Habitat Helps Make a Dream Come True

story & photos

by Karen Butera

Sometimes dreams do come true. With the help of Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut (HFHECT), dreams came true this month for the Robidas family. On October 19, Lorielle Robidas and her three children, Jillian, 11, Samuel, 9, and Jonah, 4, were presented the keys to their new home.

Lorielle, who has been living with her parents and sister for the past four years said, “I am very excited and nervous. This has been like a dream. I have been praying for this for a long time.”

“This home had been a current Habitat home that is now remodeled with a new kitchen, bathroom, plumbing and electrical,” said Terri O’Rourke, Executive Director of HFHECT.

Tony Falzarano, Mayor, Putnam, was on hand to welcome the family to Putnam. A hand-knitted blanket was presented to Robida by Barbara Phaneuf of the HFHECT Board of Directors. It was a blanket that is presented to all new HFHECT homeowners. A quilt came from the Ninegrit Quilters of Westerly. Pastor Lane Lavender of the Lighthouse Church in Plainfield was there to give a blessing over the house.

While addressing her family, friends and volunteers who helped with the house, Robida said, “This is the best day of our lives. I can’t believe we are finally here.” The work was long and hard, but with lots of family support and help from others, the keys were handed over to the Robida family. The key turned in the lock and the door opened to welcome everyone inside the three-bedroom home, complete with a leaf-filled yard for the kids to play in.

Families can apply to Habitat by attending an Applicant Information Meeting to receive a pre-application. A selection committee makes their decision with three things in mind; the need an applicant has for decent affordable housing, the ability to pay the mortgage and other fees that come with owning a home and being able to collaborate with HFHECT to provide 400 hours of “sweat equity.”

For more information, you may contact the HFHECT office at 860-442-7890 or visit www.theresident.com!

Girls On The Run

story & photos

by Josie Kapral

Lace up your running shoes! “Girls on The Run(GOTR) has a new council here in Southeastern Connecticut! The non-profit 501©3 organization started in 1996 in Charlotte, NC and has grown to hosting over 200 chapters in North America today! The Southeastern Connecticut chapter, started in March 2014, has grown significantly since its beginning earlier this year. They began with one site and one team of 15 girls and have expanded to having three sites serving New London, Middlesex, and Windham counties.

“We have different activities. It is a curriculum based program. We hold 10 week sessions and meet twice a week,” said Executive Director, Sarah Lafayette.

When asked how and why she was inspired to start the program here in Connecticut, Lafayette replied, “As I’ve spent more and more time with the program and worked through the extensive process it took me to bring it to CT, I realized a lot of what I was doing was inspired by my own experiences as a young girl. I was shy and introverted and saw these qualities as negative which was how I began to define myself. This negative self-image stuck with me into adulthood, keeping me from doing many things. I found running in my early 30s and it gave me a healthy space to escape these self-imposed limitations.

I want girls to know they have a voice and that they have the ability to create a positive and joyful world for themselves and everyone they encounter. Girls on the Run empowers them to believe in themselves and all they are capable of and that the only limits in life are the ones we place on ourselves.”

Participants come from all backgrounds and all skill levels, but the ultimate goal as that each girl will learn life skills through their curriculum and ultimately complete a 5k run at the end of each session. They are taught to encourage and support each other along the way.

The most recent event was held at Bluff Point State Park in Groton on October 25th. The 3.5 mile “Trick or Trot” run was for all ages and experience levels. A shorter run was held for the youngest participants. Over 70 people participated that day. Three of the GOTR girls did the whole 3.5 mile run! The goal of the run was to raise awareness of the organization and raise money for the non-profit as well as to promote staying healthy and active. Several children and adults came out to support GOTR. Some attended the event dressed in costume. All were eager to participate.

Upon check-in, the children decorated their bibs and prepared to head toward the starting line. For nine year-old Etta Lund, this was her first race.

“I am pretty excited about it. This is going to be so fun! I am not nervous at all!” Lund said as she and veteran GOTR participants, Lilly, Elke, and Martha Bellet of Mystic waited for the run to begin.

Ten year old Avery Dolphin, and her mother, Lara, came from Gales Ferry and were also participating together. “Avery heard about GOTR from her teacher at school. It’s been great for her. She loves the activities they plan and has been attending the runs since we heard about it,” said Lara.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a participant or volunteering as a coach or running buddy with GOTR, please check out their website www.gotrsect.org or contact GOTR at their North Stonington location at 860.235.3441. GOTR will also be hosting a Turkey Trot and Dip on November 27th in Mystic for those of you interested in supporting their cause.

To post your comments, visit www.theresident.com!

Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team Releases Seal Pup

After months of specialized care from Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team, a young Harbor seal pup was released into the wild this morning at Blue Shutters in Charlestown, RI. Penelope made her way through the surf after being releases at approximately 10a.m.

Penelope is a female harbor seal pup, approximately 5 month old, who was rescued from Saco, Maine on May 30, 2014 by Marine Mammals of Maine. She was determined to be an abandoned pup 3-5 days old and was transferred to Mystic Aquarium for rehabilitation. She weighed 9.8 kg (21.5 lbs.) when admitted and now weighs 19.3 kg (42.5 lbs.)– having almost doubled in size.

She is the 15th seal that Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program has released into the wild so far in 2014.

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18th Annual L.U.N.C.H. Holiday Show

The 2014 L.U.N.C.H Holiday Show brings together the Three Stooges and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as Santa decides to retire and seek a job at Scrooge Enterprises run by the three nieces of great-uncle Ebeneezer, Mo, Lara, and Shirley. Santa’s “interview” with three “spirtual advisors” yields some interesting results.

Since its inception in 1995, This community favorite family-entertainment event, written each year by Bill Pere, features a light-hearted take on pop culture laced with songs of the season, and original Christmas music. Along with Santa, and his Reindeer and Elves, there will be a multitude of other strange characters popping in for a visit.

The show is an outreach of Local United Network to Combat Hunger, featuring professional artists including: Grammy-Winner Bill Pere;   Immie-Award Winner Kay Pere; and recording artist Larry Batter; joined by a cast of more than 20 kids from several area schools from Westerly to East Lyme.

The show is Saturday December 6, 7 pm, with live pre-show music and trivia contest starting at 6:15 at the Stonington Community Center, 28 Cutler St, Stonington. Tickets and additional information is available at www.lunchensemble.com or by phone at 860-572-9285.

Famed Elvis Photographer Alfred Wertheimer Dies At 85

Alfred Wertheimer, whose photographs of a 21-year-old Elvis Presley in 1956 are considered the definitive visual document of the soon-to-be “King of Rock & Roll” died on October 19, 2014 at his home in New York City.  He was 85.

Alfred Wertheimer, famed Elvis photographer, dies at 85. Alfred Wertheimer who captured Elvis Presley in the early years, poses at the exhibition during the European Elvis Presley festival in Bad Nauheim, Germany on August 16, 2014, where Elvis Presley performed his military service between 1958 and 1960. Wertheimer, who was 85, died of natural causes on October 19th at his New York apartment. Credit: Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

His niece, Pam Wertheimer, said he died of natural causes.

“Alfred Wertheimer took an assignment nobody else was interested in, to shoot an up-and-coming crooner from Memphis. He had the instinct to know that a revolution was coming and he followed Elvis on the road and elsewhere for another two weeks after his job for RCA was done. What came out of this is extraordinary in its intimacy and unparalleled in its scope. Al immortalized a young man in the very process of making history,” according to Bendikt Taschen, who published Mr. Wertheimer’s last book, Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll, in 2013.

Mr. Wertheimer’s photographs and stories were the basis for four other books about Elvis Presley. His book Elvis at 21 (Insight Editions, 2006) was selected by American Photo Magazine as one of the ten best photo books of the year.

The Smithsonian recently completed a tour of 14 major museums featuring Mr. Wertheimer’s photographs.  Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer, was co-organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Govinda Gallery.  The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog titled Elvis 1956 (Welcome Books).  Mr. Wertheimer’s books were edited by Chris Murray, Director of Govinda Gallery.  That exhibition opened at The Grammy Museum and included stops at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.  Mr. Wertheimer’s photographs were featured in the inaugural exhibition at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Artist to Icons.  Wertheimer also had a one-person exhibition of his photographs at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.

Mr. Wertheimer’s photographs, along with Elvis Presley’s own recordings from that time, are the most important vintage documents of Elvis Presley in 1956, the year Presley and his music transformed the American music tradition.

Wertheimer left Hitler’s Germany with his father Julius, his mother Katy, and his brother Henry in 1936 when Wertheimer was six years old.  His family came to New York City and settled in an apartment on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn.  After graduating from high school in 1947 he was accepted at Cooper Union School of Art in Manhattan.  At Cooper Union he photographed his first events with a camera his brother Henry had given him.

In 1951 he graduated with a major in advertising design.  The following year he was drafted into the army.  After finishing his service in 1954, Wertheimer returned to New York City where he found a job with fashion photographer Tom Palumbo who worked for Harper’s Bazaar magazine.  Al eventually started his own business as a freelance photographer in the middle of 1955.  Wertheimer’s friend Paul Schutcer introduced Wertheimer to Ann Fulchino, a publicist at RCA.  Ann asked Al to take photos of RCA’s latest acquisition, a young singer named Elvis Presley.

