Today Magazine • March 2020

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A MOTHER’S VOW FINDS HOPE IN PAIN After son dies of opioid overdose, A Promise to Jordan is born


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A Mother’s Vow Turns Heartache Into Hope


After losing her son to an opioid-related overdose, Simsbury Chamber executive director Lisa Gray decided to make a difference via A Promise to Jordan. HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

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11 — Help Wanted

THE OPIOID CRISIS is headline news across the country, and it has hit home for thousands of area families. When Simsbury resident Jordan Arakelian died of an accidental opioid overdose in 2018, his mom decided the stakes are far too high to remain silent about an addiction issue that can be difficult for families — and she took decisive action. Less than a month after her son’s death, Lisa Gray established A Promise to Jordan. The nonprofit raises awareness of addiction and mental health issues and seeks to eliminate the related stigma. Gray, executive director of the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce, has many allies in this vital work, including Avon resident Heidi Zacchera and Canton resident Maria Coutant Skinner, who co-chair the joint Rotary-Lions Addiction Task Force. For more valuable and distinctive local news, visit Today Magazine Online: +

Already Canton’s largest private employer, Favarh is in hiring mode again as new apartments near completion. SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS

13 — A Pirate’s Life

The Simsbury Light Opera Co. is marking its 75th season by producing a fave: The Pirates of Penzance. VETERAN VOICES

14 — Above and Beyond

Local lawmakers are seeking veteran recognition for World War II heroes from the Cadet Nurse Corps.


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MORE KUDOS FOR JANUARY COVER STORY Oh my, what a wonderful story about Mandel Vilar Press! It’s so thorough and so well written. I often find errors. Not a one! Thanks so much for including me in this wonderful feature and for the support of my novel. Tara Lynn Masih • St. Augustine, Florida Author — My Real Name Is Hanna National Jewish Book Award Finalist Thank you for the Mandel Press cover story. It is a terrific piece that speaks to the diversity in our communities. Keep up the good work. Harvey Jassem • Canton I am a Canton resident and have immensely enjoyed reading Today Magazine. Your articles have been interesting and the topics worthwhile. Thank you for what you are doing for our town (and our neighboring towns). I particularly enjoyed the January article on Mandel Vilar Press. Joe Scheideler • Canton NONPROFIT THANKS My board is thrilled with the article about Avon Dollars for Scholars in Today Magazine. We very much appreciate your support. Thank you! Joanne Beers — President Avon Dollars for Scholars


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QUOTE OF THE MONTH “I never dreamed that, 18 years later, I’d get that call. … It was truly a parent’s worst nightmare.” Lisa Gray — President A Promise to Jordan

BY THE NUMBERS — 1,000+ Connecticut residents who died of drug-related causes in 2018 TODAY MAGAZINE – – MARCH 2020



Post-Overdose, A Mother’s Vow Seeks Hope By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

Photo by Connecticut Headshots • 860-593-0850 •

THE FACE OF the nationwide opioid crisis is a paradox — incognito, on the one hand, yet not hard to spot. The face of the opioid crisis could be your next-door neighbor or close friend … or your child or spouse … or perhaps staring back at you in the mirror. Lisa Gray knows the heartache of seeing the opioid crisis in the face of her son, Jordan Jeffrey Arakelian. Jordan died of an accidental overdose of the opioid drugs heroin and fentanyl in June 2018. A Simsbury resident, he was 24. One month later, A Promise to Jordan was born. The nonprofit, founded by Gray, aims to raise awareness and eradicate the stigma of addiction and mental health issues. Further goals include helping people find quality care and giving hope that recovery is possible for those who struggle with addiction. “I tell everyone, addiction does not discriminate,” says Gray, a resident of Simsbury since 2000. “If it can happen to our family in our town, it can happen to anyone. … No one would have looked at us and thought for a second that we battled addiction in our family every second of every day.” Gray and her family have made a significant investment in Simsbury. She became the executive director of the town’s Chamber of Commerce in September 2014. She previously owned a Simsbury-based travel consulting business, Travel Talent, for eight-plus years. Her husband Gary Gray, Jordan’s stepfather, is a Simsbury police officer. Jordan’s father, Jeffrey Arakelian, was a Simsbury resident for many years. Lisa says that people have thanked her “for the courage I’ve shown in talking about my son’s addiction on social media, in his obituary and in his eulogy — and my response is always that if we don’t talk about it, nothing is going to change.”

Lisa Gray lost her son Jordan to an accidental overdose in 2018 — he was 24 years old — and then she established a nonprofit in his honor to combat the opioid scourge.

TURNING HEARTACHE INTO HOPE “There are lives at stake that need me to fight for them”



Since establishing A Promise to Jordan in 2018, Gray has fulfilled the responsibilities of what are essentially two full-time jobs. To resolve this impossible quandary, she announced in January that she will resign from the chamber.


