June 20, 2019

‘A Farmers’ Market’ Continues Saturday at Tiffany Farms

Bill Hurtle and Jen Tiffany are preparing to open ‘The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms’ on June 15.

It was looking as though Lyme Farmers Market, which has for more than 15 years been a perennially popular destination for both local and regional shoppers, was going to be absent from the landscape this year.

In an exciting turn of events, Jennifer Tiffany and her husband Bill Hurtle have reincarnated the market with a new name and location, and will open for business on June 15.  Tiffany explained in an exclusive interview with LymeLine.com that Bill has fostered the idea of running a farmers market for many years. He hails from Long Island and was used to seeing the numerous farm stands at the side of the road there and longed to do something similar in Lyme.

But there was no inclination to follow through with the plan in any major sense while Lyme Farmers Market was still bustling just up the road on Ashlawn Farm in Lyme.

A view of the iconic Tiffany Farms where the new market is planned.

Their first iteration of Bill’s dream happened last summer when Tiffany started hanging buckets of flowers on the feed bunk by the ‘Ladies in Waiting’ sign at the corner of Sterling City Rd. and Hamburg Rd., where the Holstein cows known as the “Ladies of Lyme” used to congregate. But someone said they thought it was a memorial for the cows which are no longer kept at the farm.

As a result, Tiffany says, they “dragged out“ Tiffany Farm’s old silage cart and placed it on the same corner and Tiffany’s daughter, Lisa Simiola, fashioned a nameplate out of wood calling it “From the Farm.” Tiffany and Hurtle then added farm produce to the flower selection  on the stand, all of which was successfully sold on the honor system.

However, when Tiffany read online that Lyme Farmers Market would not be opening this year, she and Bill saw an opportunity.  Jen is passionate about the current plight of farmers — “they’re a dying breed,” she notes sadly — and wants people to understand that her and Bill’s overarching intent in starting the new farmers market is to help and support farmers.  

Tiffany stresses that this venture is absolutely not a money-making one on their part — they both have full-time jobs so it’s “not their bread and butter,” she explains.  Rather, she sees it a way not only to support farmers, but also to bring life and beauty back to the iconic farm and regenerate the sense of community vibrancy previously associated with Lyme Farmers Market.  Any income from the market will be plowed back into the operation to help fund the overheads.

Opening Day for ‘The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms’ is Saturday, June 15, and the market will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Tiffany stresses, “All Department of Agriculture, Markets, Department of Health and CT Grown guidelines will apply.”  She is “envisaging the same look as [Lyme Farmers Market at] Ashlawn,” which means there will be neither entertainment nor what she describes as “flea-market-type stuff.”  The aim is a “very classy ” market in Tiffany’s words, focused on Connecticut-grown or-produced items such as dairy, beef, vegetables, herbs, jellies and syrups.

Aerial view of Tiffany farms showing where the Farmer’s Market will be located.

The field generously made available for the market by Susan B. Tiffany — the current owner of Tiffany Farms — is a “secluded area where my grandfather kept draft ponies,” notes Tiffany, adding the layout of the market will involve keeping cars and vendors separate. She and Hurtle are hoping to have a minimum of 10 vendors and says they will be “elated” if the number reaches 20.

The list of vendors who have already signed up for Opening Day includes:

  • Four Mile River Farm
  • Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm
  • Upper Pond Farm (also representing Ashlawn Farm)
  • Sweet Pea Cheese and House of Hayes
  • T.A.L.K. Seafood
  • Fat Stone Farm
  • Dondero Orchards
  • Deep River Farm
  • Wave Hill Breads
  • Beaver Brook Bakery
  • From the Farm

Vendors are still welcome to apply for a spot at “The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms.”  Vendor applications are available by calling Jennifer Tiffany at 860-434-6239 or 860-575-4730 or emailing jtiffany01@msn.com

 

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Two Lyme-Old Lyme Organizations Combine Their Talents to Build a Beautiful Butterfly Garden

Duck River Garden Club member Fay Wilkman digs deep during Saturday’s event with the Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club to plant a butterfly garden at the Cross Lane Playground. Meanwhile, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal (standing to rear of photo) takes a break from her digging. Photo by Kimberly Russell Thompson.

A wonderful example of community cooperation took place in Old Lyme last Saturday, which generated not only a great deal of fun and camaraderie at the time, but also a beautiful garden for the future.

It all began with the Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club (LOLJWC)’s multi-year campaign to raise funds for new playground equipment at Cross Lane Park, which came to fruition with the official opening of the playground in April 2018.  During the campaign, the Club received a generous sum, to which the donor attached two requests.  The first was that it should remain anonymous and the second that it be used to create a butterfly garden at the renovated playground as a memorial.

Due to the timing of the playground’s installation, it was not possible to plant the butterfly garden last year but this year everything came together.

Sarah Michaelson plants more perennial pollinator bushes.  Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Petie Reed, owner of Perennial Harmony Garden and Landscape in East Lyme, who is a member of both the LOLJWC and the Duck River Garden Club (DRGC), proposed that the LOLJWC should share development of the project with the DRGC and the DRGC enthusiastically embraced the idea.  Reed was assisted throughout the project by her partner, Rich Oliver.
Reed worked with numerous members of both organizations including Suzanne Thompson of the DRGC and Anna Reiter, outgoing LOLJWC President. The group designed it to be a wildlife garden of native plants well-suited for the shaded, boggy terrain.  The selection of native shrubs and perennials includes aromatic sumacs, viburnum, huchera, black-eyed susans and baptisia will support many pollinator insects and birds.

Reiter explained that during design discussions, Reed, “suggested we allow for a more community feel to the garden, by allowing families to “adopt” a garden plot.” Reiter continued, “For a nominal fee, we supplied some specific native plants that will encourage local wildlife and pollinators for each of the community garden plots, and families were encouraged to bring their own non-invasive plants for their plot.”

From left to right, Kay Reiter stands with long-time DRGC member Mim Beardsley, incoming LOLJWC President Kim Russell Thompson, and Izzy Thompson.  Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

The finishing touch was that the LOLJWC also supplied a ceramic garden stake, which families can take to Ocean Art Studio in Old Saybrook to customize and then place in their garden.

Reiter noted there are still some plots available for purchase, emphasizing that the owner families and LOLJWC members will be watering the gardens throughout the summer to get them established.  Once settled in, these native plants will need minimal watering and will continue to spread and naturalize the area around the playground.
A large group of DRGC and LOLJWC members of all ages along with spouses, children, relatives and friends turned out Saturday to spend the morning cheerfully planting and watering. Fay Wilkman and Mim Beardsley, both members of the DRGC, also assisted with the installation, and incoming LOLJWC President Kimberly Russell Thompson summed up the universal feeling at the end of the successful event when she said simply, “It was a very fun day!”

Fun and flowers … and smiles! An LOLJWC member and her daughter (in foreground) and incoming LOLJWC Vice President Angela Mock and her daughter Ally all take a well-earned break from their labors.  Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Looking to the future, Reiter commented, “Petie and I hope these beds also will provide inspiration and ideas to families who want to plant more native flowers and shrubs in their own yards,” while Thompson added,  “Next steps are to seek grant funding so we can put up educational signs in the beds, to identify the plants and their benefits to wildlife.”
After expressing sincere thanks to the anonymous donor and all those who had made creation of the butterfly garden a reality, Reiter concluded positively, “We are hoping the community will walk through the gardens and enjoy the beauty of the park and the wildlife — this was a very special gift!”

Editor’s Note: Garden plots are still available for purchase at $30 each.  The purchaser must agree to tend and water their garden throughout this season.  A rain barrel and water cans are available to make watering fun and easy.  If you wish to purchase a plot, visit the LOLJWC website at www.loljwc.com or email Anna Reiter at loljrwomencub@gmail.com. There is a link to purchase a plot on the website. 

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Extensive Summer Program Breathes New Life Into Lyme Academy Campus, While Academy’s Future Still Uncertain

File photo of the Chandler Academic Center at Lyme Academy College prior to its affiliation with the University of New Haven.

The future of the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts is one of the big, unanswered questions in Old Lyme at the moment.

In July 2014, the University of New Haven (UNH) announced an “affiliation” with what was then Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in a move that was perceived as likely saving the college from possible closure due its critical financial difficulties.  University of New Haven President Stephen Kaplan said at the time, “We are determined to protect and preserve the mission of Lyme Academy College, retaining the unique qualities that appeal to students seeking an arts degree in an idyllic, rural setting that nurtures creativity,”

Just five short years later, in a move that generated both shock and anger, UNH announced it was pulling out from the college saying it would continue its involvement through the end of the 2018-19 academic year and then divest itself of the institution.  The announcement was made in late August 2018 just as the BFA Class of 2022 was days away from starting their studies, leaving those freshmen students registered at a degree-granting college that would not exist past the end of their first year.

Since that announcement back in August 2018, there has been sparse official communication from either UNH or the Lyme Academy College Board of Trustees as to what is happening to the facility.  This has led to rumor and speculation regarding the future of the academy in Old Lyme and beyond.

Lyme Academy College alumna and teacher Kim Monson, who has led efforts to keep the Academy as a fully operational institution.

But all through this period of uncertainty, a group of alumni led by Kimberly Monson, who is both an alumna of the College and now a teacher there, has been fighting hard to keep the Academy (‘college’ has now been dropped from the name) as a going concern.  Monson is passionate about the mission of the academy to which President Kaplan referred, believing in it with a similar conviction to the academy’s founder, the acclaimed sculptor and musician Elisabeth Gordon Chandler.

Elisabeth Gordon Chandler

Chandler, who was one of Monson’s teachers, founded Lyme Academy of Fine Arts back in 1976 because she was determined to preserve the traditional skills of figurative and representational art, which she felt at that time were in danger of disappearing with the explosion of contemporary art. Chandler’s mission was to educate aspiring artists through a rigorous studio curriculum similar to that followed by the Great Masters.

The Academy became a degree-granting college in 1996 and in 2002 added the word ‘college’ to its name, but, all the while, retained its focus on those traditional skills. The curriculum has always included classes in anatomy and perspective, which have become increasingly rare to find in art schools in the past 40 years.

Monson told LymeLine.com this week that she now finally sees a way forward for Lyme Academy of Fine Arts.  The first part of the plan is to “disentangle” itself from UNH, which is no straightforward task.  The 2014 agreement between the two institutions has not been made public and working out who owns what in terms of the facilities, finances, intellectual property and more is believed to be a both ongoing and complex task. That piece has to be concluded for Lyme Academy to stand proud once again as an independent institution, and timing on when the official ‘separation’ will occur is unclear.

The second piece is the employment of a director for the new institution. The position has been advertised and an announcement on the appointee is expected shortly. Monson believes this will be a major step in re-establishing the academy on a firm footing.

The third and final step is the development of an extensive summer program, which hopefully will provide what Monson describes as “a pathway to sustainability.” Monson and her husband, fellow alumnus and College teacher Michael Viera, have created the program, which kicks off May 29, by working long hours and giving it intense commitment while still fulfilling their current College teaching roles.

