November 22, 2019

“Indispensable, Advocate for All” Cathy Frank Says Fond Farewell to “Perfect Job at the Perfect Place”

At Friday’s celebrations of her retirement after 22 years at Old Lyme Town Hall, Cathy Frank prepares to cut the cake made in her honor. All photos by Mary Jo Nosal except where indicated.

OLD LYME — It was a day filled with joyful memories and deep emotions as colleagues and friends — some who had traveled from far afield — gathered at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall to say farewell to Cathy Frank at the conclusion of her more than 22 years service as Executive Assistant to the First Selectman/woman.

More than 60 people assembled in the Town Hall Meeting Room for a light lunch and to hear speeches celebrating the woman who has had her finger on the pulse of Town Hall for so many years.

Cathy Frank (left) stands with Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder. Photo by Patti Meyers.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder reminded the audience that back in 1997, when Frank first started working on a temporary basis at town hall, “Bill Clinton was President, John Rowland was Governor, Tim Griswold was First Selectman of Old Lyme … Hit movies from that year were Titanic, As Good as it Gets and Men in Black. Top songs were Candle in the Wind by Elton John, Foolish Games by Jewel, and Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down by Puff Daddy.”

Reemsnyder added, “As Cathy is a fan of the theater, she could probably tell you that The Lion King, 1776 and The Scarlet Pimpernel opened on Broadway that year.”

The cake says it all!

Raising ripples of laughter around the room, Reemsnyder then noted with a broad smile, “… and we were still using typewriters in Town Hall!”

Reemsnyder then  went on to describe how, “In our world at Town Hall, Cathy subtly started working her way into our hearts. Beginning as a part time employee, she was as willing then, as she is now, to help anyone. Over the years, she befriended each of us, including those who are no longer here with us, Treasurer Bea Maclean, Registrar Pat McCarthy, and Town Clerk Irene Carnell. Many of us recall Cathy sitting with Bea poring over the financials and assisting in recording the information when Bea’s eyesight was a challenge.”

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder reads from the long list of Cathy Frank’s accomplishments!

Over the years, Reemsnyder explained, Frank’s hours and duties increased, and she became, “The go-to person for so many things.” Reading from a list that unfurled to reach the floor, Reemsnyder went through some of the projects on which Frank had worked over the years including, “[being a member of] the original IT committee to bring everyone into the computer age … designing a training program that would really work … designing (along with her colleague and close friend Michele Hayes) the Selectman’s office renovations to best provide for the needs of a busy office, resulting in an efficient, functional and beautiful office space … and creating some of the most entertaining and touching tributes and proclamations to others through her renowned writing skills.”

Many Town Hall employees joined the celebrations including Town Clerk Vicki Urbowicz (center.)

Reemsnyder commented that Frank’s, “Writing skills also came in handy for newsletters, press releases and announcements, earning her another duty as Public Information Officer for Emergency Management.”

According to Reemsnyder, “Cathy embraced new technology, but empathized with others on their fear of computers, thus many staff members would go to her with their questions, and she would patiently assist them,” adding, “Cathy has willingly been trained on many topics, including FOI regulations, RFP/RFQ training, Cyber Security, Social Media in Government, and she even wrote a Guidebook for members of Boards, Commissions and Committees – keeping many of us out of trouble!”

Cathy Frank (left) shares a smile with her current boss, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder.

The well-known and ever-popular candy jar on Frank’s desk even drew a mention when Reemsnyder noted, “It is a source of stress relief for all of us in Town Hall – and while you are there, you can have a seat and unload your troubles.” Moreover, Frank has advocated tirelessly for students, organizations, special needs, and every member of town hall Reemsnyder explained, “… with her favorite words being “You can do it,” “You will be alright,” and “Everything will be fine.”

All smiles! Former Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold (R) and current First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (D) stand happily together to celebrate Cathy Frank’s retirement despite the fact Griswold is challenging Reemsnyder to regain his former position in the upcoming Nov. 5 election.

