Keep in mind true meaning of Memorial Day

May 29, 2017

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 and we appreciate their support of our chamber and our community, and their service to our nation. 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.

Last week was a busy one in our region that featured a number of exciting events and activities. I was honored to participate in the ribbon cutting celebration for the Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore on Main Street in Middletown. This dynamic partnership, which brings together Wesleyan University, R.J. Julia Booksellers and grown Restaurant, will be an important economic driver for an already thriving downtown. The Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore already has a wide selection of books and will host an abundance of community events on a monthly basis. It will attract Wesleyan students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff to downtown on a regular basis, and will further strengthen the university’s strong ties with the community. grown Restaurant, created by Middletown native Shannon Allen and her husband, former UConn and NBA star Ray Allen, features 100-percent organic offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, meals to go, and more. I have known Shannon Allen and her family for many years, and have gotten to know Ray through our mutual connection to UConn. I am so happy to welcome them to downtown Middletown with this exciting new restaurant. Last Tuesday’s Ribbon Cutting featured outstanding remarks from Wesleyan President Michael Roth, R.J. Julia owner Roxanne Coady, Shannon Allen, and Mayor Dan Drew. I also want to thank the owner of the building, Mike Stone, who had a vision for the property and did a great job along with his team as the project came to fruition. The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a constructive partner as this new downtown development is off to a strong start.

Middletown is of course extremely fortunate to have Wesleyan University as a key stakeholder, but we are also lucky to be home to Middlesex Community College which serves thousands of local students on an annual basis. I had the pleasure of saying a few words at last Thursday’s Farewell Open House which was held in honor of MxCC’s departing President, Dr. Anna Wasescha. As I noted last week, President Wasescha has done an excellent job in her leadership role at the college, and all of us at the chamber wish her the best as she embarks on the next phase of her terrific academic career.

While it is a short week due to the Memorial Day holiday, this week is another busy one in Middlesex County. A Grand Opening celebration for Butter Curated Exchanged Goods is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at its Washington Street location in Middletown. Butter features an eclectic mix of antiques and other interesting items. The shop’s owner, Kerry Kincy, has done a terrific job with her setup and I look forward to joining Mayor Drew and other local dignitaries as we collectively wish her and her team success and best wishes as they embark on this new endeavor.

Following the Butter Grand Opening, I will travel across to Main Street to Luce Restaurant for the final meeting of the chamber’s Golf Committee before Friday’s sold out 34th Annual Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament at Portland Golf Course. I would like to take a moment to once again thank all of our sponsors and supporters, our Golf Committee which meets throughout the year, all members who donated gifts and prizes, the terrific team at Portland Golf Course, and chamber Vice President Johanna Bond who does a wonderful job with this tournament on an annual basis. We also look forward to honoring our 2017 Robert Briggs “Good Guy” Award Recipient, Lyman Farm Inc. CEO Steve Ciskowski. The Robert Briggs Good Guy Award is presented annually in recognition of contributions made to the community and also to the chamber’s Golf Tournament. Steve has done a great job in a professional capacity at Lymans, and we continue to appreciate his support of our Golf Tournament, and of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. I truly appreciate everyone sticking with us through the postponement of the original date in early May, and I know everyone involved looks forward to a great day on the course on Friday.

Before we get to the golf tournament however, there are a few more events I want to highlight that are scheduled a bit earlier in the week.

The 2017 Appetite for Life Kickoff Party is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 31st 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. This important annual initiative also honors the life of Tim Reilly who passed away in 2009 after a courageous battle with cancer. Tim co-founded Tuscany Grill in Middletown and Baci Grill in Cromwell along with his wife, Lynne, and his sister, Brenda. I want to thank Brenda and Lynne once again for putting together this special event, and for inviting me to help honor this truly wonderful man who I had as a student at Xavier High School. For more information on Appetite for Life, please visit www.middlesexhospital.org.

A busy Thursday kicks off with the June meeting of the chamber’s Central Business Bureau. In addition to reports from key city department directors and Mayor Dan Drew, the meeting will feature updates on the major downtown events scheduled for this summer, Cruise Night on Main on June 14, and Middletown Motorcycle Mania on August 9. I will have much more on these events as we get closer, but members and residents alike should be sure to save the dates. I would like to take a moment to thank our friends at River Suite Wealth Partners for sponsoring Thursday’s CBB meeting.

Later in the day on Thursday, our Real Estate Council will host its Annual Real Estate Luncheon at Angelico’s Lake House Restaurant in East Hampton. As I noted last week, this annual event, sponsored by Liberty Bank, brings together our many active member realtors who continue to do important work in Middlesex County. In addition to terrific networking and a celebration of this critical industry sector, the event will also feature the presentation of the 2017 Mary Ellen Klinck Real Estate Agent of the Year Award. The Mary Ellen Klinck Real Estate Agent of the Year Award is presented to an agent who has made outstanding volunteer contributions to our community, while exhibiting professionalism and success in the real estate field. Mary Ellen Klinck is the former chair of the chamber’s Real Estate Council, and former chair of the chamber’s Board of Directors. This year’s recipient of this prestigious chamber award is Juliet Cavanaugh of Cavanaugh & Company. We look forward to honoring Juliet’s work, both professionally and in the community, and look forward to another successful Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Real Estate Luncheon.

Next week, the first full week of June, also features a number of important events and activities. On Tuesday morning, June 6, our Prevention Committee will host a seminar focusing on When PTSD Trauma Leads to Substance Abuse. Employers will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of experts who will discuss how to better understand PTSD and its relationship with substance abuse. For more information, please visit www.middlesexchamber.com. Also, it is hard to believe, but the 2017 Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner is scheduled for next Wednesday June 7th at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. This event will honor four outstanding Middlesex County individuals with our 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award. They are: William F. & Sharon K. Griffin, Kenneth W. MacCormac, and Phil Ouellette. We will also honor the recipient of the 2017 Chief Michael L. Green Award, William J. Warner of the Middletown Police Department, and will present three graduating Middlesex County high school students with scholarships as they enter their collegiate careers. I will have much more on our Annual Awards Dinner in next week’s column.

I want to close this week’s column by announcing that applications are still available for the 2017 Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. They are due one week from today, Monday, June 5 at 4:30 pm at the chamber office. Every year since 2006, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has placed Middletown students into constructive summer employment through the Middletown Summer Youth Employment Program. Applications for this important community workforce development program can be picked up at all of the local public high schools and middle schools, at the centrally located Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and can be found online at www.middlesexchamber.com.

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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