After working for a number of years as a freelance photographer Wertheimer became a documentary cinematographer working as one of the principle cameramen on the film Woodstock, as well as covering the 1960 Presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141022/153770


Don Maranell – From Heartland America to Submarine Service

by Maya Jung

Young Don Maranell had never seen the ocean when he departed land locked Iowa in 1974 as a recently graduated high school student and enlisted in the Navy. In his 20 year and two day career, he would see it from the surface often and spend months beneath it

“It was at the height of the Cold War,” said Maranell, “the U.S. was quietly battling the Soviet Union for control of the seas. The Navy seemed like a fine place to assist my Nation and have some adventure in the process. We won the Cold War and I had more adventure than I could have bargained for. The 18 year old kid made a wise decision, so much of what I am today that is positive I owe to my career in the Navy.”

Maranell modestly accesses himself, his positives have benefitted all in both his Navy and civilian years.

Recruit Maranell did his Boot Training at Orlando, Florida. The Navy quickly recognized his intellect and dedication and next assigned him to the prestigious Machinist Mate “A” School at the Great Lakes Training Base. The best of the best that successfully complete the School are then slotted for the most complex and challenging training the Navy offers – Nuclear. Cramming what amounts to a hands-on Engineering Degree in to half the time, Don completed Nuclear Training School and Nuclear Prototype Training and joined the Fleet. A stint on the USS Orleck provided him with the surface vessel experience all Submariners must have. His first Sub was the Kamahamen and from there to the Sub Greenling.

Much of Don’s career was months at sea beneath the surface. “70 days deep down, 120 men operating the finest and most complex piece of machinery in the world, never knowing if a ‘Launch IBMs’ command would be given. The men I served with became my Brothers, our Mission could only be accomplished if each and every man performed his job.”

Asked to cite an example of that dependent team work under duress, Don paused, and said, “We were deep surfaced when a fire broke out on the USS Greenling. It is difficult to describe to any but one who has been awarded the Dolphins of the Submarine Service – suffice to say, imagine being in total darkness, great heat, the air filled with smoke, and in a metal tube hundreds of feet down in the ocean. Expertise, training, and loyalty to ship and shipmates saved the day. We all did what we had to do. That event formed me for life.”

In his Navy career, Don earned a B.S Degree from Southern Illinois University and a Masters from RPI. He was sent to Officer Candidate School and affirmed as what his Mom and Dad in Iowa had already molded – a Gentleman – he retired as a distinguished Officer. “The best route for a young man or woman who has no money is the Military,” Don advised, “work hard and they will help you fulfill potential – in return you serve your Nation with pride. Best career I could imagine!”

Post Navy Don Maranell has continued to serve. A bulwark of Stonington, he served his Town in its highest elected office – First Selectman. Married to his beloved wife and competitive Ball Room Dancing Partner Mary, together they are the proud Parents of adopted Son Sam. Despite being afflicted from infancy with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, Dominican Republic born Sam is a Second Degree Black Belt and college student – no doubt Dad’s Navy courage and dedication provided the inspiration and example.

The RESIDENT salutes Veteran Donald Maranell this Veterans Day!

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Phil Overton USCG: The Environment and Economy

by  Maya Jung

From the time he was a child, Phil Overton was enraptured with the sea. One of his earliest memories is of viewing three Coast Guard Cutters and being fascinated by the intricacies of their design and the clarity of their purpose of protecting the ocean and those who traveled upon it. At age 19, Phil enlisted in the Coast Guard and considers his time in the ranks to have changed him for the better, provided him with the confidence to strive and succeed, and deepened a love of the wonders of the ocean and all that lies beneath it.

Phil fondly remembers his Boot Camp Training Officer, Petty Officer Ishman. “He saw in me potential I had not seen myself, he inspired me, mentored me, and honed a dedication and work ethic that has served me well in all of my life,” said Phil. The Petty Officer was a former Presidential Honor Guard member, a stickler for bearing and protocol. “In a short period of time, Coast Guard training turns raw recruits into able persons,” recounts Phil. “A highlight of my life was being the Honor Graduate of my Recruit Training Class.

Advanced schools and training followed and Phil was assigned to duty at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London.

“I was a busy young man” recalls Phil,” the Military is unique, in that it places great responsibility in a person’s hands at an age far younger than would occur in the private sector – security for a major installation, logistics, and supplies being some of those.” Phil cites time management as a key skill instilled by the Coast Guard and points to the fact that concurrent with his duties he was able to do college degree work as an enlisted man.

