Pioneering the Growth of Valenti Family of Dealerships
Say the name Valenti and the immediate thought is car, say the word car and the name that comes to mind is Valenti. How did that region wide response come to be? And what is the secret to the success of the Valenti Car Dealerships? Same answer to both questions – Bob Valenti!
When asked to account for the overwhelming success of his Auto Dealerships, 81-years young Bob Valenti without hesitation answers, “Being in the right place at the right time and making the right decisions.” Modest to a fault, that success is more based on Bob’s incredible work ethic, honesty, compassion, and commitment to the customer.
The year is 1946, WW II has just ended, assembly lines that turned out the tanks, artillery, and arms that supplied our Troops are now turning out the first cars in five years, In Wallingford, Connecticut, at a Dodge-Plymouth Dealership owned by his Dad, Fred Valenti, 14-years young Bob Valenti worked at the dealership in the morning and attended high school in the afternoon. “I can never be too thankful for how I was raised.” Bob reflected, “Dad instilled that nothing came to you – you had to labor to earn it.”
That year the Valenti Dealership sold 28 cars, today the Valenti dealerships sell 400 cars per month. Obviously, the instilling of a strong work ethic proved its worth.
Working side-by-side with his brother Fred Jr., Bob took on more and more responsibility from his Dad. Brother Fred continued his schooling in business, while Bob mastered the intricacies of engine and body repair at Wilcox Technical School, and together they grew the Family Business. When Dad’s health declined, a 23-year old Bob and his brother took over running the dealership.
In 1955, the Valenti family was awarded a Chevrolet dealership. Sales took off, but due to far more than just a booming 50’s economy. “Selling a new car to a person is only the first step in establishing a lasting relationship with a buyer. What has to follow is standing behind the product, providing the best of servicing, and doing all at as fair and reasonable a price as possible. Do that and you have a relationship that continues, the client comes back and sends friends and family. After decades in the business, we have reached a point where returning, not new, clients are the greater majority of our buyers,” Bob states with obvious and justified pride.
In 1972, Bob was traveling to a national dealership owners meeting and struck up a conversation with Bud Santin of Mystic while in-flight. Bud told Bob that his brother, Joe Santin might be interested in selling his Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealership located along the upriver side of the Drawbridge.
Wasting no time, Bob journeyed to Mystic, immediately found a fellow soul in Joe, and fell in love with the area. In relating the story, Bob smiled broadly in remembrance, “It was a kinder, gentler time. The contract that completed the sale was on a single sheet of 8 x 11 paper!” And thus, the Valenti name came to Mystic.
Two years of commuting from Wallingford six-days-a- week with four growing children proved arduous and time consuming. In 1975, Bob and family set forth from Wallingford and established roots in Stonington. Love of that community and service to it continues to this day.
One of the first to truly grasp the historic value of the Seaport, Drawbridge, and environs, Bob knew that the blossoming of that potential would be stymied by the location of his dealership. That combined with his having acquired dealership rights to market the Chevrolet and Ford products sent him looking for a location to combine all with state-of-the-art showroom and service facilities. Perhaps, this is where Bob’s reference to “right time, right place, and right decision” emanates from.
A ten acre parcel of land- locked property behind the Stonington Historical Society’s Home on Route 27 along Route 95 was for sale. Chemical Bank of New York had foreclosed on adjacent property that bordered on Jerry Brown Road in Mystic, and Bob went out on a limb and purchased both. The result is the unique and beautifully situated multi-maker auto dealership that exists today. Soon to be added to that were the highly successful Valenti Toyota and Subaru dealerships in Westerly RI, and the adding of the legendary Jeep in Mystic, in addition to Chrysler Dodge and Volkswagen.
An amazing career, and an astonishing history that links to a Nash dealership owned by his father in the 1930’s. And just as amazing is what Bob Valenti gives back to his community when not in the showroom. The National Historic Treasure Palmer House in Stonington would have gone to rack and ruin had not Bob purchased and restored it prior to it being taken by the Stonington Historical Society. Stonington enjoys fiscal security today due to Bob’s tenure as member and Chairman of the Stonington Board of Finance. His charity work is legendary.
Bob is now retired. Son Rob has taken on the responsibilities learned via his Dad. Daughters Beth, Cheryl, Jean and spouses Bill Goodwin, Tom Quirk and Bruce Morrow, hold key management positions – still a Family Business! Bob and wife, June’s extended family boasts 17 Grandchildren and 10 Great Grandchildren.
When asked what he’s driving? Bob answers, “My current favorite ride is my Corvette convertible, my best ride has been life.”
A great story, a great man – Made in America.