There are three segments to the summer program, namely Middle School, Pre-College and Adult.

There will be opportunities to paint ‘en plein air’ for all ages from middle school upwards during Lyme Academy’s Summer Program.

Monson explains that the Middle School Academy is a new venture and something she identified as a real need for that age-group. She points out, “Artists took apprentices of middle school age,” so there is no question that students of that age are ready to learn art fundamentals “in a respectful manner” but laced with fun and physical activity.

Over four weeks, four artists will be studied — one per week — in an exciting, exploratory fashion, which will include learning skills in painting, sculpture, pastels, drawing, collage, and storytelling.  Students can enroll in any or all of the week-long programs, which begin July 8 with Edgar Degas, then follow with Michelangelo (July 15 ), Salvador Dali (July 22) and end with Leonardo da Vinci (July 29.)  Timing for the Monday to Friday program is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the fee for each week is $325.

The Pre-College Academy is an experience in which Monson says, “high school students are treated like college students.” and “immerse themselves in intensive workshops” for a week on each topic.  Students will not only expand their portfolios but also gain a significant advantage over their peers when they enter college.

There are eight programs on offer: sculpture, drawing, oil painting, illustration essentials, world building, animation, toy sculpture, and concept building.  Students can register for any number of classes from one to all eight and fees are $350 or $375 depending on the class.

 

Adult classes range from ‘Open Figure Drawing’ on Saturday mornings to ‘Expanding your Encaustic Horizons’ (July 29-31) to ‘Three Dimensional Forms Meet Wax’ (Aug. 1-2). Other programs include an ‘Etching Workshop’ (June 10-14), ‘Sunset Painting’ (Wednesdays, May 29- June 26) and ‘Watercolor’ (Tuesdays, June 18- July 23).

Master Class Workshops include ‘Walking Tour Townscape Painting Workshop with Michael Viera,’ which Monson describes as a “destination week,” takes place Aug. 19-23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Viera, an accomplished and award-winning artist, will lead his students in the footsteps of the Old Lyme Impressionists and ‘paint the town’ This tour will be enhanced by talks from the Old Lyme Historical Society and a visit to the Florence Griswold Museum.

Sculpture by John O’Reilly, who will teach an Animal Sculpture Master Class Workshop this summer at Lyme Academy.

Two more Master Class Workshops are being offered —  ‘Classical Drawing Boot Camp‘ with Rick Lacey (July 15-19), ‘Printmaking’ with Nancy Friese in June, and ‘Animal Sculpture‘ with John O’Reilly (June 24-28).  Both teachers are extremely talented artists with multiple awards between them. Lacey is a graduate of both Lyme-Old Lyme High School and Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. O’ Reilly has a B.F.A. from Columbus College of Art and Design and an M.F.A. from the New York Academy of Art.

‘Helen’ by Rick Lacey, who is teaching a Classical Drawing Boot Camp this summer at Lyme Academy.

Based on the Atelier model, the week-long Classical Drawing Boot Camp, which starts July 15, concentrates the student in lengthy study through direct, focused observation. The morning session is dedicated to the art of cast drawing. Measurements, comparisons and intense analysis emphasize the structure necessary for drawing. The afternoons are dedicated to the study of figure drawing from a life model in a continued pose. Attention is paid to set up and final execution over the course of a week.

Sculpting animals is a time honored tradition to which the Animal Sculpture Master Class (starting June 24) pays homage. The founder of Lyme Academy, Elisabeth Gordon Chandler, began her art career sculpting her beloved dog to cope with her grief after he passed away. Sculpting an animal from direct observation is an invaluable learning opportunity. Comparative anatomy, overall structure and form variations will be explored while choosing the proper gesture or behavior to suit your vision. Workshop participants will sculpt live from a horse or a dog.

Monson urges people considering applying for classes to enroll soon since classes are filling fast. She says with the deep-seated passion of a life-long artist, “People should take time to invest in themselves. They should come learn about their capabilities … learn about what they can do and didn’t know they could do.”

Stressing that all the teachers of these classes are “really good people,” Monson explains this means that not only are they outstanding, established artists, but also that they are dedicated to the Academy and “will put it in its best light.” Many of the teachers, like Monson and Viera, are alumni of the College, the majority of whom have gone on to obtain an MFA at another college. The Middle School Academy is being taught primarily by 2019 graduates of Lyme Academy College.

Regarding the future, Monson says her immediate goal is “to populate the campus” during the summer programs and thus breathe vitality and enthusiasm back into the Academy.  She does not know details of the post-summer plans, but says with conviction, “We deserve to be here because we have so much to offer.”  She believes talks with other institutions are ongoing to see where Lyme Academy might find a synergistic relationship or determine if credits from Lyme Academy might be transferable into a degree-granting institution. Monson also thinks discussions with the Town of Old Lyme are continuing despite the rejection by the Town of the Academy’s application for $90,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Her unequivocal objective — and that of all the other alumni and board members working hard to find a solution for Lyme Academy once it is separated from UNH — remains “to give it [the Academy] a long-term pathway to success.”

Editor’s Note: Full details of these summer programs including instructors, dates, times, fees, and enrollment information can be found on Lyme Academy’s new website at this link. For further information about these summer programs, contact Kristen Brady by email at kbrady@lymefs.newhaven.edu or telephone at 860-598-5143.

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It’s Sun-Day for Old Lyme! Kaczor’s Boys Play for Div. V State Basketball Championship at 10:30am Today

Coach Kirk Kaczor (center) leads the traditional Old Lyme boy’s basketball team huddle at the start of a game..

There’s nothing like an Old Lyme team participating in a high school state final to stir the sleepy towns of Lyme and Old Lyme to their core.

Extrapolating from past performance when Don Bugbee’s girls played (and won) the Class S State basketball championship in 2009 — the first played at Mohegan Sun — a conservative estimate suggests that at least half of the population of Lyme and Old Lyme will set their alarms early this morning, may even skip church (or perhaps the Catholics among us went yesterday evening …) and head east across the state to the arena at Mohegan Sun.

One assumes that pretty much every self-respecting, current Lyme-Old Lyme High Schooler will make their way to the arena this morning whether on a school bus or under their own steam. The parents of the boys on the Old Lyme varsity basketball team may even go to see the team bus off from the school at some God-forsaken hour …

The basketball game tipping off at 10:30 a.m. in the arena at Mohegan Sun will be the focus of their attention until around noon.

In a packed arena with likely around 5,000 fans present, can Kirk Kavzor’s boys pull off a spectacular win and topple top-seeded Innovation to bring the CIAC Division V trophy home to Old Lyme?

These third-seeded Wildcats have already crushed all previous records by becoming the first team in program history to reach the final. Can they now — urged on by their fervent supporters aged from 1 to 92 — take it one step further and make their tiny hometown the proudest for miles around and win the title?

In an exclusive and extraordinarily revealing email interview with LymeLine.com, Coach Kaczor gave us the inside story on how this exceptional team has reached the point it is at today, saying, “Two years ago we were 6-14 and a program in disarray.  The effort, attitude and culture were not anywhere near what I wanted it to be.  We were selfish and undisciplined, and it reflected poorly on me as well as the school.  We weren’t all that talented, but more importantly our attitude needed to change for our program to be successful.”

He continued, “Last year, we dedicated ourselves to improving both on and off the court.  We made a move to work with a strong group of sophomores and asked the older kids to help bring them along and to provide a fostering culture that valued teamwork and discipline. “

Interestingly he pointed to some small things that have made a big difference in team culture, such as, “We made new rules about tucking in practice jerseys and sprinting to help out teammate or opponent that went down during the game.  (You’ll see that during the game.)”

Kaczor concluded, “We had a great season.  We finished 15-5 but lost in the first round of our league tournament.  We entered the state tournament with a good seed but were beaten at the buzzer in the first round by Capital Prep.  However, during that season we created a culture and brotherhood that carried into the summer, fall and then back to the winter.”

Turning to this season, Kaczor said, “Everything was in place to run for the Sun.  I never said it, but the kids did.  It was the elephant in the room.  We knew we had the talent, effort, and attitude to get there.” He mused, “I just wondered if we could catch a break.  There always seems to be a little luck involved.,” adding, “Things just fell into place for us.”

Commenting on the tournament itself, Kaczor reflected, “We’ve played three excellent and young teams so far.  Beating a good Gilbert team in the second round.  Avenging our only home loss (on senior night) to Morgan in the quarters.  And this week, we beat a 16-4 Somers team that is really good.”

Kaczor ended with the words, “This season has been amazing in so many ways,” noting, “We just recently won the sportsmanship award presented by our Board 8 officials, as well.”

Let’s hope the season becomes a whole lot more amazing this morning! Good luck boys and Coach Kaczor … and GO WILDCATS!

 

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RiverQuest’s ‘Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise’ Offers Remarkable Insight, Views of CT River

This juvenile bald eagle flew alongside the RiverQuest during our recent afternoon cruise. Photo by Michael Pressman.

Oh, what a trip!

The RiverQuest at the Connecticut River Museum dock

RiverQuest hosted several members of the Fourth Estate recently on a wonderful Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise. Temperatures were distinctly chilly last Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 13), but the heated cabin stayed warm while the boat gently sailed upstream from the Connecticut River Museum.

View from on board the RiverQuest.

The views were stunning throughout the trip and, despite the frigid temperatures, the majority of the 30 or so on board stayed outside most of the time to enjoy the whole experience to the full.

Look hard and you’ll see the mast (slightly right of center) of the sunken luxury yacht in Hamburg Cove.

As we sailed north, apart from all the wildlife on the water and in the sky, we saw the mast of the luxury yacht that has sunk in Hamburg Cove and the always delightful view of Gillette Castle high atop its East Haddam perch overlooking the Connecticut River.

Gillette Castle commands a stunning of the river.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule shared a vast amount of fascinating facts, figures, history, happenings, and anecdotes about the river and its inhabitants, ably accompanied by naturalist and crew member Cathy Malin.

Naturalist Bill Yule shared a great deal of interesting information with the passengers.

Both were on board for the duration of the trip and, while not busy disseminating information in a lively and engaging manner, they were actively spotting and identifying wildlife of all shapes and sizes on, above and alongside the river and its banks.  They also took great care to ensure the  passengers were at all times warm, comfortable … and supplied with plenty of hot coffee!

Cathy Malin kept her eyes on the prize and was rewarded with sightings of 13 bald eagles on this trip..

Although named an ‘Eagle Cruise,’ the sighting of an eagle cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but we were fortunate to see 13 bald eagles on our trip, one flying immediately alongside the RiverQuest, and also enjoyed numerous sightings of cormorants, black-backed gulls, and common merganser ducks.

An adult bald eagle spotted during our cruise keeps a close watch on everything happening on the river beneath him. Photo by Michael Pressman.

The bald-headed eagle — the national emblem of the United States of America — reaches maturity at around age four when it acquires its signature white head and maximum wingspan of approximately six feet.

