Happy Memorial Day, a time to honor military, reflect

May 28, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


We have reached Memorial Day in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. Every year at this time, I try to focus on the true meaning of this holiday and what it represents. Memorial Day is for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is important that we honor that ultimate sacrifice not only today, but every day of the year. We are truly lucky to live in a country where so many of our citizens are willing to serve, and they are the reason that we are able to enjoy the freedom that we hold so dear. Over one million Americans have lost their lives protecting this sacred freedom.  These men and women, and their families, continue to have our unending thanks and admiration. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce is proud to count as members, a number of local veterans organizations. Our Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Committee, under the leadership of Phil Cacciola, does a great job throughout the year. We appreciate their support of our chamber but more importantly, we honor their service to our nation. I am also thinking of Bill Pomfret today. He was so active with our chamber and supportive of so many veteran and community causes. Memorial Day is a time for remembrance, reflection and pride. So before we fire up the grills, head to the beach, or put the boats in the water, let us again pause to recognize and honor the true meaning of Memorial Day. There are a number of outstanding Memorial Day Parades held throughout the State of Connecticut including in the City of Middletown. We should all take advantage of these patriotic celebrations in honor of our veterans and most importantly, of those we lost.


The chamber calendar picks right after Memorial Day with a number of important events and activities. On Wednesday, the chamber is excited to welcome Joanne Lipman as guest speaker at a Special Member Luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel Cromwell. Ms. Lipman is a Best Selling Author, Former Editor in Chief of USA Today and USA Today Network, and former Chief Content Officer of Gannett. In addition to providing keynote remarks, she will be on hand to sign copies of her latest book “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together.” The event, sponsored by DATTCO, Inc. will begin at 11:30 a.m. and will conclude at 1:00 p.m. Joanne Lipman began her career as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, ultimately rising to deputy managing editor-the first woman to attain that post-and supervising coverage that won three Pulitzer Prizes. We certainly look forward to welcoming her to Middlesex County on Wednesday. This event is sponsored by our friends at DATTCO, and we continue to appreciate the strong and enduring support of Don DeVivo and his team. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com.


Immediately following Wednesday’s Member Luncheon, our Tourism Steering Committee will host a bus tour of Middlesex County’s Hidden Gems along the beautiful lower Connecticut River Valley. Also sponsored by DATTCO, the tour will be held from 1-5:30 p.m. aboard a luxurious double decker bus. The first stop will be at the CT River Museum in Essex, followed by a stop at the Riverwind Inn LLC in Deep River. Attendees will then travel to East Haddam for a stop at the Goodspeed Opera House Costume Storage Shop & Scene and Paint Shop, before rounding out the tour at Nehemiah Brainerd House Bed and Breakfast in Haddam.  To close out the day, the group will engage in a Pub Crawl on Main Street, Middletown, and will visit several unique restaurants and bars in the downtown district. There is no fee to participate thanks to the support of DATTCO. This chamber will continue to promote tourism as a key economic driver for our area, and will continue to promote all of our important attractions.


Switching gears a bit, the 2018 Appetite for Life Kickoff Party is also taking place this Wednesday evening from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. at Tuscany Grill in Middletown. The Appetite for Life Initiative allows folks to support patients at Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center by patronizing participating restaurants in the month of June. I look forward to supporting the event and thank Brenda and Lynne Reilly and the teams at both Baci Grill and Tuscany for their longtime membership and support.


Amazingly, the month of June kicks off this Friday. Next week, the first full week of June, features a few important events including one of the most important that the chamber holds all year, our Annual Awards Dinner. This year’s event is scheduled for next Wednesday, June 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell. Each year, the chamber presents a series of Distinguished Citizen Awards to deserving individuals who serve as an inspiration to others, and are recognized by the Middlesex community as unselfishly giving his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. The Distinguished Citizen Committee chose the recipients from a list of over 230 nominees. The 2018 recipients of the Distinguished Citizen Award are as follows: Steve Gorss, Carter Gowrie, and Richard & Joan Tomc. Once again, our Distinguished Citizen Committee has chosen four outstanding individuals. In addition to the Distinguished Citizen Awards, the chamber also presents the Michael L. Green Award which is presented annually to a member of the police or fire community for his or her outstanding service to the community and to the chamber. The 2018 recipient of the Michael L. Green Award is Gary Wallace of the Middletown Police Department. Each of these deserving recipients are committed to making Middlesex County a better place to work and live, and we are extremely proud of all of them. We look forward to honoring them all next week. In addition to the awards, the Annual Dinner features the presentation of the chamber’s three scholarship awards, the Governor Raymond E. Baldwin Scholarship Award will be presented to Nicole Zalewski of Vinal Technical High School, the Harry H.S. Phillips, Jr. Scholarship Award will be presented to Marilyn Vazquez of Mercy High School, and the Lorraine C. McHugh Scholarship Award will be presented to Craig Allen of Haddam-Killingworth High School. We look forward to celebrating with the three deserving high school students who were chosen by our Scholarship Committee. Finally, the event marks the official changeover of the chamber’s chairmanship as Rick Morin officially hands the reigns over to Jay Polke. Rick has had a fantastic year as chairman. He has traveled with me all around Middlesex County to division meetings, grand opening celebrations, chamber events and more. He has worked well with the staff, and has led our board in a strong and professional manner. I thank him personally, and on behalf of the chamber, for his effort and support. Jay Polke is also a committed member and longtime friend of the chamber. I know he is excited about the opportunity to lead our organization, and we look forward to working with him over the course of the next year. I will have much more on the chamber’s Annual Dinner in next week’s column.


Other events we are looking forward to in June include our Annual Real Estate Luncheon at The Elks Club Patio in Middletown on June 7, our June Business After Work Networking reception at Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park on June 11, Middletown’s 21st Annual Cruise Night On Main, powered by NAPA, on June 13, and the 2018 Travelers Championship which is scheduled for June 18-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. www.middlesexchamber.com has all the details and of course, more information is forthcoming.


I want to close this week’s column by thanking the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission for supporting 211 South Main Street, LLC’s Special Exception and Site Plan Approval Request for a Mixed-Use Development at 211 South Main Street. Robert Kempenaar was approved for a special exception to construct a 17,574 square foot Mixed-Use Development which will include lower floor retail/restaurant and other business uses permitted in this Mixed Use Zone. An upper floor residential use is also part of the project. The plans also include a bank branch with a drive thru, as well as a new coffee shop with its own drive thru capability.  I have met with the developer of the proposed project and have reviewed his prior work. He is committed to making this happen in a professional manner, and I believe that he will be a welcome addition to the City of Middletown. This is an exciting project for the city, one that will take a property that has been dormant for some time now and turn it into a terrific mixed use development in the heart of a key corridor. I also want to thank Attorney Michael Dowley for doing a great job in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission as always. The chamber looks forward to being a constructive partner as this process moves forward. In next week’s column, I will cover the many economic development projects that are completed or underway in the northern part of Middlesex County.


In closing, I truly hope that everyone has a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day with family and friends. However, we should never forget the true meaning of the holiday, and we should never stop honoring those who died in service to this great country. 


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