J.J. Vinci Oil head, 104, honored for business dedication

November 21, 2016

By: Larry McHugh

It is Thanksgiving time again in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, not simply because of the great turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but because it inspires reflection and a true appreciation of what is important in life. I am thankful for my staff at the chamber who works hard on behalf of the business community in Middlesex County on a daily basis. I am blessed with a wonderful family and a network of friends that truly has my back. It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, a dynamic business organization with over 2,125 members that employ over 50,000 people. We have a dedicated Board of Directors, led by Chairman Greg Shook, which truly makes Middlesex County a great place to live, work and play. I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America, a place where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in writing. I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone keeps in mind those who are less fortunate during the holiday season. We are all in this together.

This morning in Cromwell, we are happy to welcome United States Senator Chris Murphy as guest speaker at our November Member Breakfast Meeting which is sponsored by The Mohegan Tribe. Senator Murphy, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and the Foreign Relations Committee, will address many of the important issues that face Middlesex County, the state of Connecticut, and our nation. The event will also feature the presentation of the 2016 Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award to Judge Joseph D. Marino of Middletown. Joe Marino has served as Judge of Probate in the District of Middletown since January 1987, an important jurisdiction for mental health cases and family cases in the state. Throughout his outstanding career in public service, Joe has demonstrated his commitment to the community, on the bench, and outside of the bench. He maintains a law practice in Portland, and also supports a number of community service initiatives. He is the founder of a holiday gift drive for residents of local skilled nursing facilities and has coached youth soccer, basketball, and softball. He is the current President of the Middletown Rotary Club, and a member of the Middlesex County NAACP, the Italian Society of Middletown, and is President-Elect of the Middlesex County Bar Association. He is the recipient of the Community Service Award from the NAACP, and the Paul Harris Community Service Fellowship Award from the Middletown Rotary Club. We are proud to honor Judge Marino with this prestigious award, and we look forward to celebrating with him, members of family, and many friends and colleagues. Also, we are honored that Nikki O'Neill, wife of the late Governor, will attend the event to help honor Joe and represent the O’Neill family. I would like to thank Senator Murphy for once again visiting with our membership, and Kevin Brown, Chairman of The Mohegan Tribal Council for sponsoring this important event.

It is hard to believe, but the 31st Annual Holiday on Main Street, presented by Pratt & Whitney, is set to begin this Friday with three tree lightings on Main Street along with a holiday parade. The first tree-lighting, set to take place at 6:00 p.m., will illuminate the big tree on the South Green and will be led by Mayor Dan Drew and Santa Claus. Also on hand on the South Green will be the Middletown High School Chorus, the Woodrow Wilson 7th & 8th Grade Chorus, and the Keigwin Middle School Chorus. Last year, over 2,500 people were able to enjoy the holiday sights and sounds on the South Green, and even more are expected this year. The Carol Sing will begin at 5:00 p.m. prior to the tree-lightings. After the tree is lit on the South Green, there will be a parade up Main Street, led by the Middletown High School Marching Band, the Woodrow Wilson Middle School 8th Grade Band, and Santa Claus, to the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce where the tree on the roof will be lit at 6:15 p.m., for the second lighting of the evening. Immediately following the tree lighting, there will be free pictures with Santa, and wagon rides for the whole family until 8:00 p.m.  At 8:15 p.m., there will be festivities in front of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room at 695 Main Street highlighted by the third, and final tree-lighting of the night. Santa will arrive to light the tree and there will be elves on hand to provide all children with complimentary popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate and other treats. Each tree-lighting is free of charge to the public. Holiday on Main Street continues on Saturday, Nov. 26, Saturday, Dec. 3,

Saturday, Dec. 10, and Saturday, Dec. 17.  This Saturday’s event will feature The Civitan Club of Middletown staffing the Popcorn & Hot Pretzels stand in front of the chamber and holiday music played by Harvest Woods Audio. The Fun Train will offer free rides on the sidewalk around downtown, families will have the opportunity to meet and greet with Santa and take free horse & wagon rides.  At 11:30 a.m., Holiday Story Time will take place at The Inn at Middletown, with Curious George and Mayor Dan Drew. At 1:00 p.m., at the Middletown Fire Department, there will be a Kung Fu Demonstration by Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy.

Santa’s Mailbox will be in front of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce from Nov. 21 to Dec. 9. Children’s names and addresses should be on the letter so Santa can respond accordingly. Parking for Holiday on Main Street is free in City parking lots. Join us!

On November 30th, Jeff Pugliese and I will attend the Celebrate Connecticut Awards put on by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) at the Bushnell in Hartford. This event honors one company, and one initiative in each region of the state, and celebrates their contributions to economic and community development. The Middlesex awardees for 2016 are Whelen Engineering and Essex Steam Train and River Boat’s North Pole Express. Whelen Engineering designs and manufactures high-quality audio and visual warning equipment for Automotive, Aviation, and Mass Notification industries worldwide. Founded in 1952, Whelen has become a leading provider of innovative sirens, warning lights, white illumination lighting, and controllers. Whelen has the largest staff of design engineers in the United States and the biggest field service force in the industry. With two state-of-the-art facilities in Chester, Connecticut, and Charlestown, New Hampshire, Whelen products are proudly designed, manufactured, and assembled in the U.S.A. Owned and operated by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is a unique historic attraction in the Connecticut River Valley Area. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers various excursions and family themed events throughout the year including the North Pole Express. The North Pole Express is a locomotive-powered sleigh that takes visitors on a magical nighttime journey to the North Pole. Every coach becomes a stage for a live, musical performance of The Night Before Christmas. Families are welcome to come and celebrate the spirit of the season with Santa and Mrs. Claus, participate in sing-a-longs, enjoy delicious hot chocolate and sugar cookies and receive a small gift from Santa. We look forward to honoring our partners on Wednesday night in Hartford, and continue to appreciate their strong commitment to our region.

Chamber members should save the dates for two important events coming up in December. Our Annual Real Estate Council Holiday Gathering will be held Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam. The event is once again sponsored by McCue Mortgage, and I thank Bill McCue and his team for their annual support of this chamber event. The Real Estate Council, under the leadership of Co-Chairs David Gallitto and Diane Sayers, does great work throughout the year in support of our member realtors. We also look forward to continuing a longtime chamber tradition next month when we welcome Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to our December Member Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 14. We look forward to welcoming Gov. Malloy and a number of other key state officials as part of a large crowd of chamber members and their guests. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

I want to close this week’s column by noting that it was great to see my friend JJ Vinci on Friday who is doing very well at the age of 104. Jonathan Harris, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Consumer Protection, visited the Vinci Oil facility to present JJ with a proclamation from Gov. Malloy in honor of the fact that he continues to attend the necessary classes to keep all of his licenses current and in compliance with state regulations. In fact, JJ was officially dedicated as “The Dean of Occupational License Holders” by the Department of Consumer Protection. Mayor Dan Drew was also on hand to present JJ with a key to the City of Middletown. I appreciate the invitation to attend the event, and congratulate JJ on his continued good work. He is an inspiration to all of us, and a role model on how a business should conduct itself as part of a larger community.

Happy Thanksgiving Middlesex County, and as you enjoy the holiday, please keep in mind the brave men and women of our Armed Forces serving at home and around the globe.

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