“I count my five-plus years with the chamber as the best in my entire career,” wrote Gray in a letter to chamber members. “This was not an easy decision for me to make as I feel I have found a second family here at the Simsbury chamber, but I believe I must follow where my heart leads me. ... There are lives at stake that need me to fight for them.” As president of A Promise to Jordan, Gray has been vocal about her family’s ordeal — and about her hope for education and change that can prevent further opioid-related deaths. A Promise to Jordan “has tremendous potential … to make a real, meaningful difference in the nationwide opioid crisis,” wrote Gray, who will stay with the chamber through June if needed. “I believe I have an obligation to my son and so many others who have died or who are now struggling with addiction to use my skills to bring about positive change in this arena.” Gray certainly has allies in fighting the substance use and opioid crisis.

Several members of local Rotary and Lions clubs are part of a unique joint initiative, the Rotary-Lions Addiction Task Force — co-chaired by Canton resident Maria Coutant Skinner (of the AvonCanton Rotary Club) and Avon resident Heidi Zacchera (president of the Avon Lions Club). Natasha Haims of the Avon-Canton Rotary is also on the task force. Zacchera taught physical education and health in the Canton public schools before her retirement, and she has overseen a Canton school program called Esteem that seeks to prevent substance abuse. “It has been awesome to work closely with Maria,” says Zacchera, a native of Avon. “I had her [two] daughters as students in Canton.” Skinner is the executive director of the Torrington-based McCall Center for Behavioral Health, a nonprofit agency focused on recovery, prevention and community. “My [McCall] team and I have examined this public health issue in great depth,” says Skinner, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in social work. “It is a devastating epidemic that has impacted every aspect of our communities.

Therefore, the solution must involve and engage every one of us.” Skinner has volunteered for the Canton Youth Service Bureau and is co-chair of the Litchfield County Opiate Task Force. “What heartens me about this [RotaryLions] initiative,” she says, “is that we have been able to answer the question so many wonderful people have asked — that is, what can I do to help? Our clubs are working to publicize ways that every one of us can help … and offer a path to health.”


Skinner identifies several practical ways each of us can address the opioid scourge: • Discard unused medications at a drop box in a police station or with a Deterra pouch, a patented disposal bag that deactivates leftover drugs, preventing misuse. • Lock up medications in use. • Work to reduce stigma by learning the root causes of addiction and understanding that this disease can be prevented and treated. • Talk openly with our kids, families, friends and co-workers about substance abuse issues. Skinner will present a seminar — The Unfortunate Connection Between Trauma and Addiction — on Thursday, March 12 at 6 p.m. at Simsbury Public Library …

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After son dies of overdose, Gray makes Promise

Nonprofit combats opioid crisis

President Lisa Gray answered this Q&A for A Promise to Jordan. What is your nonprofit’s mission? To raise awareness and eliminate the stigma of addiction, assist people in accessing quality care, and give hope that recovery is possible to those struggling with addiction. The most fulfilling aspect of your work? Speaking to other parents who have lost a child to an overdose. Your biggest obstacle, and how you can overcome it: There are so many! (1) People being uninformed and unaware about the problem of addiction and believing it can’t touch them or their family. (2) Stigma — people holding on to that ancient stereotype that an addict is a homeless minority living under a bridge. Addicts are our friends and neighbors, our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, you and me. (3) People not recognizing when there’s a problem and seeking help. Your most satisfying accomplishment? President Lisa Gray received a Simsbury Hometown Hero award in 2019 for her organization’s work in combating the opioid crisis in the community. Goals for the next 1-5 years? (1) We would like to see Simsbury designated as a recoveryfriendly community, with plenty of resources and jobs for people in recovery. (2) We would like to initiate addiction prevention education in the early school grades. (3) We want to help recovering addicts get a new start in life by providing education and jobs. Volunteer opportunities — Board and committee positions, fundraising, speaking, direct service to addicts and families. Anecdote that provides a window into your ethos: I attended the wake of a 23-year-old young man whom I had never met, and I didn’t know his family. I simply went because I wanted the family to know that they weren’t alone and that our organization existed to help in any possible way. They were stunned and extremely grateful that a perfect stranger would reach out in such a personal way, and the mother called me for advice a week later. We’ve been keeping in touch. Besides donations, how is your nonprofit funded? At this point, we are strictly funded through donations. Relevant stats and numbers — More than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017, the worst year on record.


