D.A.R.’s Abigail Phelps Chapter celebrates 125th anniversary

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Pictured are the Good Citizens award winners Valerie Lee of Simsbury, Regent Jackie Fenelon, Good Citizens Chair Karen DiMenna, McKenzie Huot of Granby and Devin Stout of East Granby.

On Nov. 11, 1893, the Abigail Phelps Chapter of the DAR was organized in the town of Simsbury. “On our 125th anniversary we wanted to have a special celebration,” Jackie Fenelon Chapter Regent explained. “From the beginning, our DAR objectives have been to promote historic preservation, patriotism and education. For our anniversary, we wanted to recognize others who support the goals and objectives that we share.”

The celebration started with three local students recognized for the qualities of dependability, service, leadership, and patriotism. “I am a retired teacher, so it is really delightful to present McKenzie Huot, Valerie Lee and Devin Stout their Good Citizenship awards,” says Karen DiMenna, Scholarship Chair.  McKenzie, who attends Granby Memorial High School, shared her plans for a career in Nursing and Global Health. Valerie, from Simsbury High School, and Devin, from East Granby High School, are both planning to study engineering. Service for Veterans Chair, Debbie Payne stated, “As we look back through the years at our country’s history, we can be very proud of the generations of men and women who have stepped up to serve their country and we remember them on this Veterans Day. Today it is my honor to present to Robert Kalechman the chapter award for Distinguished Military Service and Patriotism.” Kalechman, a Simsbury veteran, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at 17, just as the Korean War was beginning. He worked his way up to the rank of Platoon Sergeant. During his nine years of service, he was awarded many medals and honors. Kalechman has served on the Board of Trustees Department of Veterans Affairs and he has worked for other veterans’ organizations. Today he continues to be a strong advocate for veterans’ causes.  

Next Jackie Fenelon announced, “ Our members wanted to celebrate our 125th anniversary in a special way and thought of the many local organizations which work to preserve history, educate youth, prepare immigrants for naturalization, support women and families, support veterans and promote patriotism. We decided to contribute to their causes.”

Since 1893, the roster of members has grown to include towns surrounding Simsbury. It is fitting to recognize the wonderful network of historical societies from Avon, Canton, East Granby, Granby and Simsbury for their efforts to preserve local history and treasures. The societies received donations for programing.

While one might not think of a cemetery as an organization that preserves history, Simsbury Center Cemetery provides a resting place for 60 Revolutionary Patriots and many of the founding families of Simsbury. The cemetery received much-needed funds to restore headstones. The chapter also recognized the work of the Simsbury Free Library for the great space they make available for genealogy research, and the Simsbury Main Street Partnership for all that they do to help Simsbury keep its historic appearance.

Continuing on the theme of historic preservation, Alice Ridgway, the Connecticut State Regent, accepted a donation to maintain the historic sites the CTDAR owns and operates in Connecticut. Elmwood, located in Windsor, is the home of one of the framers of the constitution and Connecticut’s first Senator, Oliver Ellsworth. The Governor Johnathan Trumbull house is in Lebanon. Trumbull, who led the colony during the Revolution, was the only governor to side with the Patriot cause. His homestead also houses the Wadsworth Stables.

Several organizations were recognized for their work in education and families. For over 45 years, Simsbury ABC House has helped gifted students from disadvantaged neighborhoods achieve their potential. Simsbury Community TV keeps the public informed on local government and community events via live broadcast on cable channels, as well as on-demand from its website.  Simsbury Continuing Education works with immigrants preparing for the Naturalization process. Simsbury Social Services provides school supplies for needy children. The Gifts of Love organization helps families facing short-term financial crisis.

To honor veterans for their patriotism, the chapter contributed to the local VFW Post 1926 for their Adopt-a-Vet program. This group helps veterans in a variety of ways including explaining how to receive VA benefits, sheltering the homeless and supporting those coping with the invisible wounds of war.  Finally, First Selectman, Eric Wellman accepted two flags for Eno Memorial Hall and the new Simsbury Library program room.