All eyes — and binoculars– were on the sky … and water.

Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, bald eagle populations slowly began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007, populations had recovered to such an extent that the species has now been removed from the endangered species list.

There were a number of professional photographers on board sporting rather larger lenses than our cell phone!

The magnificent raptors are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Spotting eagles was the job of everyone on board.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water on which to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze. Many of these magnificent birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, where they can also be seen feeding and sometimes nesting on the banks of the Connecticut River.

A record of all the birds seen during each trip is kept in the Connecticut River Museum.

Counts taken in 2018 indicated there were 80 pairs of nesting bald eagles in Connecticut, which produced a record 68 chicks.

The Connecticut River Museum was the start and end-point of our trip.

The Connecticut River Museum is currently hosting a “Big Birds of Winter” exhibit, which offers an excellent overview of all the birds that might be seen on the river.

This mock-up of an eagle’s nest and the raptor silhouettes are part of the Connecticut River Museum’s “Big Birds of Winter”exhibition.

Your $42 ticket not only gives you two hours on the river aboard the RiverQuest, but also admission to all the exhibits at the Museum.

Our unequivocal opinion of this wonderful trip is simply, “Take it … it deserves two big thumbs up!”

Editor’s Note: For more information on Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruises, visit this link. For more information on RiverQuest and all the trips they offer, visit this link.  For more information on the Connecticut River Museum, visit this link.

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$1.75M Funding for Old Lyme Library Renovations Passes Easily in Packed Meeting

There was standing room only for some residents attending Monday night’s Special Town Meeting in Old Lyme.

UPDATED 7/24: FULL STORY NOW ADDED — More than 140 people packed into the Meeting Hall at Old Lyme Town Hall Monday evening to cast their votes on whether the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library should receive $1.75 million from the town coffers to fund its planned renovations.

Library Director Katie Huffman explained the library needs in part to be renovated due to the dramatic changes that have occurred in the way people gather information in the past 25 years, when the last renovation took place.  The advent of social media and smartphones, the decreasing cost of technology, and a dramatic increase in publishing and the availability of information have changed people’s information needs.

She said, “More and more people are coming in with their devices … more people are studying remotely.” adding, “people need space for Skype interviews and to take exams.”  She pointed out these changes have resulted in a 70 percent increase in reference questions since the new building opened in 1996, a 90 percent increase in library programs, and a 140 percent increase in attendance at those programs.

Library Building Committee Chairman Ken Biega addresses the audience.

Drayton Fair, a principal architect from LLB Architects in Pawtucket, R.I. opened by saying,”Public libraries are reasserting themselves,” noting, “They should be the best place in town, where everyone is welcome.”  He agreed with Huffman that the increase in programming has been exponential and then went on to describe the proposed changes to the library under the renovation, summing them up as “We kept the best and improved the rest.”

He noted the staff would be moved up to the second floor, there would be “areas for tutoring, private study and Skype,” and a new Young Adult Area, which would be “acoustically separate.”  Fair added the plans also called for “opening up the Children’s Room … consolidating the Reference and Circulation functions at a central desk … and the creation of an outdoor reading terrace.”  He concluded enthusiastically, “I hope you’re all as excited about this as we are.”

Library Building Committee Chairman Ken Biega explained the costs of the project saying the total project cost will be $3.05 million.  This cost will include both construction and soft costs, such as furnishings, technology, and shelving.  It also includes a built-in construction contingency fund.

Significantly, the library has secured a $1.0 million construction grant from the Connecticut State Library, thus dramatically reducing the impact of the funding required for the project on Old Lyme taxpayers.  Moreover, the library has committed to raising $300,000 through its own efforts and is requesting $1.75 million from the Town of Old Lyme. Biega raised a ripple of laughter in the audience when he commented, “Everyone has a little bit of skin in this game.”

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder discussed the impact of the project on homeowners in Old Lyme.  She said the owner of a house appraised at $347, 200 would pay conservatively an additional $24 per tax year for the next 15 years.  The respective number for a house appraised at $540,200 would be $38.  Reemsnyder cautioned that the Town was “not definitely borrowing the full amount,” and that, if that were the case, Old Lyme taxpayers would pay less.

Library Board Chairman Lynn Fairfield-Sonn answers questions from the audience..

After a couple of quick questions from the audience answered by Library Board Chairman Lynn Fairfield-Sonn, residents voted first in a hand vote that McGarry called in favor of the Ayes.  One resident, however, wanted to know the exact count and so the vote was repeated with residents holding up cards denoting they had been approved as legitimate Old Lyme taxpayers.  When the hand votes had been counted, McGarry announced to loud applause that the motion had passed by 104 votes to 30.

Harbor Commission Chairman Steve Ross proposes the new ordinance, with First Selectwoman Reemsnyder and Attorney McGarry standing behind him.

The second motion established a new ordinance to amend the Town’s Harbor Management Plan.  Harbor Commission Chairman Steve Ross explained the Town “needed a variance if there is a hardship” and this ordinance will create a procedure for the Harbor Management Commission to recommend variances from the Harbor Use Zone Standards of the Plan to a state or local permitting authority in Old Lyme waters.

After Ross had made a motion to approve the ordinance, McGarry called for a show of hands. There was no call for vote count this time and the motion was carried by a convincing margin.

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New Driver Education School Opens in Old Lyme, ‘APC Driving’ Offers a “Boutique” Approach

Brent and Suzanne Thompson stand outside the doors of the newly-opened APC Driving in the Old Lyme Marketplace. Brent co-founded the business with Chris Robson. Photo submitted.

APC Driving has opened its doors at 19 Halls Rd. in the Old Lyme Marketplace near The Hideaway, offering driver education programs for teens and adults, as well as advanced driver training. Co-founder Brent Thompson, who lives in Old Lyme, explains, “We didn’t want to be like any other driving school … we hope to develop more of a lifestyle approach [to driving.]”

This photo of the exterior of APC Driving in the lower left shows its prime location in the Old Lyme Marketplace next to the Hong Kong II restaurant.

Chris Robson is the other co-founder and he has over 25 years of experience as a professional race car driver and instructor.  Both men share a lifelong passion for all things automotive or in Thompson’s own words, “We’re both ‘Gearheads.'”

A small selection of Chris Robson’s extensive racing trophies and memorabilia decorates the walls.

Thompson grew up in Texas and Colorado and graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  A sales and marketing executive with years of experience leading teams across the U.S., Canada and Australia, Thompson has had a life-long passion for cars.  Working with the Franklin Mint and its die cast car models division in the 1990s, he created, negotiated and executed marketing programs with world-class partners in historic and collectible automotive fields.  He moved on to executive management in the men’s clothing industry.  

When Thompson’s employer was bought out by competitor in 2016, he decided to get off of corporate travel treadmill and see what he could create locally.  He maintains his full competition license with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and is chief motorsports correspondence for the Auto Chat Show podcasts, which has a subscriber base of over 100,000 listeners.

APC Driving co-founders Brent Thompson (left) and Chris Robson stand together on a racetrack in Brazil after Robson had completed a race there. Photo submitted.

Robson, APC Driving’s chief driving instructor, grew up in a racing family in the quiet corner of Connecticut.  A former chief driving instructor at Performance Motorsports Karting School in Columbus, Ohio, he has over 100 U.S. and international podium finishes in recognized racing organizations and over 25 years of professional racing and instructor experience.  Thompson describes Robson affectionately as, “the real deal behind the wheel,” noting, “The kids love him!”

Chris Robson drives through rain in this race. Photo submitted.

Asked how the idea of opening a driving school was conceived, Thompson explains, ” Chris and I met at a business networking event in West Hartford in 2017. Small talk quickly turned to cars and racing, so we set about figuring out how to create a business.”

The spacious teaching area will never accommodate more than 10 students at any one time.

 
He continues, “We’re taking a boutique approach to teaching people how to drive, with small classes of never more than 10, personalized assessments of their skills, abilities and confidence levels, and providing the training they need,” said Thompson, adding, “Whether you’re first learning to drive, want to have a safer commute or simply like to drive, the skills that you can learn at APC Driving will help you achieve your goal.” 

Both men take safe driving seriously.  Robson seeks to teach young drivers precision and control at the wheel, not speed and thrills.  Thompson’s academic approach to driver education focuses on building a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding what it takes to be safe and happy behind the wheel at any level.  The business partners also both have daughters, so Thompson notes sanguinely, “We have a vested interest. We look at safe driving from the perspective of parents, too.”

The driving simulator is a real boon to the business.

The office that APC Driving occupies is spacious and comfortable.  It is divided into a reception area and a teaching space while a driving simulator occupies one corner, retail sales another and advanced driving programs another.  The walls are covered with automobile-associated artwork and maps, and a large display case houses a number of Robson’s trophies and a fascinating selection of his his racing paraphernalia. Thompson comments, “Everything is fluid,” meaning the artwork and memorabilia will change regularly and as retails sales of clothing, equipment and model cars expand, he anticipates increased inventory necessitating more space being given over to them.

Brent Thompson sometimes mans the reception desk when he’s not teaching.

Brent is married to local writer and radio personality Suzanne Thompson, who is assisting APC Driving with their publicity and promotional planning.  Suzanne explains with a smile, “I’m more into kayaking and gardening than cars,” noting she hosts a weekly radio show about gardening and nature on WLIS 1420 AM/Old Saybrook and WMRD 1150 AM/Middletown and writes regularly for The Day and its weekly publications on environmental matters.  Suzanne stepped back from corporate communications in 2005 to raise her family, and since then she has served on Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau board for six years and in June became a board member of Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce.

Suzanne describes herself and her husband as “a couple of misplaced Midwesterners, who enjoy Connecticut’s New England feel and coastal shoreline.”  The Thompsons moved to Old Lyme in 2002 and have two daughters, who both attend Lyme-Old Lyme Schools.

Looking into the APC Driving area, one can see the teaching one on the left and the advanced skills program area at the rear.

 
APC Driving is licensed by the State of Connecticut to teach the eight-hour Teen Drug and Alcohol and 30-hour Full Course classroom sessions for 16-17 year-olds, including the mandatory two-hour Parent Class, as well as classes for 18-year-olds and adults seeking their Connecticut Driver’s License.  These include behind-the-wheel training with a certified APC Driving instructor in an APC car. 
 
The school also offers specialized training for new and licensed drivers to prepare them to drive on today’s roads.  Students can master their parallel and other parking challenges in PARK IT, hone their big-city driving skills in RUSH HOUR, or sign up for additional Individual Driving Hours.  APC Driving also offers PRIMETIME for mature or senior drivers and in-car training for anyone who needs help understanding all of the technologies in today’s cars. The AUTO SELECT program helps people choose and purchase their vehicle.
 
Courses and training are described on APC Driving’s website, www.apcdriving.com, where parents and students can see the class schedule and register online.  Classes are held Monday through Friday and the school offers flexible hours for in-car instruction.  APC Driving is open Monday through Friday10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call for an appointment. 
 