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Year Established — 2018 (860) 305-0605 Simsbury, CT • More Americans died of drug overdoses in that one year than in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. • Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 … not accidents, not gun violence, not even physical disease — overdoses. • The U. S. has the highest drug overdose death rates among a set of high-income countries. • The National Safety Council announced in January 2019 that Americans are now more likely to die of an accidental opioid drug overdose than in a car crash. • Only an estimated 10% of those with a substance use disorder receive treatment. • In 2018, for the third year in a row, the life expectancy of Americans went down, and it is entirely attributable to the opioid epidemic. What do you appreciate most about the Avon-CantonSimsbury area? What constructive change would you like to see in the tri-town area? I appreciate how warm, kind and generous our community is. I would like to see more substance abuse education available and people taking the opportunity to educate themselves, and I’d like to see Simsbury designated as a Recovery-Friendly Community by the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council. Does your nonprofit work closely with town organizations and/or other nonprofits? Yes, Community For Care and Simsbury Police Department. Nonprofit Officers — 4 Board Members — 7

hosted by A Promise To Jordan. The Rotary-Lions Addiction Task Force has “made an impact,” Zacchera says, by offering the Deterra pouch to local pharmacies and by hosting a February forum, Addiction in the Workplace. “What I love about [the task force],” Zacchera notes, “I believe it is one of the first times that Rotary and Lions have combined their efforts in this manner. … We were able to hone things down to focus on the home, workplace and community, and what we could do to make a difference with the opioid crisis in these different areas.” The Canton-based Farmington Valley Health District is likewise fighting the good fight by offering educational programs about substance use and related issues.


The statistics related to drug overdose fatalities are sobering: 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, the most recent year for which stats are available, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — an increase of 9.6% from the previous year. Opioids were involved in 47,600 (or 67.8%) of those deaths. Further, prescription opioids (including methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone) were involved in 35% of opioid overdose deaths in 2017, per the CDC. Connecticut is one of 23 states — 21 are in the eastern half of the country — that saw numerically significant increases in drug overdose death rates in 2017. Opioid overdose deaths in Connecticut have increased by about 40% since 2015. Jordan, a 2013 graduate of Simsbury High, was one of 1,000-plus Connecticut residents who died of substance use disorders in 2018, Gray says. She notes that accidental overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Recent statistics show that opioid overdoses are causing more deaths nationwide than motor vehicle accidents and gun homicides combined.

Lisa Gray and her son Jordan Courtesy Photo

when we moved in. I never dreamed that, 18 years later, I’d get that call.” Gray was at Stop & Shop on Saturday, June 30, 2018, when her cellphone rang. Austin was distressed: “Mom, get home now — Jordan OD’d again and he’s purple!” “I left everything in my cart,” Gray recalls, “and literally ran out of the store and raced in my car to get home as quickly as I could. All I kept thinking was, ‘Please let him be OK, please let him be OK.’ It was truly a parent’s worst nightmare.” By the time she returned home, Jordan was gone. “It was his 14th overdose in two years,” she says. “Somehow, by the grace of God,

someone had been in the right place at the right time 13 times previously and he was able to be revived with the use of naloxone. That 14th time, though, he died alone inside our family minivan in the driveway of our home. I will never get that vision of his body out of my head.” Later that day, Gray posted on social media, cautioning other families to be vigilant about the disease of addiction. The next month, she formed A Promise To Jordan. Through this vital nonprofit in honor of her fallen son, she continues to encourage vigilance — and to fulfill a hope and a vow that her son’s death won’t be in vain. +



Gray is candid about the harrowing story of the day Jordan died … but of course the story starts years earlier. When she began raising her three sons — Jordan (the oldest), Austin and Adam — the opioid crisis wasn’t on her radar. “Their father and I chose to raise them in Simsbury because of the great neighborhood we found and the town’s reputation for an excellent education system,” Gray says. “The boys were 6, 2 and 7 months

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Historic schoolhouse to be transformed into museum Tablescapes fundraiser to support renovation

By Terri Wilson President • Avon Historical Society

LATER THIS MONTH, on the very day spring arrives, the Avon Historical Society will begin its third annual Tablescapes event at the historic North House on the corner of Route 44 and Nod Road in Avon. This fundraising event — open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20 (the first day of spring) and Saturday, March 21 — will feature 30 themed table settings from professional designers, florists, local residents and businesses featuring fresh floral arrangements, centerpieces and accessories. Attending Tablescapes will surely put you in the mood as the snow melts and the buds and flowers begin to bloom! Proceeds from this event will go directly to the upcoming adaptive reuse of the historic 1823 Schoolhouse No. 3, located at 8 East Main Street (Route 44) just a half-mile west of the North House. This Federal/Greek revival-style schoolhouse, the oldest building owned by the Town of Avon, will be renovated into a modern museum of Avon’s history. It was leased to the Avon Historical

The new museum is planned to open in 2023 in time for the schoolhouse’s 200th birthday

