Legendary Locals has come to Middletown, and I’ve got to brag. Larry’s family is all over the place. That lady in the mortarboard and the big smile is Aunt Vivian McRae Wesley, the second African American teacher in the city. She was so popular that the board of ed jumped the school naming convention. Thus we have Wesley school, so named just two years after her death.
Larry’s grandfather Edward Jackson served in the Middletown Police Department for nearly thirty years and was one of the first three to make rank, retiring as a captain. And Larry’s uncle Willard McRae achieved a number of firsts and still continues to advocates for children and the disenfranchised. The photo of him as a little boy is beyond adorable.
Here’s a list of the other pre-eminent folks that I know or have met:
- Continuing with firsts, my friend Maria Madsen Holzberg was the first woman to serve as mayor of the city. She was elected in 1995, so Middletown was reasonably progressive.
- I didn’t know Mike Cubeta (the youngest person to serve as a chief executive in Connecticut) when he was in office but have since met him through Maria.
- Scott Bishel is the fourth generation of his family to operate the hardware store Smith and Bishel.
- My neighbor Susan Bysiewicz was the secretary of the state who honored my mother with a dedication in the State Register and Manual in 1999.
- My neighbor Jerry Augustine, a dedicated member of the veterans’ writing workshop, has run up the steps at the Empire State Building EIGHT times and has come in in the top three for his age group every time. The picture of him as Mr. New England/Mr. Northeast America is worth the price of the book!
- The most faithful member of the veterans’ writing group, Bob Fralick made his name as a scout for Major League Baseball, but he also has a great sense of humor and can still flirt at age 89.
- My neighbor Guy Vecchitto is maintaining his family’s tradition of supplying Middletown and environs with the best lemon ice on the planet.
- Vincent Amato was an institution here and in New Britain with his toy stores until his death in 2012.
- Bill Pomfret, also known as “Mr. Middletown,” played multiple sports and was responsible for making American Legion baseball an institution in town. The traffic jam for his wake in 2010 (he was 93 when he died) stretched down the street and around the corner.
- Anthony Braxton, a world class wind and piano player, has taught at Wesleyan for years. We’ve crossed paths a couple of times, and I’m always intimidated.
- Anthony Sbona, mayor of the city, was always unfailingly generous with his time when I called with a question – or ran into him in the course of my rounds.
- Sebastian Garafalo, ditto as mayor, ditto in his treatment.
- Lillian (“Reba”) Moses was one of the first people I met when I came to Middletown. She was part of the bedrock of Middletown her entire life.
- Phil Cacciola has boundless energy and dedication to the causes of military veterans. Larry and I love him and his wife, Marie, and wish that their various activities permitted us to meet more often.
- Lawrence McHugh. Who within a hundred square mile radius doesn’t know him?
- Without Mark Masselli and Jen Alexander a great many local folks would be dead or more seriously ill than they are, and a great many children would be lacking a safe and creative place to play and explore.