APC Driving is a subsidiary of Accelerated Performance Coaching, LLC.
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Affordable Housing Public Hearing Deadline Extended Again, This Time to Sept. 10


UPDATED 7/20, FULL REPORT NOW ADDED: Around 270 people showed up at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School Tuesday evening for the third Public Hearing held by the Old Lyme Zoning Commission on the 37-unit Affordable Housing development on Neck Rd. proposed by HOPE and the Women’s Institute.  At the end of the almost three-hour sometimes contentious, sometimes rambling meeting, the commission voted at the applicant’s request to continue the Public Hearing to their next regular meeting on Sept. 10.

The meeting opened with commission member Jane Marsh reading from a letter submitted by Old Lyme Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who was unable to attend the meeting. Reemsnyder had requested the letter be read into the zoning commission’s record.

In her letter, Reemsnyder explained the reason she had felt it necessary to write was because, “There are a range of accusations I feel must be directly addressed.”  She said the first was, “A conflict of interest,” and after explaining her position on the Advisory Council of HOPE was non-voting, she stated, “I have no personal stake in this development nor do I serve on any of the boards that must approve this application. By any standard, this does not even qualify as a perceived conflict of interest.”

The second accusation she cited was,“I brought this to our town.”  In answer to that, Reemsnyder wrote, “I support affordable housing for Old Lyme because it is a serious need and statutory mandates. Hence I have supported the mission of HOPE for years, never being secretive about it.”   She elaborated on the process that has been followed and clarified, “It is my longstanding and consistent policy to maintain the independence of our boards and commissions and to refrain from attempting directly to influence their decisions … I provided no comments, discussions or requests to any land use commission members.”

Finally, Reemsnyder noted she had seen an email stating, “The fix is in” suggesting this proposal is “… not going through the proper process.”  She responded in the letter, saying, “I have no idea what this refers to but if it is an allegation that someone is applying pressure to the zoning commission that would surely be news to me.”  Reemsnyder added, “The rumor that there has been an effort by me to “speed things along” with the town is “categorically untrue,” noting, “It is disturbing to see the misinformation going around about the application and the applicants.”

Reemsnyder concluded, “In the end it is you, the commission members, who have to abide by the rules for approving or denying affordable housing … I support each one of you.”

David Royston, who serves as attorney for HOPE and the Women’s Institute, makes a point during his preamble to a request being made by the Women’s Institute for an extension to the Public Hearing through Sept. 10.

Attorney David Royston, who represents the applicant, namely HOPE and the Women’s Institute, then took close to an hour to explain why he would be requesting an extension to the Public Hearing, primarily because several reports, which required responses from the applicants, had only been received in the last few days.  These included reports from the Old Lyme Fire Marshal David Roberge and the Town Engineer, Tom Metcalf.  Royston added he had also hoped to receive comments regarding the septic approval prior to the meeting, but that had not occurred.

Royston emphasized that “the position of the applicant” is not to “object in any fashion to scrutiny regarding health and safety issues” but rather that, “We understand fully the concerns of the community regarding the access driveway and the safety issues regarding emergency vehicles.” He stressed, “We want to assure you [Zoning Commission members] that every item raised will be addressed.”

Noting that an important concern of Metcalf was the entry driveway, Royston explained the applicant needed more time, “to allow these matters to be fully and professionally addressed.”

Kristen Anderson of the Women’s Institute made the official request for the extension on behalf of the applicant noting that continuing the Public Hearing to the zoning commission’s next regular meeting on Sept. 10 retained the application within the required legal timeline.  The Hearing would have to be closed on that date and a decision then given by the commission within 65 days after the meeting.

Land Use Coordinator Keith Rosenfeld (extreme left) listens intently as Zoning Commission Chairwoman Jane Cable (third from left) solicits input from other members of the commission during Tuesday’s Public Hearing.

Asking the audience to “Be kind” and “Don’t repeat,” Commission Chair Jane Cable then opened the floor to public comment.  Pamela Hamilton spoke first commenting initially on, “the bucolic and historic nature of Old Lyme,” and then noting that she had seen too many towns and villages, which had “frittered away their charm.” She stated firmly, “It is not elitist to treasure charm, history and beauty,” which drew spirited applause, adding, “The people of Old Lyme are a generous lot … they do not want to say,’We do not want affordable housing.’” She maintained their message was simply, “Build in some other location,” while adding in a questioning tone, “One wonders what the motivation is [for this site.]

Before calling the next speaker, Cable reminded the audience that the commission can only consider health and safety aspects of the proposal and urged speakers to restrict their comments to those matters.

An Old Lyme resident then went to the podium and questioned, “Have any of you stood on Sands Dr.? [the road almost opposite the Exit 70 exit ramp on Rte. 156/Neck Rd.] This is a public safety issue …  I just don’t see how this project has got this far.” He added, “You cannot do away with the safety problems it {the proposed development] will cause.  There is just no way.”

Old Lyme former First Selectman Tim Griswold, who noted he had served for 14 years, asked if the Zoning Commission had received a formal recommendation [regarding the proposed development] from the Old Lyme Selectmen’s Office or the State Police in Westbrook since the First Selectwoman and/or the Resident State Trooper “have jurisdiction over speeds, Stop signs.” Commission members indicated this was not case to which Griswold responded, “This is a deficiency that should be corrected.”

Hope’s Board of Directors President Tony Lyons, an Old Saybrook resident, said he wanted “to dispel” a couple of the points that were being communicated about the proposed development. First, he stated it is not “profit-motivated’ and second that HOPE” is looking to help people already here” rather than people from outside the area. He surmised, “Everyone in this room knows someone who has a housing issue … the millennial on your couch, the senior who has no senior housing.”

Lyons prompted jeers when he said, “This is not about traffic … traffic will be negligible.” He asked the audience where they have been for the past four years while HOPE has been looking for a site for affordable housing, saying, “We have been an open book.  We are a completely transparent organization.” Lyons also said the audience should think about the alternative if this project is not approved, speculating that “It will not be 37 units but 137 units,” built by a property developer.

In a more conciliatory tone, he said, “We are looking for help from everyone in this room to make this project the best we can.”

A resident of Wolcott Lane wondered whether additional police would be required for the increased town population resulting from the development.

Old Lyme resident Jill Pilgrim read the Fire Marshal’s letter, which had been submitted the previous day, into the record.  The letter raised nine comments, which required attention by the applicant, and its conclusion was, “Based upon its current submitted design(s) and our noted nonconformance to the Connecticut Fire Safety and Fire Prevention Codes, this Office cannot support this project at this time.”

One speaker noted it is possible to rent in Old Lyme and “you can find places to rent,” while a second commented, “There’s plenty of affordable housing in this own … that needs to be explored a little more.” He also suggested that the rents at River Oak Commons sounded high.

Speaker after speaker urged HOPE to reconsider the location of the development with possible sites proposed at the Ryefield Senior Housing and its environs and also on Hartford Ave. in Sound View. Concerns ranged from whether the end of a school bus picking up students would extend to the foot of the Exit 70 off-ramp, how children are going to cross Rte. 156 in order to reach Hall’s Rd., “a catastrophic accident,” and who will pay for the subsequently needed traffic lights and a rotary.  One resident described the locations “dangerous and absurd.”

Tom Ortoleva, a resident  of Old Lyme and a board member of HOPE, spoke passionately in support of the project noting he had never had difficulty turning right from the Exit 70 off-ramp and that, “Families that want to stay local [in Old Lyme] have to go to other towns … college students are moving away.” He surmised that Old Lyme would not be able to support volunteer Fire or Emergency Medical Technician Departments if this situation continued.

Ortoleva also stressed that concerns the development would turn into a “drug haven” were unfounded.  He had explored with the Old Saybrook Police Chief Mike Spera whether the Affordable Housing development at Ferry Crossing in that town had experienced higher crime rates than other parts of the town and the answer had been a definitive “No.”  Spera said there had been “no violent crimes or drug incidents at Ferry Crossing.”

Wes Swanson, another HOPE board member and pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Old Saybrook, urged the audience to consider the aspect of “health” in relation to River Oak Commons in the context of a “healthy community,” that is, one which is diverse and hospitable.  He submitted that “This proposal will enrich and enhance Old Lyme and contribute to the community’s well-being and growth.”

Dominic Pappa, an abutter of the proposed development, drew applause when he summed up many of the concerns of those objecting saying, “Affordable Housing is needed but it’s obvious to everyone in this room that this site has a health and safety issue.” He urged the commission not to extend the public hearing but rather to have a vote and, “make a decision.”

When evaluating the evidence before making their decision, Michael Fogliano recommended the commission should take care only to consider, “objective data.”

Finally, after more than two and a half hours of testimony and some confusion in the final minutes, the commission voted unanimously to extend the hearing to Sept. 10 as requested by the applicant.

Editor’s Note: Links to our stories on previous meetings regarding this Affordable Housing proposal are respectively at Boisterous Crowd Packs Middle School Auditorium to Listen to, Give Opinions on HOPE’s Affordable Housing Proposal published June 8, and At HOPE’s Request, Old Lyme Zoning Extends Affordable Housing Hearing Deadline to July 17 published June 13. There are also numerous Letters to the Editor on the subject in our Letters section and opinions in our Op-Ed’s section. The articles themselves also stimulated a wide variety of comments.

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Sound View Celebrates its 25th Independence Day Parade

Flag-bearer Joann Lishing proudly leads the Sound View Independence Day Parade down Hartford Ave. in Old Lyme, marching immediately ahead of The Silver Cornet Band.  Photos by Lisa Roderick Knepshield.

It started as a small parade meant just for the residents of Sound View.  Twenty-five years later the Independence Day parade held Saturday morning and organized by the Sound View Beach Association is now a sizable event in terms of numbers and again, as in the vast majority of the previous years, was held under cloudless skies on a perfect day.

Joann Lishing, who has been the flag-bearer at the front of the parade for more years than she can remember, notes, “Families have grandchildren visit specifically to participate in this parade.” She points out, however, that despite its ever-increasing size, “It’s still a family parade.”

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal (left, rear) marches alongside State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) behind the band.

State Rep. Devin Carney (R- 23rd) joined the throng and cheerfully marched the full length of the parade.  He noted, “The Sound View parade is always a wonderful celebration of our nation’s Independence Day and Old Lyme’s beach community. This year’s parade was no exception and I was honored to participate.”  He added, “The organizers did a remarkable job and it was great seeing so many people marching and enjoying the festivities.”

Judging of the decorated bikes, costumes, and so forth is no easy task.

After the parade had completed its fairly lengthy route of Hartford, Swan, and Portland Avenues, the judging began and then awards were presented for male and female in categories such as best-decorated bike or wagon, most patriotic outfit, best float, funniest outfit, and best-dressed pet.

Smiles and laughter were the order of the day and everyone seemed to share Lishing’s sentiment that, “This parade really pulls the community together.”

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Community Comes Out in Force to Support Blood Drive Honoring Lyme-Old Lyme HS Grad Lisa Russell

Mike Russell gives blood at the Blood Drive held yesterday in honor his older sister, Lisa.  All photos by Catherine Frank.