Society in 1980 for 99 years and relocated from Country Club Road to its present site with the understanding it would be used as a museum of local history. For the past two years, the Historical Society and the Town of Avon have created a plan to upgrade the building to allow for a secure, safe and appropriate environment in the hope of showcasing some of the recently discovered

Paleoindian artifacts from the Old Farms bridge project and displaying more of the Society’s rich archival collection. The new museum is planned to open in 2023 in time for the schoolhouse’s 200th birthday! Your attending Tablescapes can help the Historical Society achieve its goal and mission of preserving and showcasing our town’s history. To purchase advance tickets to Tablescapes for $15, visit the Avon Historical Society gift shop at www. — or call 860678-7621 and leave a message. Tickets at the door are $20. Membership in the Avon Historical Society is open to the public. +

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Dig is oldest human site in southern N.E. Special to Today Magazine

DOT finds historic archaeological dig

A HISTORY-MAKING archaeological site has been discovered in Avon. According to radiocarbon dating, this dig is the oldest human occupation site that has been found in southern New England. There is no comparative site in the region, according to Archaeological and Historical Services of Storrs, Conn., the firm overseeing the investigation of this momentous discovery, which dates to the Paleoindian period. “This is an exciting story about the early human experience,” says Avon Historical Society President Terri Wilson. “It’s not only a story about Avon, but a story of the early people of our entire Western Hemisphere. It is a story of the formation of our local geology after the Ice Age, and it is a story of the Farmington River.” The Connecticut DOT began a project in December 2018 to build a new Old Farms Road Bridge over the Farmington River and improve the intersection at Waterville Road (Route 10). As a component of the project’s permit, an archaeological survey was required in the location of the proposed bridge abutment located on the river’s western bank. Conducted from January-April 2019, the survey uncovered a Paleoindian site located 6 feet below ground, including the remnants of apparent hearth features and over 15,000 associated artifacts. Many were characteristic of the Early and Middle Paleoindian periods of roughly 12,500 years ago, or 10,000 B.C. “The CTDOT has been instrumental in summarizing and sharing the significance of this site,” Wilson says. It will take several years before the findings of Archaeological and Historical Services are ready for detailed publication

in scientific narratives and journal articles. The Storrs firm continues to process and study the artifacts. However, it is anticipated that these findings — in conjunction with data from other Paleoindian sites in New England — will provide scholars with important new information about the earliest inhabitants of this region of North America. “It is hard to believe that something so historically significant was found in our own backyard,” says Avon Town Council Chairperson Heather Maguire. “The Town Council is incredibly pleased that Avon is able to actively participate in this project and collaborate with other stakeholders to bring this discovery into the public eye. I, for one, am excited to learn more about our local history!” The Avon Historical Society and the Town of Avon have monitored this project since the excavation was completed almost one year ago, and are working closely with other organizations to determine how to store and display artifacts and create educational exhibits. +

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CHS senior signs with D-I rifle team




Courtesy Photo

COLLINSVILLE resident Kayley Pasko has signed with the Nebraska Huskers rifle team. An honor roll senior at Canton High, Pasko has an accomplished résumé. She auto-qualified for the Junior Olympics in 2019 and 2020, and she has been on the CSRRA CT All-State team for five straight years. Pasko won the gold medal in air rifle at the 2019 state Junior Olympics and took silver in smallbore. She earned the gold in NRA Metric at 2019 Sectionals, and was first in smallbore and third in air rifle at the 2019 Palmyra Invitational. In 2018 Pasko was the ASSA 3P Intermediate Junior Champion. She addresses a variety of topics in this Q&A with Today Magazine: Precision Rifle • Metacon Junior Rifle Team How did you begin competing? I was interested in my dad’s paintball guns and my dad wanted me to learn gun safety. He brought me to the free Metacon Junior program (at the Metacon Gun Club in Simsbury) that teaches gun safety and precision shooting. I ended up really liking the sport, devoting more time to it, and now will do it in college.

Kayley Pasko: honor roll student, jazz band member and gold-medal winner in air rifle

What’s most enjoyable about your sport? The social atmosphere within the sport. What aspect of your training do you like least — and how does it help you excel? When I shoot 9.9s. It prepares me to gain the skills to make them 10.0 or better, but in this sport’s community 9.9s are considered to be chaotically evil. Best moment as an athlete: Signing with an NCAA Division I rifle team. What is your main sports goal? To shoot a 10.9 every time. What is your main academic goal? Have the best grades I can have. What is your favorite school subject? Mathematics — fits my need to solve things. Which qualities are most essential for


success in your sport? Mental positivity, focus and concentration. In the sports world, what would be your dream-come-true scenario? Winning the NCAA championship. School activities — I play baritone saxophone in the band and jazz band. Favorite team — Baltimore Ravens Favorite spots in Canton — Barnes & Noble, Ben & Jerry’s Favorite books — One of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret (by Karen McManus) Favorite TV shows — Criminal Minds, Greenhouse Academy and High School Musical: The Series The best thing about my hometown is … its originality. +