Former Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold, for whom Frank worked during her first 14 years in town hall spoke next and recalled with clear affection that during his tenure, Frank was his “Radar O’Reilley,” alluding, as he explained, to the TV series MASH in which, “the Colonel’s quartermaster anticipated events for the Colonel and kept him on the right path.”

He also noted to smiles that, “her desk was always a mess — just like mine,” but he felt, however, that they were “Kindred spirits” because, ” Not withstanding, we both could find things!”

Griswold also recalled as further evidence of her caring personality, “Cathy liked cats, including the town hall cats, and even helped care for them from time to time.”  He concluded by wishing her, “All success in the next chapter of her life.”

Cathy Frank (center) stands with long-time colleague Michele Hayes (left) and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder.

Hayes, who has worked closely with Frank throughout Frank’s time in town hall, told LymeLine that she is going to miss her dear friend endlessly.  She said, “We’ve been through so much together, our kids went to Lad & Lassie [pre-school] together, she [Frank] was my daughter’s Girl Scout leader, we’ve slept in tents, on museum floors, you name it … together. When you have a problem, she just takes care of things — she’ll help anyone, she’s such a smart person.”

Hayes chuckled when she said that there was actually one good thing coming out of Frank’s retirement, which was that they would be able to have lunch together now — something they haven’t been able to do for 22 years since they have always had to cover the front desk at town hall for each other during their respective lunch-breaks!

Various members of Frank’s family were in attendance at her retirement event including her husband, Kurt Zemba, and also one of her sons, Chris, who is pictured here with his girlfriend, chatting with First Selectwoman Reemsnyder.

Reemsnyder summed up the universal feeling in the room when she said, ” The essence of Cathy Frank has never changed over the last 22 years. She is still the highly intelligent, respected, patient, kind, funny and supportive person that joined the Town Hall crew in 1997.”  The change Reemsnyder did see was that Frank had “defied the saying that “No one is Indispensable” because we are all convinced that you are!”

Cathy Frank says her thank you’s and farewells. Photo by Michele Hayes.

Frank was presented with gifts, cards and a citation from the State of Connecticut declaring Oct. 11, as “Cathy Frank Day.”

By now a clearly emotional Frank started to speak but almost immediately had to request a tissue. She began again saying, “Thank you all for so much kindness over the years that I could not begin to describe. I will miss you all so much. The best thing about this job has been meeting all of you, working with all of you, doing things with all of you.  It really has been a perfect job.”

She went on to explain that she thought her first job out of college at a book publisher’s — since she an English major — had been the perfect job and it “broke my heart when I had to leave.” Then she became a town reporter and concluded that was the perfect job, and again it had broken her heart when she left, but finally she had come to Old Lyme Town Hall and now, without question, found the absolute perfect job.
Frank commented to much laughter that it was “totally unexpected” because she, “… was just filling in until they hired someone,” but said it was now definitely, “the hardest to leave because it had been the longest.”

With her voice breaking and full of heartfelt emotion, she concluded, “This has been a perfect job in a perfect place … and I thank you all so much.”

Editor’s Note: We would like to take the opportunity to echo much of what was said today about Cathy and add our own good wishes to her on her retirement.  She has been one of the strongest advocates and supporters of LymeLine.com over the past 16 years and we thank her most sincerely for that.

 

On a personal note, I must thank Cathy for her unfailing support during so many projects and ventures (and adventures!) in which we found ourselves working together under the various umbrellas of the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools, the Old Lyme Midsummer Festival, and Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, to name but a few.  As others have said, she was always there, always pitching in, always encouraging and just a wonderful friend and confidante to have at all times.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Cathy, and enjoy your retirement … you deserve it!
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  1. Bonnie Reemsnyder says

    God Bless You Cathy. Thank you from the Town of Old Lyme!

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