Rock and roll sounds from Quicksand Planet and Ursuland bands kept the room jumping Sunday, December 22 during the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission & HealingNewtown Holiday Party. Newtown Congregational Church’s Great Room was filled with festivities for families and children for four hours on Sunday, as the event beckoned guests, offering carols, Hearts of Hope, Newtown Juggling & Circus Arts Club performers, and arts and crafts table, circle of love, and more. Also in attendance on Sunday was Valerie Culbertson, the new director of HealingNewtown, who said organizers had aimed for a festive event that would attract a large crowd. Party planners must have been pleased, considering the large number of people who turned out for the event.
This is the 15th and final installation of a series of stories that have shared special events that have taken place as Newtown began healing following 12/14. In this installation of "Gestures of Kindness," view a photo taken by a Sandy Hook resident in Norwalk of a longtime holiday tradition that incorporated the victims of 12/14 in this year's display; dance studios that have made donations to a Newtown dance studio for a scholarship fund named to honor three dancers lost that morning; a former Newtown family encouraging kindness in their community in Pennsylvania; and a group of women in Monroe who have begun sharing kindness by building handmade dolls for children at The Ronald McDonald House in New Haven.
A small group of avid Lake Zoar water-skiers resurrected a longtime tradition Sunday with a half-dozen Santa Clauses saluting lakeside residents with hearty “Merry Christmas” greetings in a spectacular fashion. The Santas, mainly a group of friends who have skied together for more than 25 years, gave up their annual tradition a few years ago as they reached age 50 — and the dangers of skim ice on the lake, and hypothermia from a dunking, became more apparent. Led by Sandy Hook resident Edward Lundblad of Lakeview Terrace, Chris Goldberg of Norwalk and Tom Sullivan, who has a summer home on the lake, the expert skiers decided to do a run this year as ice receded and air temperatures rose into the 50s. They were blessed, also, because a blanket of heavy ice fog that had covered the lake all morning, eased up about the time of the 1:15 pm departure on December 22.
Sandy Hook resident Ricky Grasso is not only studying abroad this semester, but he is also sharing a special part of his home with residents and tourists in Rome. Ricky (NHS ’11), who has taken a photojournalism course, has decided to place Sandy Hook Ducks — white and green rubber ducks that have come to symbolize Sandy Hook Elementary School and the town of Newtown — at locations around the city. And then he sits back with his camera and waits for reactions. He received “some pretty unbelievable feedback,” he said in a recent message.
When Margot Hall steps through the doorway of her Newtown home, two bricks stacked nearby remind her of a place far away and long ago. She thinks of the home in Forst-Berge, Germany, where she was born in 1939, the stucco-covered brick façade and the gleaming red roof tiles. She remembers large family celebrations, and peeking into the living room through the keyhole of the wooden door on Christmas Eve, as her father embellished the Christmas tree with ornaments, and set out the handcrafted village and train that ran about the base of the tree. She recalls happy times, and happy people. Ms Hall was just 5 years old when Russian soldiers banged on the door of the home and stood by as her parents, Elli and Karl Sachs, hurriedly packed a handcart, bundled her infant brother Christian into a carriage, took her by the hand, and fled. Walking eastward in the chill weather of autumn, the family moved from one vacant house to another, staying just ahead of the fighting. “We were homeless,” recalled Ms Hall, an odyssey that would last until the end of World War II.
The family room of Bob Schmidt’s home quickly filled with nearly 250 toys on the morning of Saturday, December 7, but the donation had very little to do with Christmas. The toys had been collected during the end-of-season Nutmeg Kart Club (NKC) members gathering. They were donated to Newtown Lions Club with the hope that the local Lions can use them to entice more people to purchase additional tickets for next year’s Great Pootatuck Duck Race. The Lions will thank those who purchase tickets by offering them one of the small toys from the new collection when they begin selling Duck Race tickets in the spring. Partial proceeds from those ticket sales will continue to benefit the Lions Club's Sandy Hook Elementary Fund, which has been providing financial assistance for those seeking therapy since 12/14.
It all started earlier in the week with a Facebook post of praise by a 2013 graduate of Newtown High School. “You may all know Eunice as the owner of Bagel Delight here on Church Hill Rd in Newtown. Today, like many other days, she characterized what Newtown is really about. I told her about how I was heading back to Boston to take final exams and she could tell I was stressed out. After ordering the (excellent) egg and cheese bagel, she proceeded to hand me three enormous bags full of bagels to bring back to college. Eunice, you ARE Newtown and you show us that it doesn't have to be one of the 26 Days of Kindness to be kind.” By midweek, residents had rallied to create “We Love Eunice Day,” for Friday, December 20. Suggested by Sue Primevera, Sue Hendrickson Vogelman created the event page, and Facebook was soon all atwitter with notices to join in.
Newtown resident George Duncan met with C.H. Booth Library Interim Director Beryl Harrison on December 16 to formally present a photographic portrait to the library’s permanent collection. Mr Duncan has given the library a portrait of 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Alice Munro. The portrait of Ms Munro was taken in a studio in New York City and appeared in The New York Times Magazine in October 2004, timed to coincide with the publication of her short stories entitled Runaway. An alternate image of the one that appeared in the article, the portrait donated to the library is Mr Duncan’s personal favorite from the photo shoot.