Favarh is hiring as new apartments accept tenants Special to Today Magazine

AS CONSTRUCTION on Canton’s Commerce Drive nears completion, job recruitment is in full swing at Favarh, aka the Arc of the Farmington Valley. The 61-year-old nonprofit, Canton’s largest private employer, is doubling its job recruitment efforts to meet an upcoming deadline — the occupancy of the new Bear Woods Apartments in 2020. Built in conjunction with Regan Development, the Bear Woods complex is one of two new cutting-edge specialty apartments integrating tenants with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) — set in a forest glade surrounded by high-end Canton neighborhoods, close to schools, shopping, restaurants and local Rt. 44 businesses. Applications are now being accepted for rentals ( and jobs ( For many of the IDD residents, this will be their first apartment. “Not only will these apartments provide a safe, friendly and affordable setting for individuals with and without IDD, they will bring new jobs to Canton,” says Favarh executive director Stephen

Morris. “Good jobs supporting some of the most amazing individuals and families I know.” Morris says the new jobs offer flexibility, including afternoon, evening, weekend and overnight hours. If you’re looking for a second job or a way to pay college expenses, these second-shift positions are ideal. They range from part time (10-29 hours per week) to full time (30-40) and come with benefits. Favarh pays the highest starting hourly rate in the industry: $15.50 per hour. Job applications are at “Our recruitment effort is usually focused on hiring direct service professionals with one or more years of experience in human services,” says Morris. “However, we are now accepting

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individuals who may simply have experience supporting family, friends, neighbors, Special Olympics athletes or school students.” While work experience with individuals with IDD is helpful, it isn’t necessary. “We have a great new training program in place for new employees of all backgrounds and experience levels,” says Morris. The Bear Woods complex is located at 300 and 350 Commerce Drive in Canton, diagonally across the street from Favarh’s headquarters at 225 Commerce Drive, and offers 40 affordable-housing apartments — single-, two- and three-bedroom — including 10 specifically designated for people with IDD supported by Favarh. +

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Jim Gallagher finds Way to serve community “Coaching was always a way to

Special to Today Magazine

LOCATED across from Simsbury Library, Jim Gallagher Way pays tribute to a man who has served his town for over 50 years. better place.” — Jim Gallagher “It seems every day someone asks: Are you the Jim Gallagher they named the street after?” says Jim Gallagher Sr. “I always tell them that I am going to put up a couple of toll booths and retire!” Jim has been a lifelong resident of Simsbury — and yes, he’s already a retiree. “When I was born here in 1934, Simsbury was small,” he says. “The high school was located where the town offices are now [on Hopmeadow Street] and we shared the school with students from Granby.” Jim excelled in athletics at Simsbury High. In 1952, the year he graduated, he was first-team all-state as a basketball 374 Hopmeadow Street • Simsbury, CT 06089 center and led Simsbury to the Class S 860-651-8236 state championship — the last time a Simsbury basketball team won a Find out how you can get improved valueHigh and peace state title. The Simsbury boys also claimed of mind. Call or visit our office today! a state title in 1924. Jim was inducted into the first class of the Simsbury High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. Preview Only His achievement in sports continued yout includes a margin clear of text and graphics through college. He played football, on may be covered by frame and/or clips during installation) basketball and baseball at Teachers College of Connecticut (now CCSU) and was inducted into CCSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. When his college career ended, Jim returned to For improved value and peace Simsbury to find a of mind, call or visit our office today! growing town with a 860-651-8236 burgeoning interest Christensen Insurance in recreation. 374 Hopmeadow St., Weatogue, CT “My family — the Vincents — was a Noris Christensen 374 Hopmeadow Street • Simsbury, CT 06089 sports family and

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was always active in the community, so I got involved,” Jim recalls. He began coaching with his uncle, Elmer Vincent, at the newly formed Simsbury Little League. “Sports made a big difference in my life,” Jim says, “and coaching was always a way to give back and make our town a better place.” Given the growing demand for recreation, in the early 1960s Jim helped found the Simsbury Men’s Slo-Pitch Softball League: “It caught on like gangbusters and is still going.” About that time, he got involved in politics — first by helping his father set up the town’s voting machines. Chances are, if you voted in Simsbury from 1962 to the 2000s, you saw Jim at one of the polling stations. In 1966 he was elected to the town Zoning Commission and was a fixture for 45 years. “I knew where Simsbury was coming from and kind of had an idea where it was going,” Jim explains. “It was the perfect way for me to lend a hand.” As a thanks for all those years of service, in 2013 Simsbury renamed Mall Way to Jim Gallagher Way in his honor. Today, Jim and his wife Paula still live in Simsbury and attend their grandchildren’s games. His three sons follow in his footsteps, coaching in their communities. Jim Jr. brings his Simsbury girls travel basketball team to Belden Forest Court retirement community each December to serve residents a holiday meal. “It is the most important thing the team does every year,” says Jim Jr., a Simsbury resident who produces reality TV shows. He lived in L.A. for 28 years. “I use sports to try to impress upon our girls to give back and make our town a better place,” he says. “This is definitely a lesson I learned from my Dad.” +