September 30th marked the 60th anniversary of the commissioning of USS Nautilus. The celebration was held at the pier next to the submarine at the Submarine Force Museum and Library in Groton, Connecticut. Attendees included several well-known faces and politicians including: Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congressman Joe Courtney, Governor Dannel Malloy, and Electric Boat Vice President of Engineering and Design Programs, Will Lennon. The U.S. Navy’s Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, Admiral John M. Richardson was also joined by several plank owners of the Nautilus and former and retired Naval commanders of the historic submarine.
The Nautilus (SSN 571) was considered the “First and Finest” of its kind. It was a part of a project started by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (also known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”) and his team of engineers in an effort to move naval operations from diesel-driven engines to the nuclear powered engines that submarines use today.
Electric Boat designed and built the Nautilus in Groton, Connecticut and on January 17, 1955, she was finally “Underway on Nuclear Power” according to Cmdr. Eugene P. Wilkinson, the boat’s first skipper.
“Electric Boat couldn’t be prouder of its roll in producing the Nautilus”, said Will Lennon, VP of Electric Boat’s Engineering and Design Program, “it set the standard for high performance technology in the world.”
Blumenthal also commented, ”Great boats that our nation depends on emerge here in Groton”
“Connecticut is the only state that contributes directly to build out a naval base. This base provides 3.4 billion in economic activity and over 15,000 jobs to this area”, said Governor Dannel Malloy stressing the impact the Nautilus has made on the economic growth of the area.
The Nautilus had a 25 year service life and since her commissioning 60 years ago, 18 classes of submarines have been designed and 200 have been built. It paved the way for the newest Virginia class submarines and the upcoming Ohio class replacement submarines.
After the ceremony, a small reception was held inside the museum. Families and loved ones of Nautilus crews past and present shared their fondest memories with each other. Some of the invitees came from across the country just to say hello and wish the Nautilus a happy anniversary.
“We came from Colorado”, said William O’Halloran as he stood in front of the ship he served on in the 1950’s, “Those were some crazy days!”
Across the room, Captain David S. Boyd (ret) shook hands with CDR Jefferey C. Metzel, Jr., the fourth skipper of the Nautilus. Metzel was also joined by his family, including his nephew, Blues Traveler lead singer, John Popper.
“I am so proud of my uncle. He’s always been my hero”, said Popper.
Judging by the mood of the day, the Nautilus was clearly home to several heroes and pioneers of the nuclear navy. She changed the way people thought about the submarine community and showed them that nuclear propulsion could and would be done.
story & photos
by Christopher Annino
The sound of groggy buccaneers walking an uneven stride haunted the streets of Downtown Mystic October 4th and 5th. It was estimated that over 6,000 people attended the annual Mystic Pirate Invasion presented by the Downtown Mystic merchants. Saturday’s festivities were aimed towards adults. Each individual who participated in the events on Saturday took part in a pirate themed scavenger hunt. Participants where given a poster with pictures of pirates to find in local bars and food merchants.
On Sunday, a treasure hunt occurred in Downtown Mystic for kids. Twenty-nine local businesses participated to find “booty” at each location using a treasure map. The hunt lasted throughout the morning until the afternoon. Around high noon at Bank Square Books, it was pirate story time. Following that, was a pirate costume contest in which young and adult swashbucklers participated.
This year, the siege of pirates arrived on the Argia at Mystic River Park, a militia and Symfony ship arrived at the Steamboat Inn dock in an effort to beat back the invaders. As cannons fired back and forth, the pirates kidnapped and imprisoned some community leaders for ransom, including a mermaid. The proceeds went to the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. Music was provided by Pirates for Peace, a four-man ’60s, ’70s and ’80s genre band from Plainfield. This year’s event was a complete success, both spectators and participants feel that it’s a wonderful new tradition to this community.
On October 3rd, the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue released four harbor seal pups back to the Atlantic from the Charlestown Breachway. The pups arrived in little crates with the Aquarium’s team around 10:00 a.m. Each pup was rescued in either May or June off the coast of Maine and spent the summer being rehabilitated by the kind folks at the Mystic Aquarium.
The pups consisted of two males (Leo and Comet) and two females (Bellatrix and Phoenix). Each pup came with their own little story.
Leo was rescued from a dock off the coast of Breman, Maine. The Aquarium believes he was an abandoned at only 3-4 days old. He was only 19 lbs when he was found and upon his release, he weighed approximately 40 lbs.
Comet was rescued from Wells, Maine by the Marine Mammals of Maine on June 14, 2014 and transferred to the Mystic Aquarium two days later. He was determined to be about a week old at the time. While at the Aquarium, he received special care for an injured flipper and at four months old, he more than doubled his weight at the time of his release.
Also rescued by the Marine Mammals of Maine, were the two female seal pups: Bellatrix and Phoenix. Bellatrix, also doubled her weight during her stay at the Aquarium. When she was found, she was less than a week old, and weighed approximately 22 lbs. Upon her release, she weighed 47 lbs. Phoenix was found on Old Orchard Beach, Maine in June. At the time, she was about three weeks old. The Mystic Aquarium took Phoenix into their care the very next day. She received care for malnourishment and upon her release she weighed in at a healthy 44.9 lbs.