“A grand success,” was how Pam Russell described the response to the Blood Drive held yesterday in Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall, which was organized by her elder daughter Kimberly Russell Thompson (a member of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) Class of 2005) in honor of her younger daughter (Kim’s sister), Lisa, who graduated with the LOLHS Class of 2007.  Lisa was seriously injured in the spring by an out-of-control car in Boston and received a significant amount of blood in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

Volunteers help keep hunger and thirst at bay.

More than 120 members of the community including a local legislator, as well as friends and family members showed up and, in fact, so many came that the American Red Cross administrators had to start turning people away in the afternoon.  Some came to donate blood while others were helping out in a variety of ways at the event and still more people  — Pam said “dozens” — donated food and snacks, which were served during the Drive.

Andy Russell chats with State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) at the Blood Drive.

At the end of the day, some 77 pints of urgently needed blood had been donated and some, who were unable to give blood at this event due to the large numbers, signed up to donate at the Blood Drive to be held at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme Sept. 11 .

Attorney Tom McGarry (pictured at the head of the table) joined Jean Wilczynski to serve as Notaries, who volunteered their time to assist with the effort to encourage attendees to consider setting up a Durable Power of Attorney. Rayna and Richard Dakin (seated to right of McGarry) were also volunteers at the event.

During the Blood Drive, Russell Thompson campaigned for people to complete Durable Power of Attorney paperwork — this allows a family member to pay bills and the like, when someone is incapacitated for any reason. It is a document that would have helped Lisa’s family take care of some essentials for Lisa without causing them great difficulty when Lisa was unable to sign anything for herself .

Russell Thompson explained, “We had Notaries available all day … there were several people who completed their important documents at the drive,” adding, “Mostly everyone started having conversations about why these documents are so important.”  She said there was also, “Discussion about continuing to educate [more people] about how important these documents can be and to urge people to start having those tough “what if” conversations with loved ones.”

Event volunteers Pam Russell (left) and Mary Stone sit while Andy Russell stands behind them.

Pam, who is head of the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School Language Arts Department, said that she and her husband, Andy, who serves as chairman of the Old Lyme Board of Finance, ” … were moved by the numbers and the friends who came even from as far as New Hartford to show support. There were coworkers, parents of my students, former students, classmates of Lisa’s, friends of friends.”  She summed up the whole event in just three words, ”  It was amazing!”

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Lyme-Old Lyme High School Graduates “A Difficult Class” to Become “A Force of Change for the Future”

The Class of 2018 toss their hats high into the air to celebrate their graduation from Lyme-Old Lyme High School last night.

Under clear blue skies and a shining sun, the 110 members of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 2018 were sent off into the world Tuesday evening with pomp, ceremony, hugs, applause, and plenty of good advice to see them through the rest of their lives.

High School Principal James Wygonik focused in his speech on confidence and motivation, giving what he described as, “the top ten keys to building your self-worth.”  Numbers two on his list was, “Don’t go it alone.  Find someone to share in your success.  Accept the help and insight from those around you.  This is especially true when it comes to your parents.” He then quipped, “Other than serving as the ultimate ATM machine, they also have life experience.”

Top of his list centered on being a, “Wildcat for life,” as Wygonik explained to the students, “You are now a member of a large great family.  The people on this stage, your teachers, your classmates, and this community are all Wildcats.”  He told them, “Regardless where your journey takes you, you can count on a one or all of us. We want to celebrate your successes with you.  We also want to pick you up and dust you off after a fall,” concluding, “Remember that you will always have a home at 69 Lyme Street.”

Commencement Speaker Louis Zubek commented that he had written his speech with his 18-month-old son Jackson very much on his mind because, when he plays with Jackson, he finds himself constantly wondering, “What is he going to be like when he grows up?”  Zubek declared that he always ended up hoping that, “17 years from now, he (Jackson) will display all of the characteristics of the Class of 2018,” which included kindheartedness, humor, perseverance, compassion and that, “he’s happy and has a smile on his face,” and is “eager to take on the world.”  Instructing the class of which he has been Class Adviser for four years to, “Laugh, be positive and have fun,” he then asked, “If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?”

Honor Essayist Hannah Wisner, pictured above, noted, “We have acquired a reputation as a bit of a difficult class,” but added that brought with it a desire, “to challenge the status quo.” She said emphatically, “In today’s world, it’s important to be difficult. Being difficult means not settling for less, and not always just accepting what’s given to you. It means countering the situations you’re presented with. In a world where people struggle to be heard, it means raising your voice and fighting to be heard.”

Wisner concluded, “It is for these reasons that I am proud to be part of a difficult class … Class of 2018, we’ve shown Lyme-Old Lyme High School what a force for change we can be, and now, it’s time to show the rest of the world.”

The Lyme-Old Lyme Combined Choirs under the direction of Kristine Pekar sang an upbeat version of “Lean on me,” which drew hearty applause.

Salutatorian Reed Spitzer reminded his class, “Life is not a straightforward path,” asking rhetorically, “Isn’t it crazy how you start off thinking you will go in one direction and then you end up going in another?” He advised his peers, “When things do not go your way just remember the saying, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ Find that new door. I know it can be hard, but you must allow yourself to do it because that is how you fulfill your dreams.”

Spitzer also spoke of the need to seize opportunities, citing his grandfather and Auntie Mame, who used to say, “Life is a buffet, but most people are starving.”  Spitzer admonished his class “not to be like most people,” but rather to “stuff yourself silly at the buffet,” as his grandfather and Auntie Mame would recommend.

Valedictorian Gabriel Stephens-Zumbaum, pictured above, who will be attending Yale University in the fall, described his class as “a group of changers and leaders, who will stop at nothing to ensure that every school system has a safe learning environment for everyone, even if our political views differ,” noting, “This unique sense of community ensures that our school understands the importance of safety and inclusion.”

Stephens-Zumbaum spoke of the need for his classmates to “find your passion,” which in his case, was music to which he had been guided by the school’s band director, Jacob Wilson.  Apart from developing Stephens-Zumbaum’s love of music, Wilson had taught him, “to enjoy life, to take every opportunity present to make your dreams turn into reality, and to someday find that dream job which you will enjoy the rest of your life.”  The valedictorian urged the Class of 2018 to, “Always be ready for new opportunities. Always be ready to take chances. Always be ready to take a risk in life.”

After the speeches, the graduates stood in line to receive their degrees.

Jordan Lewis smiles broadly as Principal Wygonik prepares to hand her High School Diploma.

And there they go … caps fly high as the graduates celebrate.

Veteran physical education teacher William (Bill) Rayder was named the Mildred Sanford Outstanding Educator Award.

Two smiling graduates.

The Fusari family stands together proudly after son Robbie’s graduation.

Friends forever …

From left to right, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, whose daughter Shannon is a member of the Class of 2018, stands with Region 18 Board of Education Members Jean Wilczynski and Diane Linderman.

 

 

 

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At HOPE’s Request, Old Lyme Zoning Extends Affordable Housing Hearing Deadline to July 17

Around 300 people came to Monday night’s Public Hearing held by the Old Lyme Zoning Commission in respect of HOPE Partnership’s application for a 37-unit Affordable Housing complex.  This was some 200 less than attended the meeting when the hearing opened on June 5. Photo by K. Winters.

UPDATED 1:53pm: Around 300 people attended the Old Lyme Zoning Commission’s Regular Meeting in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School (LOLMS) auditorium on Monday.  This represented some 200 less than were seated the previous Tuesday when the HOPE Partnership made its initial presentation to the commission in reference to their two Affordable Housing applications for 18-1 Neck Road (formerly 16 Neck Road) for a total of 37 dwelling units.

The property, which will be known as River Oak Commons I and II, falls under Connecticut General Statutes 8-30g and is currently owned by Graybill Properties, LLC.

Monday’s meeting included a continuation of the Public Hearing regarding the first of the two applications.  The Hearing had not been completed at the prior meeting due to time constraints imposed by the school.

Prior to the meeting, the HOPE Partnership had requested an extension to the Public Hearing to allow them more time to respond to questions.  The commission voted unanimously to permit the extension setting a new date of July 17 for its closure.

The majority of those who spoke at the meeting were not in support of the project. Old Lyme resident B.J. Bernblum clarified to LymeLine (see his entry in the Comments below) that he spoke, “in support of the project, provided that questions raised can be successfully addressed.”

Zoning Commission Chairman Jane Cable told LymeLine by email, “Our traffic engineer from Milone & Macbroom presented his review of the HOPE traffic report. He agreed with most of the conclusions and performed a sightline/stopping distance analysis of the off ramp traffic. He agreed that the 37 percent increase for summer traffic is appropriate.” She added that in addition to the July 17 meeting, “zoning will hold its normal meeting on July 9, but it is too early to know what will be on the agenda.”

Asked when a vote on the application was likely to occur, Cable replied, also by email, “We can vote only after a public hearing is closed. Mr. Royston’s (Royston is the attorney for the applicant) request is based on his expectation that we will receive our outstanding information. If we do, we can then close the public hearing (and the record) and vote based on the information in the record.”

For a more comprehensive report of the meeting (we were unable to have a reporter present at the meeting), read this article by Kimberly Drelich titled, Old Lyme Zoning Commission continues affordable housing hearing until July, which was published June 12 on TheDay.com

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Boisterous Crowd Packs Middle School Auditorium to Listen to, Give Opinions on HOPE’s Affordable Housing Proposal

The Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium was packed for yesterday evening’s Public Hearing held by the Old Lyme Zoning Commission on the Affordable Housing proposal submitted by HOPE Partnership.

FULL REPORT NOW ADDED: More than 500 people  — 503 to be precise according to Old Lyme Fire Marshal David Roberge, who counted them — turned out Tuesday night to attend the Old Lyme Zoning Commission’s Special Meeting held in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School (LOLMS) auditorium.  The meeting was held to discuss the Affordable Housing proposals submitted by HOPE Partnership for 18-1 Neck Road (formerly 16 Neck Road) for a total of 37 dwelling units.  The property, which will be known as River Oak Commons I and II, falls under Connecticut General Statutes 8-30g and is currently owned by Graybill Properties, LLC.

After various formalities including the call of the meeting and a listing of all the items on record in the file, the lawyer for the applicant, Attorney David Royston, summarized what would happen next.  He said the applicant planned to make an at least hour-long presentation, during which he along with the applicant’s civil engineer, Joe Wren of Indigo Land Design of Old Saybrook; Lauren Ashe, Executive Director of HOPE, and John Cunningham, landscape architect for the project would all speak. 

In addition, Royston said Stephen Ullman, a traffic engineer with over 39 years experience working in the field of traffic design, who was engaged to undertake a number of traffic studies on behalf of the applicant, and Greg Nucci of Point One Architects in Old Lyme, who is the lead architect for the development, would make presentations.