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SLOCO marks 75th with return to piracy


SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS SLOCO performs Pirates in 1973.

Special to Today Magazine

A Short History of SLOCO: Part 1 Look for Part 2 in an upcoming issue THE SIMSBURY Light Opera Company (SLOCO) is celebrating its 75th season in 2020. Simsbury is home to one of the oldest theater companies in the U.S. devoted to performing the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Fittingly, for its anniversary season, SLOCO is bringing The Pirates of Penzance to Eno Memorial Hall — its first production there in 1946. This year marks the troupe’s ninth production of Pirates. The performance schedule: • Saturday, March 28 – 2:00 + 7:30 p.m. • Saturday, April 4 – 7:30 p.m. • Sunday April 5 – 2:00 p.m. Tickets: – advance: save $5 In the 1940s, rehearsals were held in Ensign-Bickford’s cafeteria in Simsbury. Most SLOCO members were company employees. Costumes were made from cloth used to manufacture fuses at the factory, and sets were made in its carpenter shop. It has been said that if there were no Ensign-Bickford Company, SLOCO would not have existed. At first, there were two performances of the annual show at Eno Memorial Hall each year, with piano or organ accompaniment. In 1959, a chamber orchestra was added, often including Hartford Symphony musicians. In 1969, the shows were moved to the newly constructed Simsbury High School with a 1000-seat auditorium. In the ’70s and ’80s, nearly 8000 people enjoyed each season’s show over a run of eight performances. Shows have been taken on the road to locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. SLOCO has sung with the Hartford Symphony on several occasions, including at the Talcott Mountain Music Festival. SLOCO was even recorded on CBS This Morning. To date, SLOCO has contributed over $75,000 to other nonprofits, including Camp Courant, the Visiting Nurses Association, Simsbury War Memorial Pool and the Hartford Symphony. Via a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, SLOCO bought land near Simsbury Airport, and a capital campaign in the ’80s enabled the company to build a rehearsal facility. The large metal warehouse-type building became its new home in ’86 and remains so today — site of company business, rehearsals, set construction/painting and storage of theatrical possessions. The facility has allowed SLOCO to continue to thrive in an era when such a possession is unusual for an amateur theater group.

SLOCO began the celebration of its 75th anniversary in October with a reunion party for members past and present. Alumni from shows dating to the 1960s recounted fond stories and sang favorite show tunes.

Courtesy Photo

At press time, SLOCO is planning a Frederic’s Birthday Party event on Feb. 29. He is the pivotal character in Pirates, and his leap-day birth provides a key plot twist. A May gala is also planned. +



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Lawmakers seek vet status for WWII heroes Today Magazine Staff

SOME STATE LAWMAKERS are seeking to recognize as veterans members of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps who served during World War II. The nurses in the Cadet Nurse Corps were part of the Greatest Generation who served heroically during the war, but they aren’t recognized as veterans. A legislative resolution — Senate Joint Resolution 3 — seeks to change that. About 30 Connecticut lawmakers — including state Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-8th District), state Rep. Leslee Hill (R-AvonCanton) and state Rep. John Hampton (D-Simsbury) — have supported the resolution, which petitions the U.S. Congress to honor members of the Cadet Nurse Corps as veterans. “I’m very pleased that this resolution was supported unanimously by the legislature and I was proud to sign on as a co-sponsor,” says Witkos, who represents Avon, Canton, Simsbury and several other area towns. “The women of the Cadet Nurse Corps answered the call to service by the thousands. Their contributions should never be overlooked nor

Cadet Nurse Corps answered call of duty

forgotten. These women served our nation admirably and with distinction, and their recognition as veterans is long overdue.” Hampton agrees: Witkos “Recognition of women who served in the Cadet Nurse Corps is long overdue. Thousands of women answered the call to duty during World War II with Hill their service in the Corps, and it’s time they are eligible for veterans benefits.” Hill says that an Avon constituent informed her “that the Cadet Nurse Corps are the only uniformed corps Hampton members from World War II not to be recognized as veterans. … I hope this can change soon, as these women who courageously served our nation deserve recognition.” For the Cadet Nurse Corps to be recognized as veterans, federal law needs to be amended. The joint resolution is a

