September 26, 2020

There’s Not Just One ‘2019 Old Lyme Citizen of the Year’, But All Five Members of OLHS’s ‘Tuesday Morning Work Crew’!

The 2019 Old Lyme Citizens of the Year stand in the front row in this photo: from left to right: C. Ellis Jewett, Ted Freeman, Stephen Joncus, Kevin Cole, and Skip Beebe. Celebrating with them and standing in the back row are the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen; from left to right, Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Selectman Chris Kerr, and First Selectman Tim Griswold. Photo by Michele Dickey.

OLD LYME — The Annual Town Meeting held Monday evening in Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School concluded with the eagerly anticpated announcement of the 2019 Town of Old Lyme Citizen of the Year.

In an unexpected twist, First Selectman Tim Griswold opened the speech in which he would reveal the closely-guarded secret of the awardee chosen by the board of selectmen by saying, “This year we decided to award not just one citizen, but five citizens whose continued volunteerism and generosity has made an immeasurable impact on our community.”

He went on to name five men — Skip Beebe, Kevin Cole, Ted Freeman, Ellis Jewett and Stephen Joncus — who are affectionately known as the Old Lyme Historical Society’s (OLHS) “Tuesday Morning Work Crew.” Griswold noted that nitially the members consisted of Chairman Ellis, Beebe and Cole but they were soon joined by Freeman and finally by Joncus.

Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold explains why the ‘Tuesday Morning Work Crew’ are collectively Old Lyme’s Citizen of the Year for 2019.

Explaining the history of the building that sparked the creation of the ‘Crew’, Griswold noted that the OLHS had purchased the former Grange  building at 55 Lyme St. in February 2014 and almost immediately the work had begun. He went on to detail the long list of often extensive projects that the ‘Crew’ have completed over the years noting first that their first assignment was to “remove the awkward entrance lobby” and turn it into an office featuring a desk and counter, new exterior doors, new windows and a realigned set of interior doors.

The ‘Tuesday Morning Work Crew’ then “removed the hung ceiling in the auditorium to expose the bead-board” and added period light fixtures. Along the way, Ted Freeman fabricated two display cases for two donated antique doll houses.

Griswold continued his list noting that these veteran volunteers went on to build “an archive room inside the lower level,” complete with a Mitsubishi air handling system to maintain proper humidity and temperature levels.” They also created a reading room, replaced the furnace and added air conditioning for the building. Architect Steve Joncus designed the space layout and advised on the engineering aspects of the work.

The ‘Tuesday Morning Work Crew’ is all smiles after receiving their awards. Photo by Doris Coleman.

The remarkable list of accomplishments continued with a reworking of the northeast portion of the building in order to rebuild the old staircase, and creating a handicapped-accessible rear door entry, the latter of which Griswold said with a chuckle had been “demanded” by then OLHS Board Chair Alison Mitchell. They even installed a chair-lift elevator that services three different levels.

The Crew is presently working on refurbishing the lower level break room and mini-kitchen area and Griswold joked that “they may be thinking they are reaching the end of their “to do” list but I have a feeling Alison Mitchell believes that may not be the case!”

Griswold noted that the Crew handled every aspect of each project, including getting the proper building permits, purchasing building materials and lining up subcontractors, as needed. Saying, “They did all of this out of the goodness of their hearts and never asked for anything in return, Griswold emphasized, “The hundreds of hours they have donated have saved the Society well over $75,000.” He added that in addition, being local craftsmen, the Crew, “Inspired other local tradesmen and suppliers to discount their usual charges.”

Commenting that “One of the most beautiful parts of this story is the friendships that were expanded or developed,: Griswold explained that “These five guys began having breakfast before their putting in their volunteer hours or grabbed lunch afterwards. They are there for each other in times of need, and they make each other laugh. Griswold added with another of his familiar grins, “Well, mostly Kevin does!” Griswold added that you can always see their trucks parked in the parking lot behind the Society on Tuesdays and that, “Sometimes they don’t even take holidays off!”

Griswold concluded, “Often, you hear people say that the volunteer spirit has been decreasing over the last decade of two. However, when you look at the shining example set by the Crew, we can say the volunteer spirit in Old Lyme is alive and well … and even better, the inspirational contributions of the Crew will help preserve the history of our great town for generations to come. Congratulations Skip, Kevin, Ted, Ellis and Steve. You are most deserving of this recognition.”

Skip Beebe expresses his appreciation on behalf of the whole “Crew” for the Ctizen of the Year award.

After accepting their awards and expressing their sincere thanks to the board of selectmen, Beebe spoke first saying, “We are as close as five guys can be.” He credited Jewett for having caused him to be a member of the Crew and noted it was Ellis who originally invited him to join the OLHS.

Cole addressed the audience next noting, “It is humbling to receive this [award] …” and then adding in his characteristic jocular manner, “… but rather embarrassing because we decided way back that we would keep track of all the hours we do and then bill them at the end!”



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