Noting that the development is intended for Connecticut residents defined by the acronym ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), Ashe maintained that these projects “will convert an underutilized area of land to a vibrant community for 37 families,” providing them with the “peace of mind of a safe, affordable place to live.” She also noted that the development will “fit into the tapestry of the neighborhood.”

Ashe said the development will meet the housing needs of people who earn between $22,000 approximately and $67,840.  The area’s median income is $84,800 and the earnings parameters cited are respectively 25 and 80 percent of that median income.  She named retail, food service, landscape and office workers; hairstylists; dental assistants; EMT personnel, and recent college graduates as possible fields of employment for potential affordable housing applicants.  Ashe added pointedly that the state of Connecticut is “losing young people at the fastest rate in the nation.”

Photo by K. Winters.

Ullman, pictured above, said he undertook the original traffic study for the applicant in December 2017.  He followed up that survey with a second one over the 2018 Memorial Day holiday weekend and concluded, “Our opinion is this development will not adversely affect the traffic in the area.”  He added that he had heard in the late morning of the presentation that the Connecticut Department of Transportation was not willing to change the Yield sign at the foot of the Exit 70 off-ramp to a Stop sign.

Commenting on the land on which the proposed development is planned, Wren stated, “The majority of the property has deep well-drained soil,” adding that, “We don’t expect much blasting.”  He explained that the elevation of the site rises from 40 ft. above sea level at the street to 90 ft. at the highest point. 

Wren said that seven and four multi-family residential buildings respectively would be constructed on River Oak Commons I and II, and that there would also be a community center. He noted that there will be one septic system for each building, making a total of 12 septic systems, and in terms of residential water supply, wells have been deemed “the best method to serve the project.”  On the subject of fire prevention, Wren said recent legislative changes meant that the buildings comprising this project, “don’t need fire sprinklers.”

Schematic images of the River Oaks Commons proposed development were on display at the meeting.

The landscape plan included new tree plantings, maintained lawns, ornamental trees, a non-maintained area and a plant list that was 99 percent native, but in his presentation, Cunningham noted, “A lot of existing material … won’t be removed.”

Architect Nucci showed a video that was intended to convey to the audience a three-dimensional impression of the development, saying, “I hope this gives a sense of community,” in which the buildings are not “the same”  thus creating, “a village effect.”  He stressed the high standard to which the buildings were being constructed in terms of such factors as insulation, HVAC, siding, roof shingles, lighting, noting the buildings were designed “to look like one home, but were actually divided into a number of different units.”  These units are variously one-, two- or three-bedroom units.

Photo by K. Winters.

Commission Chair Jane Cable, pictured above right, then opened the floor to questions  from the commission members.  Commenting that she had lived in Old Lyme all her life, Jane Marsh said she was familiar with the requirement for a 500 ft. sight line and therefore, “It still bothers” her that, “There is not 500 ft. between the foot of the ramp and the entry to River Oak Commons.”  Loud applause erupted when she stated unequivocally, “You can’t see the car that hasn’t arrived.”  Marsh added that her ”main concern” remains, “What’s happening for people waiting to turn left.”

Stacy Winchell challenged Ullman’s traffic study, which had excluded study of traffic on I-95, asking, “Why not look at I-95?” to which Ullman replied, sparking laughter throughout the auditorium, “What happens on I-95 stays on I-95.”  Cable then explained to a bemused Ullman that she believed the concern being expressed was that “When an accident happens, people in River Oak Commons won’t be able to get out.”  Ullman continued to maintain, “This development will not affect traffic on average days.”

Commenting that there is a sidewalk in the development down to Rte. 156 but no sidewalk beyond that to the Halls Rd. shopping center, Marsh asked, “Does anyone think a pedestrian will take their life in their hands and cross 156?”

Nucci clarified that it was anticipated that the sidewalk in the property would be used primarily by children going to their school buses. Marsh responded immediately that she hoped school buses would not be picking up at this point on Rte. 156.

When Cable opened the floor to public comment, after a question requesting the noise impact of I-95 on the development be studied, Chuck Hinckley of Lyme St. stated he and Old Lyme resident David Kelsey had hired their own lawyer to assist in analysis of the project proposal. Hinckley then submitted a six-page letter to the Commission detailing his concerns with the River Oak Commons proposal.

These included the fact that the attorney representing the applicant also frequently represents the Town in land use matters creating a possible conflict of interest leading to an appearance of impropiety, possible lead contamination of the soil, the grade of the driveway that might prevent a fire truck obtaining access to the development, and the absence of a Stop sign at the foot of the Exit 70 off-ramp. Hinckley conclude, “There’s no way this project can overcome these fatal flaws.”

Attorney Lew Wise of Rogin Nassau of Hartford, who had been hired by Hinckley and Kelsey, summarized his findings saying, “The public hasn’t received information [on the project] on a timely basis.” and “There are consequences of not following proper procedures.”  He noted there was much missing information from the proposal such as a water supply plan, an analysis of the impact of the proposed well water system on neighboring wells, and a landscape plan, but noted some of these items had now been presented that evening. Although the Affordable Housing status allows a significantly less stringent level in the approvals process, Wise pointed out, “There is nothing in the Affordable Housing application that allows the applicant to have missing infomration.”

Wise urged the commission to “deny this (the current) application without prejudice so that it can be completed,” adding, “We should all be permitted to comment on the plans … the people of Old Lyme — the people here — are entitled to know that all aspects of the plan have been thoroughly studied.” He said that, “at this point,” this was not the case.

Lauren Ashe, Executive Director of HOPE Partnership, listens attentively to speakers at the Public Hearing. Photo by K. Winters.

In contrast, Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager, Senior Associate Minister at First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, spoke in favor this “wonderful” project, noting that the congregational church supports the work of HOPE and its efforts to provide “first-rate affordable housing.” She commented, “I am dismayed by the overall tone of this meeting.  I hope we don’t make Old Lyme a closed community but an open community.”

Greg Stroud, SECoast Executive Director, also stated that he is a strong supporter of affordable housing, and would like to see more affordable housing in Old Lyme, adding that he grew up in a poor urban area. He said that his organization would support or remain neutral about an affordable housing project in a different location in Old Lyme, citing Lyme Street and Hatchetts Hill Rd. as possibilities.

Stroud said he had met with HOPE and the Women’s Institute (with which HOPE is partnering on the River Oak Commons project) a month ago and raised SECoast’s major concerns regarding this proposal.  These centered on two questions, “How can pedestrians get to Halls Rd.?” and “How can people turn left out of the project?” Stroud noted that traffic engineering expert Ullman had not mentioned the words, “left turn” nor “pedestrian” in his report.  Moreover, despite Ullman’s extensive qualifications and a month’s notice, Ullman still had not given a response to Stroud’s questions, which led Stroud to say, “I think there’s a problem here.”

Concluding, “This site has fundamental problems,” Stroud added that he disagreed with the statement that sprinklers were not required. He said the requirement for sprinklers recently had, in fact, been approved but was then denied without prejudice. He stated that therefore, in his opinion, there was, “No sense that this requirement will disappear.”

Old Lyme resident Sloan Danenhower also questioned the location of the project, saying, “I am in favor of Affordable Housing but not at this location.”

The meeting was drawn to a rapid finish when LOLMS personnel indicated around 10:40 p.m. that the school needed to be closed.  The commission quickly adjourned the meeting saying it would be continued to their regular meeting next Monday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. when the application for River Oaks Common II would also be heard.

Editor’s Note (i): It has since been announced that Monday’s meeting will be held in the LOLMS auditorium.

Editor’s Note (ii): Visit this link to view a video (lasting three hours, six GB) courtesy of SECoast.org of the majority of the meeting: https://1drv.ms/v/s!AsFtT2rPsiyw2QWQQrNEYMy7uHj9

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A Day, and a Parade, to Remember

It wasn’t the sunniest of days, but at least, for the first time in three years and to the delight of participants and onlookers, Old Lyme was able to hold its traditional Memorial Day parade yesterday.  The inclement weather for the past two years had forced the ceremony indoors.

Town and state dignitaries marched cheerfully …

… while the American Legion Post 41 Lyme Essay Contest winners rode in style …

Photo by James Meehan.

… as did the esteemed members of the Old Lyme Historical Society!

Local veterans of Foreign Wars marched behind their appropriately decorated car …

… proudly carrying their flags.

Old Lyme Library’s Phoebe Griffin Noyes, aka Mary Dangremond, smiled delightfully and waved at the crowds ..

… while library trustees Ned Perkins and Lynn Fairfield-Sonn followed close behind.

Big tanks lumbered down McCurdy Rd …

… but this vintage car was simply full of smiles!

A thoughtful Fire Chief, Tom Risom, took it all in …

… while this EMT driver was clearly having a wonderful day!

Pipers played …

… as did the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School band.

The Techno-Ticks strutted their stuff …

… and in a different way, so did these junior firefighters.

This fine fire engine was a special sight …

… and the Fife and Drum Corps, as always, were a welcome addition to the parade.

Lyme Fire Department marched in single file …

… before everyone gathered at the Duck River Cemetery.

Essays titled,”What Memorial Day Means to Me,” were read by the second runner-up, Hannah Johnston from Lyme Consolidated School …

… the first runner-up, Justin Bonatti from Mile Creek School …

… and the winner, Max Novak from Lyme Consolidated School.

The Lyme-Old Lyme High School Select Singers sang …

VFW members fired the traditional three-round volley of shots …

Taps were played …

Everyone saluted …

… and the flag was raised, signifying the end of the parade and ceremony … until next year.

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Community Comes Out to Celebrate Cross Lane Playground Opening

From right to left, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Old Lyme Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Bob Dunn, Love Your Playground Committee member and Columbia Cascade Company Sales Manager (the company from which the playground equipment was purchased) David Catalino, and Love Your Playground Chairman Anna Reiter celebrate after cutting the ribbon declaring the new playground officially open.

The warmth of the sun was reflected in the smiling faces all around as more than 100 people of all ages gathered to celebrate the official opening of the Cross Lane Playground last Thursday.

The playground was the dream child of a small but dedicated group of, primarily, women, who had worked tirelessly for several years to make the universally-accessible playground a reality.  Calling their committee the “Lyme-Old Lyme Love Your Playground” group, they were all members of the Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club (LOLJWC), which supported them throughout the project.

The finished playground, which comprises various features making it accessible to physically challenged children, is set upon a rubber tile surface offering additional safety to all.  It also includes a see-saw, slides, climbing bars, rope ladders and swings.  A fence and plantings are planned later in the year.  The total cost of the playground was $200,000, $50,000 of which was raised by the LOLJWC and the remainder given by the Town.

After cutting the ceremonial ribbon, ‘Love Your Playground’ Chairman Anna Reiter thanked everyone — “our sponsors and the community” — for coming. Then in words that vastly understated the enormous effort that had gone into the creation of the playground, she summed up the process the group had followed as simply, “We dreamed it up … and we got it done.”

She singled out Old Lyme resident David Catalano, who was not only the playground equipment sales manager for Columbia Cascade Company (the company that supplied the equipment) but also had served on the committee, for special thanks.  Reiter noted he had not only been primarily responsible for “putting the playground in,” but also had “put up with us changing our minds … regularly.”

