and 20% of check will be donated Simsbury Second Chance Shop • First Thursday Sale Thursday 6/6 – 4-7 pm


TIGERS LOVE BUBBLE BATHS & OBSESSION PERFUME (who knew!) A Mystery Romance With A Spiritual Twist By Mary K. Savarese Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Indie Bookstores


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JUNE 2019 – www.TodayPublishing.net – AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY

Our digital editions are posted well before the month begins. Get an early peek at the Calendar each month – www.TodayPublishing.net • Summer Sale Thu-Fri-Sat 6/6-6/8 – 9:30 am-4 pm Fri-Sat 6/28-6/29 – 9:30 am-4 pm 50% off storewide • All proceeds to Village for Families and Children First Friday Dinner Avon Congregational Church Friday 6/7 – 5:30-7:30 $7-$13 • Some proceeds to charity St. Mary’s Carnival – 40th Annual St. Mary’s School, Simsbury Wed-Thu-Fri 6/5-6/6-6/7 – 6-10 pm Sat 6/8 – 4-10 pm Proceeds to school, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Habitat for Humanity Connecticut Open House Day Simsbury sites: Storyteller’s Cottage, Red Stone Pub, Visitors Center, Library, Historical Society • Saturday 6/8 – all day 15th annual statewide celebration of Connecticut • www.ctvisit.com CT Valley Fest Simsbury Meadows Saturday 6/8 – 12-7 pm $10, free under 10 • Family event benefits Dana Farber Cancer Inst. Celebrating Gardens of Avon: Photo Art Reception Avon Senior Center Sunday 6/9 – 5-7 pm $15-$20 • Benefit for Garden Club 75th anniv. project • Reg. 673-3887 Palette to Palate Farm. Valley Arts Center, Avon Tuesday 6/11 – 6-9 pm $50-$55 • FVAC fundraiser Enjoy food and art together 21st Annual Golf Tournament Simsbury Farms

Thursday 6/13 – 10 am $125+ • Simsbury Vol. Fire Co. 658-1971 • www.simsburyfd.org 68th Annual Strawberry Festival N. Canton United Methodist Saturday 6/15 – 11 am-4 pm Bring berries, baked goods home for Father’s Day • Info: 693-4589 Journey of Yoga, Simsbury • Kids Yoga Summer Session Thursdays starting 6/20 – 1:30-3:30 Ages 4-8 • Eight sessions • Tween Yoga Summer Session Thursdays starting 6/20 – 1:30-3:30 Ages 9-12 • Eight sessions 860-680-1482 • journeyofyoga.com Summer Solstice Celebration with Free Yoga Simsbury Library lawn Saturday 6/22 – 9:30-10:45 am Free • All ages, fitness levels 860-680-1482 • journeyofyoga.com Canton Senior Center Trips Wednesday 6/26: NYC Museum Thursday 7/25: Dinner Train+ Thursday 8/15: Block Island Info: 693-5811 The Long Journeys Home Avon Senior Center Thursday 6/27 – 7 pm Co-sponsor: Avon Hist. Society Moving stories of 2 indigenous men Dog Days of Summer Plan B Burger Bar, Simsbury Friday 7/5 – 5-8 pm Benefit to support Dog Star Rescue Open Mic Night LaSalle Market, Collinsville Fridays – 6-10:30 pm Singers: call 693-8010 or come at 5

Hartford Symphony Orchestra Talcott Mountain Music Festival Simsbury Meadows Box office: 860-987-5900 Fridays – 7:30 pm 6/28–Dancing in Street: Motown 7/5–Celebrate America! 7/12–Celebrating Music of Sinatra 7/19–Swan Lake & Sleeping Beauty 7/26–Music of Elton John Gates open at 6 pm for picnicking, at 5:30 for Friends of Festival +++ 59th Anniversary Art Exhibition Gallery on the Green, Canton 6/28-8/4 – Fri-Sat-Sun 1-5 pm Free • Solo show: Marlene Mayes Veterans Coffee Houses • Simsbury Senior Center 1st Monday each month – 10 am • Canton Community Center 2nd Monday each month – 9 am Free • Talk about issues, resources Farmer’s Market Main Street, Collinsville Sundays thru October – 10-1 +++ Red Stone Pub happenings Red Stone Pub, Simsbury Trivia Tuesdays – 7-8:30 pm Eat. Drink. Think. Prizes! Acoustic Wed.: John Mayock Live music • 7-9 pm Thirsty Thursdays Dollar dogs • Darts 7-9 pm Saturday Nights Dinner entrees • Yappy Hour on the patio: 3-6 pm • DJ + music: 6-9 pm Happy Hour – every day until 6 pm All drinks $2 off + app specials!

Storyteller’s Cottage offers tea room The Storyteller’s Cottage of Simsbury offers pastries, tea and coffee in its charming English Country Kitchen. Visitors can enjoy literary snacks while chatting with friends or writing — just like J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series in an Edinburgh cafe! Baked goods are provided by Popover’s Bistro of Simsbury and are inspired by classic books and literary celebrities. The menu changes from week to week, but guests might find Hobbit Cake (a poppyseed cake loved by Bilbo), Turkish Delight (Edwin’s downfall in Narnia) or gingerbread cake made from Beatrix Potter’s favorite recipe. Idyllic bistro tables dot the house in the kitchen, Victorian Library, Regency Salon and Fairytale Sun Porch, so guests can find the perfect cozy nook. Tea and coffee are available for just $1 per cup; baked goods are $1-$3 each. Yankee Magazine named the Storyteller’s Cottage the Best New Cultural Attraction of Connecticut in 2018. Tea Room hours: 10-4 Tue-Fri www.StorytellersCottage.com

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AVON TODAY • CANTON TODAY • SIMSBURY TODAY – www.TodayPublishing.net – JUNE 2019


IF YOU HUM A FEW BARS… A male ruby-throated hummingbird visits the Canton backyard of photographer Wendy Rosenberg, who is offering two Natural World Photo Exhibits this summer — at Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton and The Investors Center in Avon.

Photo by Wendy Rosenberg

June 28-July 26, 2019 Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center JUNE 28, 2019 • 7:30 PM

JULY 5, 2019 • 7:30 PM

JULY 12, 2019 • 7:30 PM




Conducted by Carolyn Kuan Rain date: July 6, 2019

Conducted by Adam Boyles • Rain or Shine! Concert sponsor: Citizens Bank

Conducted by Adam Boyles Rain or Shine!

JULY 19, 2019 • 7:30 PM

JULY 26, 2019 • 7:30 PM



Conducted by Carolyn Kuan Rain or Shine!

Conducted by Adam Boyles Rain Date: July 27, 2019

CALL 860-987-5900 OR VISIT WWW.HARTFORDSYMPHONY.ORG Festival Presenting Benefactor



Concert Sponsor – Dancing in the Street: The Music of Motown



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