“These women who courageously served our nation deserve recognition.” — State Rep. Leslee Hill We offer complete cremation services at

non-binding measure that urges Congress to take action and pass a law on behalf of the corps. The Cadet Nurse Corps helped fill the void created when nurses were sent overseas to care for soldiers on the front lines, notes Hampton. “They did so valiantly at hospitals across the U.S.,” he says, “but more than 70 years later Cadet Nurses are still not recognized as veterans, so we passed a resolution … calling on Congress to finally extend the VA benefits they earned in service to their country. My efforts to achieve this recognition will continue until Congress acts.” Senate Joint Resolution 3 asks Congress “to step up and recognize Cadet Nurses,” affirms a legislative spokesman, who notes that “these women served their country — here in the U.S. — during WWII. By doing so, other nurses were able to serve on the front lines overseas. The Cadet Nurse Corps prevented a shortage of nurses at hospitals around the nation.” If Congress acts, Cadet Nurses would be granted veterans benefits, though not at the same level as active-duty military personnel, the spokesman says. The timetable for Congress to pass a potential bill is unknown, according to another spokesman. At an October ceremony at McLean of Simsbury, two World War II heroes who served in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps were honored: Alice Johnson, a 95-year-old Simsbury resident, and Irene Wilks Walker, who was recognized posthumously and represented by her husband, Ben Walker. For info on the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, including firsthand accounts of those who served: +


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CALENDAR Summer Farmers Market • Applications due by 3/25 Mondays: July-August – 3-6 pm Avon Public Library JOYful Happenings Journey of Yoga, Simsbury 860-680-1482 • • Yoga for Osteoporosis (six weeks) Wednesdays – 10:30-12 • 3/4-4/8 • Yoga for Healthy Bones Wednesdays – 5-6 pm • Seva Saturday Morning Yoga–$7 Alt. Saturdays – 10:30-11:30 am • Yin Deep Stretch Sundays – 5:15-6:30 pm Joseph Ribkoff Fashion Event Bodytalk – 51 East Main St., Avon Thursday 3/5 • Fashion Show: 12 • Trunk Show till 5 pm Wood Sign Workshops Simsbury Board & Brush 860-392-8567 • Public Workshops – 6-9 pm March 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28 • Parent/Child Workshop – 1-4 pm March 8 • Mini Sign Workshop – 1-3 pm March 14 • Public Workshops – 1-4 pm March 15, 22, 29 ‘First Friday’ Dinner Avon Congregational Church Friday 3/6 – 5:30-7 pm $7-$15 • Takeout available Some proceeds to charity Simsbury Rocks! Rock Painting Eno Hall Craft Room, Simsbury Monday 3/9 – 4-5:30 pm • Free Adults 50+ • Host: For All Ages Reg: The Unfortunate Connection Between Trauma and Addiction Simsbury Public Library Thursday 3/12 – 6 pm Host: A Promise To Jordan Simsbury Garden Club Simsbury Public Library Monday 3/16 – 6:30 pm Foundation plantings: native plants Avon Arts Association Artist Demo + Workshop Avon Town Hall, Building #1 • Demo: Tue 3/17 – 7 pm • Free • Wkshp: Sat 3/21–9:30-2 • $45-$55 Artist: Jacqueline Jones Tablescapes 2020 North House, Avon Friday-Saturday 3/20-21 • $15-$20 Avon Historical Society fundraiser Empowered Women’s Circle Simsbury Chiropractic & Wellness

Our digital edition is posted well before the month begins Get an early peek at the Calendar –

Saturday 3/21 – 10-12 Dreaming At Any Age Reg: Nutmeg Symphony Orchestra Bristol Eastern High School Saturday 3/21 – 7:30 pm Community Health Expo Anthology of Simsbury Saturday 3/28 –10 am-2 pm Host: Simsbury Chamber–651-7307 Simsbury Light Opera Company The Pirates of Penzance Eno Memorial Hall, Simsbury Sat 3/28–2+7:30 pm • Sat 4/4–7:30 Sun 4/5–2 pm • $10-$30: Tastes of the Valley Rotary of Avon-Canton Farmington Gardens, Route 4 Saturday 3/28 – 6-10 pm $50-$75 • All proceeds to charity On Golden Pond FV Stage Company, Collinsville Sat 3/28–8 pm • Sun 3/29–2 pm Fri-Sat 4/3,4/4–8 pm • Sun 4/5–2 $19.50-$23.00 • Fireside Poem Hour Crown & Hammer, Collinsville Sunday 3/29 – 7 pm Sign-up to read starts at 6:45 Art at the Simsbury 1820 House Show Thru 3/16 Free • Featuring April Aldighieri +++ Avon Public Library lineup These events free • 673-9712 Movie: Judy Tuesday 3/3 – 1:30 pm New biopic stars Renee Zellweger Are You Recycling Right? Wednesday 3/4 – 6:30 pm Bald Eagles in Connecticut Thursday 3/5 – 2 pm Crime and Your Car Tuesday 3/10 – 6:30 pm Turtles in Connecticut Thursday 3/12 – 2 pm Meditation as Medication: A Doctor’s Perspective Thursday 3/12 – 6:30 pm Movie: Meet Me in St. Louis Tuesday 3/17 – 1:30 pm The Owls of Connecticut Thursday 3/19 – 2 pm Movie: A Star is Born Tuesday 3/31 – 1:30 pm Situational Awareness Thursday 4/9 – 6:30 pm Wednesday Morning Book Club 1x per month• Info: 673-9712