On discharge, Phil embarked upon a career with Prudential Insurance as a Certified Financial Planner; he has now been with them for over 30 years. “The values instilled in me by the Coast Guard and by other branches of the military in those who served make the civilian world a better place–team work, loyalty, honesty, and dedication. Veterans may leave the Military–the Military never leaves them!” Phil proudly stated.

Married for 25 years to beloved wife Faye Barbone, Phil is an ardent Environmentalist. Hikes through the wilderness are surpassed only by his love of scuba diving. Phil is a Certified Dive Master and Instructor, enjoying the seas from below that he once protected from above. As all Veterans do, he continues to serve his community, presently as a candidate for Town Council in Westerly, RI.

The RESIDENT salutes Coast Guard Veteran Phil Overton!

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Robert R. Simmons – Army Infantry Combat Veteran

by Maya Jung

A college cross-country and track star, six time letterman and Team Captain, Robert was well proven as a competitor and one who ran to a goal to win. Upon earning his college degree, he did as too few others were doing – he walked to the Army Recruiting Station and enlisted. America was at the height of the Vietnam War.

The Army noted Robert’s Boot Camp performance, read his DI’s and Peers Leadership evaluations, noted the exemplary scholarship of his undergraduate transcripts, and ordered him to Officer Candidate School with an MOS of Combat Infantry. Vietnam was in need of brave, daring  2ND Lt.  Rifle Platoon Leaders, the position’s motto of “Follow Me” put them constantly at risk and in short supply. Robert would lead his men from the front of the ranks for 19 months. Two Bronze Stars are the testimony to what he did and what he survived.

Robert will not speak of the horror of combat. He simply sums it up by stating, “In combat, one comes to Jesus or goes crazy. One tells oneself, if I live I owe giving  back in memory of those who did not survive.”

He does, however, speak of what he learned in combat, “A life’s infusion of values – honesty, integrity, and leadership. I saw it modeled by brave men and women every day. Their inspiration and example has never left me.”

Robert went on to become a CIA operative in Southeast Asia and China, it was his and peers efforts that prevented the entirety of the subcontinent from coming under Communist rule. One can exist only so long in the eye of the storm, what Robert had experienced, accomplished, and learned had now to be utilized in decision making Washington, DC. Two United States Senators who were themselves WWII combat heroes, Senator John Chaffee and American Icon Senator Barry Goldwater, recruited Robert to positions as Lead Staff and Chief of Staff.

Concurrent with his DC positions, Robert maintained military enlistment as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. He would eventually retire as a Colonel in 2003 after 37 years of active and reserve service. Somehow, in doing all this, he made time to earn a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He married his love Heidi, now a retired Education Literacy Coach, and together proudly raised children Robert and Jane.

In case the use of the name Robert threw the reader, you probably know him best as  “Rob,” former Congressman, State Representative, College Professor, and Town of Stonington Selectman. Quietly or if need be vocally, acting as the prime mover in countless charity and altruistic endeavors, he is still the Infantry Officer – leading from the front! The RESIDENT salutes Colonel Rob Simmons.

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Veteran Tom Hall: Submarine Qualified

Story and photos by Karen Butera

In October of 1965, a year after graduating from high school, Tom Hall decided to join the Navy during the Vietnam War era, prepared to fight for his country. His decision came because of a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, also a Navy man as a Seabee years earlier. His six-year hitch in the Navy started in boot camp in San Diego, California, then onto school where the Navy sent him to learn to be an electrician. The Navy was not finished with Hall’s training yet, sending him on to Nuclear Power School, and then for prototype training at a submarine school on the Groton Navy Base.

After his original six-year hitch, Hall found himself with a decision to make. “I originally didn’t plan on joining the Navy for a career, but as things change in your life, you find your path in life changes also,” said Hall. “I had the choice to reenlist or get out.” With the money incentive they offered, Hall decided it was a good idea to reenlist, especially since he enjoyed what he was doing. Before he knew it, that six-year hitch turned into 21 years, and in the end, Hall was an Electrician’s Mate Senior Chief Petty Officer, Submarine qualified.

Once completed with his training, Hall was assigned on a fast attack submarine, the USS Sargo, as a Nuclear Electrician stationed in Pearl Harbor for two years. Submariners who operate the vessels that carry weapons under the sea are called “The Silent Service.”

“Our job was to stand watch, keep the boat repaired and trained for properly controlling the reactor and keeping it safe. Part of our job was keeping an eye on the Russians during the Cold War while they kept an eye on us,” said Hall. For two years, the sub was stationed off the Vietnam Coast.