From left to right, David Catalino (Sales Manager for Columbia Cacade Company and Love Your Playground Committee member), Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Love Your Playground Chairman Anna Reiter, and Old Lyme Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Bob Dunn.

An effusive Old Lyme Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Bob Dunn spoke next, expressing his deep appreciation to all the members of the Playground Committee, and saying, “I’m so proud to see a group of people with an idea about something long overdue making it happen.”  He added, “I think your reward is all the smiles on the faces of all the children and parents here.”

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder offered, “Special thanks to the Junior Women who started the whole thing. They came to the town a couple of years ago and really have done all the heavy lifting.”  She noted, “What you see here today is what they’ve done — it’s a demonstration of what can happen when a community works together,” and then commented to laughter, “Plus they stayed within budget.”

Colorful balloons decorated the playground for the opening celebrations.

Reemsnyder also gave special praise to Catalano commenting, “He worked so hard,” and declaring, “This wouldn’t have happened without him.”  In the same breath, she added sincere thanks to Reiter, who had spearheaded the project from its inception.

With youngsters all around itching to try all aspects of the playground, Reemanyder drew the formal proceedings to a close with an invitation to all to go and “Enjoy the playground” … an invitation that was readily accepted!

 

 

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FloGris Museum Throws a Perfect Party to Welcome New Director, Becky Beaulieu

The new Director of the Florence Griswold Museum Becky Beaulieu greets guests at Thursday’s reception to welcome her to the community. Her husband Patrick Ford stands to her right.

UPDATED 04/16/18: More than 250 people turned out Thursday evening to welcome the new Director of the Florence Griswold Museum, Rebekah (Becky) Beaulieu, at a reception held at the Museum.  Beaulieu succeeds Jeffrey Andersen, who served in the position for more than 41 years prior to his recent retirement.  Beaulieu and Andersen overlapped in the position during February to ensure a smooth management transition.

Beaulieu and her husband Patrick Ford stood in the foyer of the Museum greeting each guest individually as they arrived.  A long, but extremely cheerful, line of people waiting to meet the new Director and her husband soon developed.  Beaulieu and Ford gave each guest as much time as desired maintaining a sense of calm despite the large numbers milling in the foyer.

The new Director of the Florence Griswold Museum Becky Beaulieu listens as Museum Trustee President Ted Hamilton welcomes her.

In the formal part of the evening, Museum Trustee President Ted Hamilton opened the proceedings, saying, “It is my great pleasure to introduce you to the new Director of our Museum.”  He reminisced about how, roughly 18 months ago, “Jeff Andersen, our Director of 40 years, told me that he wanted to retire.” Hamilton commented in a deadpan voice, “After I picked myself off the floor …” prompting roars of laughter, and then continued on a serious note, “… I knew that we had a big task in front of us.”

Search Committee member David Dangremond stands to the left of Museum Director Becky Beaulieu while Chair of the Search Committee John Noyes stands to her right.

Hamilton continued, “For the last year, we conducted a search for a new Director to replace Jeff. I appointed a Search Committee with John Noyes as the Chairman of the Committee. I asked six Museum Trustees to help him. The Trustees are David Dangremond, Lee Prichard, Andy Baxter, Carolyn Wakeman, Jeff Cooley, and Andrea Inglis. I was an Ex-officio Member of the Committee.”

The process was lengthy, Hamilton explained, “First, we searched for a Search Firm, which specializes in Museum and Not-for-Profit Organization Searches. We interviewed 10 firms and choose Korn Ferry, a Global Search Firm. They considered over 100 people throughout the world. We interviewed about 20 people to come up with five finalists.” He continued, “It was a rigorous and very thoughtful search. The team worked very hard for many hours each week.”

Museum Trustee President Ted Hamilton stands alongside the new Museum Director Becky Beaulieu.

Hamilton concluded,  “Our investment in time, work and money paid off. One person was head and shoulders above the rest – we knew that we found the best person for the job – Becky Beaulieu. Our hard work, worked out for us – I hope it does for her too.”

He then asked everyone present to welcome Beaulieu and her husband to the Museum and the community, ending with the words, ” Fellow Members, I present Becky Beaulieu, our new Director!”

Newly appointed Director fo the Florence Griswold Museum Becky Beaulieu stands for a photo with her husband Patrick Ford.

Responding to Hamilton’s warm welcome, Beaulieu spoke directly to the Museum’s members saying she recognized that they serve as “ambassadors or emissaries” for the Museum.  She said she hoped to take the Museum to “new heights” by “working alongside you [the members.]” Then, after thanking the members for their ongoing support, she expressed her gratitude to everyone present for making her and her husband feel, “unbelievably welcome.”

Guests galore gather in the Florence Griswold Museum to welcome new Director Becky Beaulieu.

She ended her remarks by saying simply, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

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The End of an Era … but the Journey Continues: Jeff Andersen Retires From the FloGris Museum After 41 Years

Retiring Florence Griswold Museum Director Jeff Andersen stands between State Senator Paul Formica (left) and State Rep. Devin Carney holding the State Citation with which the two legislators had presented him.

There wasn’t a parking spot to be found Sunday afternoon at the Florence Griswold Museum, nor come to that at the Lyme Art Association. And the reason?  Despite torrential rain, it seemed as if the whole town had come out to say a fond farewell to Jeff Andersen, the much beloved Director of the Florence Griswold Museum, who was retiring after an amazing 41 years in that position.

Jeff Anderson stands with Charter Trustee George Willauer and New York Times best-selling author Luanne Rice alongside the Willard Metcalf painting, “Kalmia,” which the board has now dedicated to Andersen in honor of his 41 years service.

The Museum hosted a wonderful party to celebrate Jeff and his wife, Maureen McCabe, and both Marshfield House and the tent situated in the courtyard outside were packed almost to capacity. Federal, state and local dignitaries were there along with Museum trustees, staff, volunteers, friends and pretty much anyone who had ever had a connection with Jeff, Maureen or the Museum — well over 400 people in total.

The formal segment of the event was emceed by Charter Trustee Jeff Cooley, who opened the proceedings by introducing Senator Richard Blumenthal. Describing the Florence Griswold as “a world-class Museum,” Blumenthal went on to present Andersen with a Certificate of Recognition from the US Senate, which he noted to considerable laughter, “was approved by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote.” He thanked Andersen warmly for, “Your immense public service … and your values.”

State Rep. Devin Carney says, “It all started with just one … and that was, you, Jeff.”

State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) stepped up next the podium and Carney noted poignantly, “It all started with just one … and that was you, Jeff.”  Carney was referring to the fact that 41 years ago, Andersen was the Museum’s first — and only – employee whereas now the Museum has 20 staff, 255 volunteers, 3,000 members and 80,000 visitors annually.

Saying, “I truly want to thank you, Jeff, for doing so much good for the economy as a whole,” Carney pointed out that many of the visitors to the Museum, “come, stay and shop,” in Old Lyme and the surrounding area, adding, “You did a great job at the Museum … but you also stopped a train!”  This latter was a reference to the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal to route a high speed train through the center of Old Lyme, which Andersen actively worked to defeat.

State Sen. Paul Formica reads the Citation from the state in honor of Jeff Andersen.

Formica then presented Andersen with a Citation from the Connecticut House and Senate, which recognized Andersen for his “passionate dedication directing, restoring and revitalizing the Florence Griswold Museum,” noting, “For 40 years you shared your vision and inspired countless volunteers and workers to help fulfill this vision expanding exhibits, gardens and collections making it into the reputable attraction we know today.” The Citation concluded, “We want to thank you for your tireless leadership and congratulate you on your retirement.”

Following the legislators was Old Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who immediately confessed, “Frankly, I have to say I didn’t think there would ever be a time when Jeff wouldn’t be here.”  She continued, “It’s good for him [Jeff] and all of us to be aware of all you have done.  You’re part of our DNA, you’re the heart of our culture,” and then announced that the Town of Old Lyme was declaring Feb. 11 as “Jeff Andersen Day,”  adding to loud applause and much laughter that it was a unanimous vote.

Andersen mingled freely with the more than 400 guests gathered to say their goodbyes.

She read a Proclamation from the Town which stated, “Since he began working with the Museum in 1976, the Florence Griswold Museum has grown from a small seasonal house museum where he was the only staff member to a nationally recognized center for American art.” The Proclamation also noted that, “Jeff is recognized today as the pre-eminent scholar on the historic Lyme Art Colony … and has helped grow the Museum’s modest collection of works of American Impressionism into a deep and distinguished regional collection of American art.”  Describing Andersen as a “visionary Leader,” with a “thoughtful devotion to excellence,” Reemsnyder concluded, still reading from the Proclamation, that Andersen’s, “tireless advocacy for the Museum and its uniquely Connecticut story has transformed the Florence Griswold Museum into one of the state’s most important and beloved cultural destinations.”

Jeff Cooley (center) emceed thw formal proceedings at the party. His wife Betsy stands to his left.

Charter Trustees George Willauer and Cooley then unveiled the beautiful 1905 painting titled, “Kalmia,” by Willard L. Metcalf to which a plaque had been attached stating that it now honored Andersen’s 41 years of service during which he “transformed” the Museum “through his unswerving devotion to preserving the legacy of the Lyme Art Colony.”

Jeff Andersen addresses the at capacity audience.

A clearly emotional Andersen then addressed the audience, which by now was overflowing the tent, saying simply, “We are feeling the love …”  He gave a long list of thank you’s, noting that he and his wife had, “felt such affection and regard since announcing his retirement.” Andersen then shared his opinion that, “whatever you give to the Museum – whether time, talent or money – it is returned to you many fold.”  He said, “Not many get the opportunity to have a career in one place [in his case, from age 23 to 64] and for that I am deeply grateful and humble.  Stressing, “Be assured the future is bright,” he commented almost wistfully, “What an incredible journey this has been … but the journey continues.”

Jeff Andersen and his wife Maureen McCabe applaud the pianist after he played a tune to which they had danced together at the very end of the party.

And with that, Cooley proposed a toast to Jeff and Maureen, glasses were raised, Prosecco was drunk and then vigorous applause and loud cheers erupted all around.

Florence Griswold Museum docent Linda Ahnert points out a detail from the newspaper cutting to fellow doscents.  The cutting announced Andersen’s arrival as the Museum’s first director — and then only employee — 41 years ago.

We here at LymeLine.com can only add our deep and personal thanks to Jeff and Maureen for an extraordinary career in which so much given with such incredible warmth and humility.  Rep. Carney said it best so we’ll end by echoing his words, “The Florence Griswold is truly a treasure, but so are you … Miss Florence would be really proud of you.”

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A Rally to Remember — Women (Mostly) Gather to Call Attention to Power of Peaceful Protest

Three generations fighting for freedom: from left to right, Dale Griffith of Ivoryton takes time out from the rally for a photo with her five-year-old granddaughter, Eva Levonick, and her daughter (Eva’s mom) Becky Petersen, both of Old Lyme.