Around 10:30, the gates to the crates were opened and each pup began to make his or her way out to the ocean which stood about 30 feet in front of them. The crowd smiled as the seals eagerly flopped their way back to their home in the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone watched as the waves crashed on the shore. Occasionally, you would see one of the pups pop out of the water as if to say, “Hey! I did it!”
The Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program has responded to over 1,500 calls to assist with the rescues of various animals from harbor seals, like the pups released on October 3rd, to whales, dolphins and even sea turtles. The program not only responds to rescues in Connecticut, but they also work with other states like Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York.
story & photos
by Josie Kapral
While driving on I-95 through New London on your way to Mystic, you probably have noticed the sign with the submarine that says “Submarine Capital of the World.” And while driving over the bridge, you may even be lucky enough to see a submarine making its way home to the Navy Submarine Base in Groton. However, if you are really lucky, you also get the chance to watch the submarine pull into the pier where eager family members wait for their loved ones that they have not seen in six months. This is an opportunity that should not be missed if you ever get the chance to do so. September 11, 2014 was such a day for the sailors, friends and families of the USS Annapolis.
While the submarine was navigating around the world, life was continuing as usual at home. There were ball games, birthdays, holidays, weddings, anniversaries and even two births! LT Adam Bush and Petty Officer Second Class William “Wil” Wade were two of the dads that would have to wait until they pulled up to the pier to meet their children for the very first time. Families of the USS Annapolis kept themselves busy trying to pass the time until September 11th would roll around and they could be reunited again.
“For Jesse and I, it went by pretty quickly! We kept ourselves as busy as possible with school, sports and camping most weekends in the summer. We missed him every single day he was gone, but the busier you keep yourself, the faster it goes!” said Mercedes Johnmeyer, wife of Heath Johnmeyer, executive officer of the USS Annapolis.
When September 11th finally arrived, so did the USS Annapolis. Family members cheered as the band from the Westside Middle School played and people sang “Anchors Aweigh.” The worst part of waiting was the last hour while the submarine was in view, but the families were not allowed onto the pier until the submarine was safely docked. There was a mix of emotions for so many people.
“I missed him so much and it was taking forever for him to get off the boat and all I wanted to do was to hug him!” said McKenzie Breitkrwutz, a nine year old little girl, who was waiting with her mother, Samantha, for her dad, MM1 Jason Breitkreutz. Well, McKenzie finally got her chance for her long awaited hug as the sailors finally began to make their way off the boat and to their families.
Fathers of newborns finally met their children. LT Adam Bush was greeted with a huge smile by his wife, Melissa, and sons Simon and Owen. Across the pier, Jessica Wade made her way to her husband, Petty Officer Second Class Wil Wade and he held his six day old daughter, Melody for the very first time.
Watching these families and loved ones rush the pier with such a sea of emotions really makes you realize how much happens over the course of six months and how much sacrifice not only the sailors, but the families and especially the children make so that we can do the things we do every single day. As you look at the images from this homecoming and other homecomings like it, I hope it makes you smile. I hope that it makes you feel grateful for what you have and perhaps give you a better understanding of what that “Submarine Capital of the World” sign really means. It doesn’t just stand for the submarines that make their way down the Thames River. It stands for the people that give up having dad there at their birthday party and in the hospital while giving birth. It also stands for the submarine community and how thankful we are that you allow us to call this little corner of Connecticut our home. It’s your sign too.
story & photos
by Alexis Ann
The membership of the Waterford Education Foundation is composed of individuals who give their own time and efforts to ensure that the students of the Town of Waterford receive the finest of educations. To be commended by such a group of altruists is the highest of honors. On Friday, September 19th, Anne Ogden was given tribute by the WEF for a lifetime of service to others. Anne’s record of volunteerism and accomplishment is stunning in its breadth and scope!
Anne immersed herself in bettering the education of all children. A former President of the Cohanzie School Parent Teacher Association Knowing that children are as formed and inspired by leisure activities as they are by the classroom, Anne made sure that two such molders of character prospered. Her work for Waterford Girl Scouts and Waterford Little League North made possible the healthy participation of hundreds of kids in those organizations.
A true Patriot, Anne spearheaded fund raising efforts to assist the family of Staff Sergeant Edwin Rivera, a Waterford hero who gave his life for his Nation in Afghanistan. Anne was also a key mover and doer in the dedication of Arnie Holme Park.
The listing of Anne’s charity and benevolent work also includes ARC of Southeastern Connecticut, the Cactus Jack Foundation, the Buschetto Bash at the Beach, the Kelsey Harrington Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Few have given so much of themselves for the betterment of others.