For Hall, one of the nicest things about the Navy was “We docked in Singapore, Philippines, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong for a few days, getting to see places we wouldn’t have normally seen, and do things we wouldn’t have done otherwise.”

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Three Full Scholarships for High School Students to Study Abroad

U.S. State Department Wants High School Students to Say ‘YES’ to Studying Overseas in 2015
U.S. high school students who want to experience another culture can apply for full scholarships to study abroad next year through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad program. The program connects high school students with overseas communities and cultures, preparing students to collaborate on today’s global challenges such as human rights, community development, workforce development, climate change, and global health.
Sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the YES Abroad program is a component of the Kennedy-Lugar YES exchange program that also brings almost 900 high school students from approximately 40 countries with significant Muslim populations to the United States to study each year.
For the 2015-16 academic year, full scholarships are available to live with host families and study for an academic year in countries that currently include: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. Additional countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, may also be added to the program at a later date. The merit-based scholarship covers domestic and international travel; tuition and related academic preparation; accommodations with a host family; educational and cultural activities in the host country; orientations; applicable visa fees; three basic meals per day; and medical benefits.
First authorized by the U.S. Congress in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the YES program empowers the next generation of leaders and establishes long-lasting ties between the United States and countries with significant Muslim populations. As YES Abroad scholars, American high school students form lasting relationships with their host families and communities and understand global engagement on a whole new level. YES Abroad is administered by a consortium of non-profit organizations, including American Councils for International Education, AFS-USA, AMIDEAST, and iEARN-USA.
Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens and enrolled in high school at the time of application and be between the ages of 15 years and 18 years and six months at the start of the program. Additional criteria are detailed on the program website and in the application.

For more information on the YES Abroad program and to access the application, visit www.yes-abroad.org The deadline for applying is January 7, 2015.


Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) launches its national 2015-16 academic year scholarship for high school students and recent graduates to study abroad in Germany. 250 scholarships are available from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to fully fund students for an academic year of study and cultural immersion. Scholarship recipients will gain new perspectives on global current affairs and German social, economic and political life, all while learning the German language through day-to-day life in the culture, attending at a local high school and living with a host family. Participants serve as “youth ambassadors” from the United States while participating in educational, cultural and political events, including receptions and meetings with government officials.
Initiated in 1983, CBYX was created to strengthen ties between Germany and the United States through citizen diplomacy. Over the past 30 years, CBYX has administered exchanges for over 23,000 American and German students. Dedicated supporter Richard Lugar (former Senator, IN) calls CBYX “an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the world, gain a deeper understanding of people and issues, build lifelong skills, and expand horizons.” Former Secretary Hillary Clinton called exchanges like CBYX “an important tool of U.S. Diplomacy. Few other experiences can substitute for seeing another country first-hand, learning more about its culture, meeting people face-to-face.”
To learn more about CBYX, including information about eligibility and how to apply for the 2015-16 academic year, visit www.usagermanyscholarship.org
CBYX is administered by a partnership of non-profit exchange organizations. AFS-USA administers the program in the following Northeastern United States locations: CT, D.C., DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT.
The application deadline for the Northeastern United States is January 8, 2015; residents of this region can call (800) AFS-INFO x 2161 or email cbyx@afsusa.org for more information.

For the application deadline and contact information for all other regions, visit www.usagermanyscholarship.org


Approximately 600 scholarships are available for the 2015-16 academic year for American high school students to study language through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program. NSLI-Y is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program seeks to increase Americans’ capacity to engage with native speakers of critical languages by providing formal and informal language learning through a study abroad experience, which includes language classes and living in a local community abroad, often with a host family.
Scholarships to participate in summer or academic year programs are available for the study of Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish. The merit-based scholarships cover domestic and international travel, tuition and related academic expenses, daily language classes, supporting cultural activities, room and board, and secondary health benefits for travel abroad.
Launched in 2006, the goal of NSLI-Y is to increase the number of young Americans with the language skills necessary to advance international dialogue and increase understanding between cultures. Alumni of NSLI-Y can become leaders in a variety of international fields in the private, academic or government sector. NSLI-Y is administered by American Councils for International Education, in cooperation with AFS-USA, iEARN, American Cultural Exchange Service (ACES), AMIDEAST, Legacy International, Russian American Foundation (RAF), and University of Delaware.
To be eligible for 2015-16 program scholarships, applicants must be:
• U.S. citizens
• High school students with a GPA of 2.5 or higher at time of application
• 15 – 18 years of age at the start of the program
• Additional detailed eligibility criteria can be found at www.nsliforyouth.org
For more information about the NSLI-Y program or to apply, visit www.nsliforyouth.org
The application deadline is October 30, 2014.