More than 400 warmly dressed people gathered Saturday morning under clear skies on the forecourt of the Two Wrasslin’ Cats cafe in East Haddam to stand in solidarity with all the other Sister Marches taking place all over the country … and beyond.  The event was organized by Together We Rise CT (TWRCT) and facilitated by Theresa Govert, founder and chair of TWRCT.

Govert, pictured above, spoke passionately to the assembled crowd, which spanned both age and gender, reminding members that it was precisely one year since President Trump took office and to look back on all the things his presidency had changed and to be cognizant of all the things that are in line for change.  She emphasized the need at all times for peaceful protest and was emphatic about never responding to violence.

Govert is a recently returned United States Peace Corps Volunteer. She served for three years in Botswana, where she worked with her community to organize thousands for a national campaign to end gender-based violence, started a small business as an alternative economic employment opportunity for female sex workers and presented to participants of the White House Mapathon on the importance of free, accessible data.

In 2016, she was selected to receive the prestigious John F. Kennedy Service Award, awarded every five years to six individuals.

Christine Palm gave an impassioned speech to the attentive crowd.

The keynote speaker was Chester resident Christine Palm, who is Women’s Policy Analyst for the General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and also principal of Sexual Harassment Prevention, LLC.

Palm opened by reminding those gathered that, “One year ago, many people predicted the Women’s March would fizzle out — that we couldn’t sustain the momentum,” but then pointed out that, in fact, the opposite has happened, and, “In this past year, it’s only grown broader and deeper and more ferocious and more inclusive, and now nothing coming out of Washington escapes our notice, or our resistance.”

Noting, “It has not escaped our notice that this administration is defunding programs for veterans, kicking brave transgendered soldiers out of the military, and attacking women’s reproductive rights  that have been in place for decades,” Palm added, “We have paid attention to the fracking, back-stabbing … money-grubbing and gerrymandering,” before declaring, “The Women’s March has grown to encompass it all.”

Recalling the words of the renowned African-American civil rights lawyer Constance Baker Motley, who lived locally in Chester, Palm said, “There appears to be no limit as to how far the women’s revolution will take us,” pointing out, “That’s why we’re all still here, a year later.”

After thanking all those attending for “paying attention to what’s going on in our fractured, frightened world,” and acknowledging the work of all “the new, well organized progressive groups,” Palm expressed her gratitude to, “the hard-core folks who have kept vigil at this enlightened business, Two Wrasslin’ Cats, through rain and sweltering heat, every Saturday, for a year.”

Palm urged everyone not to give up, commenting on the fact that for the older people present, “it seems, we’ve been boycotting, and protesting, and working to right what is wrong,” for a very long time, but she noted, “We are buoyed not only by one another, but in remarkable new ways, by a smart, hardworking and committed group of young people.”  She thanked the Millennials for their “passion and energy,” which she determined, “cannot be overestimated.”

Palm gave a list of practical steps out of which she proposed everyone present could find at least one to follow.  Her suggestions included, “If you’re old enough to vote, do it. Don’t forget the municipal elections, which  have been lost and won by a handful of votes. If you are unaffiliated, please consider registering with a party so you can vote in the primary,” and “If you have a driver’s license and a car, offer to drive an elderly voter to the polls in November.”

She continued, “If you have any disposable income, support candidates you believe in. If you can walk, knock on doors. If you can hear, make telephone calls. If you like to cook, make food for a house party. If you speak a language other than English, offer to translate for an immigrants’ rights group. If you can write, pen an op-ed or a letter to the editor. If you teach, welcome difficult conversations in the classroom.”

Finally, she offered the idea, “If you can speak into a mic, testify at the Capitol,” before closing with the rousing call to all to, “Stay vigilant.  But stay hopeful, too,” and …

Pink “pussy” hats were much in evidence at the rally.

… “Above all, stay together.”

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So Long, Skip! Sibley Steps Down After 16 Years as Old Lyme Selectman

Final Farewell. Old Lyme Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley stands for one last time with fellow Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal (left) and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who together serve as the current board of selectmen through Nov. 30 when Sibley retired from the board.

Current, former and newly-appointed board of selectmen members, other Old Lyme board and committee members, friends, family and Old Lyme townspeople gathered in the Meeting Room at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall Nov. 20 to say farewell to Old Lyme Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley, who was stepping down from the board of selectmen after serving what Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder fondly described as, “16 long years.”

Reemsnyder read from a citation presented by the Town of Old Lyme to Sibley noting that, “During Skip’s tenure, he played an integral role in major projects, including a renovated and expanded Memorial Town Hall, and Regional District 18’s renovation of Mile Creek, Center, Lyme Consolidated, and Middle Schools, followed a decade later by a re-designed high school.” She added, “Other projects during his decade and a half of service were the development of Town Woods Park, the closure of our Landfill, Church Corner and  Lyme Street Reconstruction, relocation of the school district’s Bus Barn to a non-residential area, the dredging of the Black Hall & Four Mile Rivers, and the design and construction of a brand new Hains Park Boathouse.”

Continuing her overview of the innumerable changes that had happened in Old Lyme over the past 16 years, Reemsnyder explained, “With Skip as Selectman, Town voters approved the formation of both Open Space and Sound View Commissions and adopted a Code of Ethics as a new Town Ordinance,” adding, “The Town hired its first Finance Director, installed Stop signs at the intersection of Lyme Street and Library Lane, launched a GIS system and a new Town website, and witnessed the consolidation of our Probate Court. We “solarized” the Town and became part of a Health District.”

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder reads a citation from the Town of Old Lyme to Selectman Sibley.

Reemsnyder commented, “With Skip as Selectman, we have bid farewell to Irene Carnell, Town Clerk  for 32 years;  Walter Kent, Assessor for 38 years; and Bea McLean, Town Treasurer for 52 years,” concluding, “Skip Sibley joins that distinguished list of public servants as we thank him for the legacy he leaves after 16 years of service as our Selectman.”

After an extended standing ovation for Sibley, Old Lyme Board of Finance Chairman Andy Russell rose and spoke warmly of his long friendship with Sibley.  Russell recalled that he and Sibley were at high school together in Middletown, Conn., where their respective fathers served on different boards in the city. Russell described Sibley as “a fighter,” noting, “He’s fought for the Town of Old Lyme,” but saying that, all the while, “It’s been fun [working with Sibley.]

Former Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold, who served “a good many years,” alongside Sibley noted that “When Skip did something, he always did it well … and for the betterment of the town.  Griswold praised Sibley saying, “We can be proud of what has happened to this town.  You weren’t just a part-time guy … you were very involved and knew your stuff.”

Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, who six years ago joined the board on which Sibley and Reemsnyder already served, said, “I looked up to both of you so much … your experience was worth so much.”  She thanked Sibley for his service and then State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) stepped forward to present Sibley with a State Citation sponsored by himself and State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th).

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) presents Selectman Sibley with a citation from the State of Connecticut.

Carney opened by offering Sibley, “Congratulations on your retirement,” which generated a chuckle around the room. Carney continued, “We could use more people like you in Hartford,” adding, “You’ve really focused on making the quality of life better for the townspeople of Old Lyme.”  He then read the citation from the Capitol, which was in recognition of Sibley’s 16 years of service on the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, and stated, “For the past 16 years, you have worked tirelessly to maintain and improve Old Lyme’s strong quality of life and ensure the people’s voices are heard. Through your years of dedication and hard work as a community leader, you have truly made a difference to so many and helped to make Old Lyme one of the greatest towns in Connecticut.”

Sibley gives his final speech as Selectman of Old Lyme.

After another long standing ovation, Sibley himself addressed the audience thanking them for being there and saying, “It’s been a great run,” but stressing, “It’s been a team … it wasn’t me … I’ve just put together groups of people with different skill sets … it has to be a team effort.”  Sibley spoke warmly of the residents of Old Lyme expressing his view that, “This is a fantastic community,” commenting, “This whole Republican/Democrat thing should melt away in town politics, [because] we’re all looking to spend money wisely.”

 

After all the speeches, Sibley enjoys a moment with his family members and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder. From left to right, (son) Dustin, (wife) Sheree, (father) Arthur, Skip, Bonnie Reemsnyder, and (daughter) Lexi. Missing from photo, (daughter) Amanda.

A smiling Sibley concluded, “I’m not going away, I’m not moving … I’m going to be available,” adding, “I must thank my family. They’ve put up with a lot of nights [with my absence.] I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

And after yet another standing ovation, the official ceremony ended and the attendees mingled while enjoying some celebratory cake.

Skip stands with his wife Sheree and two of their three children, Lexi and Dustin.

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Lyme-Old Lyme HS Students Host Rousing Veteran’s Day Assembly, Filled With Emotion

Last Friday, when many public schools gave students a vacation day in honor of Veterans Day, Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) Schools took a different approach. With students attending school for a full day, LOL Schools chose to honor veterans in their community in a highly respectful and meaningful morning of ceremonies that begin in Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School with a hearty breakfast.  After a ceremony there, the veterans moved to the Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) where, after a short reception, they were ushered into the school’s auditorium.

After a welcome by Assistant Principal Jeanne Manfredi, colors were presented and then Emma Sked led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked for a moment of silence in honor of all the nation’s veterans.

Senior Emily Rivera (pictured above) gave opening remarks in which she spoke fondly of her life as the child of military parents and how her dream now is to pursue a career in the US Air Force.

Lyme-Old Lyme Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #1467 Commander Larry Olsen (right in photo above) was the first guest speaker. He described the origin of Veterans Day and spoke of his deep pride in the strength and integrity of the American military.  Olsen went on to present LOLHS student Alex Williams (left in photo above) with the Voice of Democracy Essay Award and Williams then read an excerpt from his essay.

The screening of a poignant video titled, “A Soldier’s Story,” featuring Old Lyme resident James Keenan followed. A deep hush fell over the auditorium as Keenan described his experience in World War II’s European area of operations in which he initially fought and was then captured, held under horrific conditions in a prison camp, transported in a truck packed with other prisoners almost to the point of suffocation for three long days and nights, before ultimately being liberated by the Allies.

After Brynn McGlinchey and Bella Hine had read the names of the fallen from Lyme and Old Lyme in all wars from World War I onwards, the band changed the somber tone of the proceedings when they struck up the Armed Forces Salute.  Members of each branch of the military stood when their respective part of the Salute was played.

At the end of the music, Caroline LeCour proudly stepped forward to introduce her grandfather, Morris LeCour (pictured below), who offered his own remembrances of his military service.

Following  a spirited rendition of ‘America The Beautiful’ by the combined LOLHS chorus and band, all the individual veterans present were acknowledged one by one.

The colors were retrieved and as the color guard climbed the auditorium stairs, physics teacher and US Navy veteran Glenn Elliott (pictured above) proudly saluted.

After the ceremony, Manfredi (left in photo above) took the opportunity to chat with Emily Rivera (right) and her parents, while each veteran filed out and was presented with a gift bag as a remembrance of the day.

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