Send Events:

Fantasy Gaming Club Sunday 3/1 – 2 pm $20 • Dungeons & Dragons for kids Jolly Beggars Alice in Wonderland Tea Party Saturday 3/7 – 3:30 pm $30 • Enjoy whimsical afternoon Night Writers: Pajama Pizza Party Saturday 3/7 – 6 pm $15 • Freewriting, contests, pizza+ Author Talk with Chris Zerillo Sunday 3/8 – 2 pm $5 • “Still Here” Bard’s Bistro for Songwriters Sunday 3/8 – 3:30 pm $7 • Bring your songs, instruments Who Killed Gatsby? Art Display: Canton Schools Saturday 3/14 – 8 pm All March • Opening: Wed 3/4–6 pm $50 • Murder mystery: BYOB, 21+ Winter Music: Japanese Anime Club Phil Rosenthal: American Melody Sunday 3/15 – 1:30 pm Saturday 3/14 – 2 pm $20 • Talk graphic novels, snacks Winter Music: Jolly Beggars All Access Authors: YA Saturday 3/21 – 2 pm Sunday 3/15 – 2 pm Understanding Alzheimer’s+ $10 • Meet 3 Young Adult authors Tuesday 3/24 – 6:30 pm Mysterious Pendragon Society +++ Sunday 3/22 – 1 pm Simsbury Public Library lineup $20 • Solve mysteries, learn codes+ Most events free • 658-7663 x2 Fictional Feasts Founding Era Program Sunday 3/22 – 3:30 pm Washington: Victory at Yorktown $10 • Eat food from classic works Thursday 3/5 – 6:30 pm An Unfortunate Evening: History of St. Patricks Day A Lemony Snicket Party Monday 3/2 – 1:30 pm Saturday 3/28 – 8 pm Effects of Sugar on Our Mood $30 • Visit world of Lemony Snicket Tuesday 3/10 – 6:30 pm Grand Adventure: Drone Presentation Mystery Game & Tea Party for Saturday 3/14 – 1 pm Grandparents & Grandchildren Music: Celtic with Jeff Snow Sunday 3/29– 2 pm Tuesday 3/17 – 2 pm $20 • Solve mystery, enjoy treats+ 19th Amendment: Tale of Script to Screen Summit Suffrage, Sacrifice & Success Saturday-Sunday 4/25-26 – 9 am Wednesday 3/18 – 1 pm $200 • Workshops, networking with Cookbook Club: Madhur Jaffrey nationally recognized film pros Thursday 3/19 – 1 pm +++ FSPL Coffeehouse: Kerry Boys Anthology Open Houses Friday 3/20 – 7:30 pm Anthology of Simsbury Cut the Cord Saturdays thru March Tuesday 3/24 – 6:30 pm Free • Tours, food, more Founding Era Program 860-457-1043 “We Hold These Truths” +++ Wednesday 3/25 – 6:30 pm Red Stone Pub events Understanding Gender in 2020 Red Stone Pub, Simsbury Tuesday 3/31 – 6:30 pm Trivia Tuesdays – 7-8:30 pm +++ Eat. Drink. Think. Prizes! Storyteller’s Cottage events Acoustic Wed.: John Mayock Simsbury • 860-877-6099 Live music • 7-9 pm Thirsty Thursdays ‘Les Deux Magots’ Literary Cafe Dollar dogs • Darts 7-9 pm Sunday 3/1 – 3:30 pm Saturday Night Out $10 • Sip tea w/ literary enthusiasts Dinner entrees • Yappy Hour on the Author Talk with Susan Hoben patio: 3-6 pm • DJ + music: 6-9 pm Sunday 3/1 – 1:30 pm Happy Hour – every day until 6 pm $5 • “Journey of Love and Loss” All drinks $2 off + app specials! Canton Public Library lineup These events free • 693-5800




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