Somehow, Anne has also made the time to serve in elective office – she is presently in her 13th year as a member of the Waterford Board of Education! And as a past President and life member of the Waterford Rotary Club, she lives the Rotary Credo“Service Above Self.”
Recently retired from 35 years in Banking and a stint as a Chelsea Groton Branch Manager, Anne is now working at Specialty Advertising – she will never retire from working to make for a better world for others!
story & photos
by Christopher Annino
Johnny Kelley, the athlete, is one of the most decorated distance runners in the history of the United States of America. Kelley had several milestones in his running career including going to the Olympics twice and winning a Gold Medal at the Pan American Games. However Johnny Kelley’s most famous achievement was winning the Boston Marathon. Despite winning the Boston Marathon, Johnny Kelley, the person, was a very humble down to earth individual who cared about the environment, and helping those in need. Johnny never judged an individual and always kept a positive outlook on any challenges he had. Johnny had an infectious smile that was a constant reminder of how wonderful life truly is if you allow it. Kelley taught at Fitch Senior High School and coached track. Running was more than a hobby for him — it was a way of life. The local Mystic/ Groton community received a devastating blow when Johnny passed away three years ago. Johnny co-owned and operated Kelley’s Pace with his wife Jessie. There was many times friends would stop in the famous shoe store to discuss anything ranging from economics to gardening, Johnny was the go to person for advice.
Longtime friends of Johnny Kelley, Jim Roy and Spyros Barres along with many others in the community and athletic world felt that there should be a statue erected in Mystic as a reminder of the goodness that was not only Johnny Kelley as an athlete, but more so as a person. Around $87,000 was raised to commission sculptor Brian Hanlon to create the sculpture of Johnny running with his dog Brutus.
Amby Burfoot was one of Kelley’s first famous protégées; Kelley helped train Amby to win the Boston Marathon in 1968. On the international day of peace September 21, 2014, Amby along with many of Kelley’s friends including four time Boston marathon champion Bill Rogers, 1972 Boston Marathon Champion Nina Kuscisk, three time Boston Marathon Champion Sara Mae Berman, two time Boston Marathon Champion Geoff Smith, 1976 Boston Marathon Champion Jack Fultz, Julia Chase Brand, Patti Catalano Dillon, and Gloria Ratti, Vice President, Boston Athletic Association, gathered to give tribute to this wonderful athlete, but most importantly this wonderful human being.
During the ceremony Amby spoke about Johnny’s kindness in his speech and how he would stop in the middle of traffic to help a turtle cross a street. He later added “But one of the most important things Johnny taught all of us was about the importance of respect and humility.” Bill had said “Johnny was one of the true kings of the sport. He ran those events when running was hard.”
Jim Roy, Chairman, Johnny J Kelley Memorial Fund, mentioned that Johnny wouldn’t have wanted a statue of himself but what he would have enjoyed is people working together as a community for a positive cause.
At the end of the ceremony, all three of Johnny’s daughters, Julia Kelley Washington, Kathleen Kelley Gabriel and Eileen Kelley Edwards, gave a heartfelt speech before unveiling their father’s statue.
After the ceremony, many individuals’ shared fond memories of John’s legacy of kindness. Marie Ann Gravell, New London said, “Johnny and Jessie were both amazing people. Both were very modest I remember when Johnny gave me his 2nd place Boston marathon trophy. Neither of them cared much for material items.”
To help donate to the Johnny Kelley Memorial Fund, go to www.johnkelley.org.
story by Alexis Ann
photos by Tom Bombria
Work Vessels for Vets (WVFV) rallied to serve the immediate and urgent needs of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan returning from theaters of war as they seek to establish their own business or further their education. And, last Saturday night’s annual event held at Groton Long Point casino was a perfect example of neighbors rallying to support Robert Mailhoit, a veteran of Afghanistan & Iraq who was given the keys to a 2009 Toyota Camry made available through Valenti Auto Group from a trade in by Vietnam Veteran Robert Macher. It certainly was a touching moment when Robert thanked WVFV for providing him transportation allowing him to start a new job.
Founded in 2008 by John Neikrash, “Krasher,” WVFV’s first donation was a commercial lobster boat to USMC Lance Corporal Richard Giguere. A veteran of multiple deployments, Corporal Giguere was wounded in Afghanistan and is now home, supporting his family as a commercial fisherman on Narragansett Bay, RI. “We provide the “vessel” that can start a career or enhance a life of our returning service men and women,” states Krasher.
The mission of WVFV is to serve as a conduit through which corporations and individuals can make donations. Already, WVFV has given over $1M worth of commercial boats, vans, trucks, trailers, farm equipment, construction and tools, tractors, farm buildings and refurbished laptops to veterans in 47 states since 2008.
Thank you for your service and if you’d like to apply go to www.workvesselsforvets.org.