Every year, communities inevitably say goodbye to those who made a difference or stood out among residents and community leaders. Here are some we lost this year.
Samuel K. Beamon Sr. was so loved in Waterbury, he not only lay in state at City Hall, but his birthday, July 27, has been declared an official city holiday in his honor.
Beamon, 71, died in October after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Beamon served as a helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and then rose through the ranks of the Waterbury Police Department in a nearly three-decade career. Among his accomplishments in the department were leading the Youth Squad, the inspiration for the current Police Activity League.
Beamon was the recipient of numerous awards, including more than a dozen Air Medals, Combat Air Crew Wings, and Presidential, Navy and Congressional citations. He would remain dedicated to the Marine Corps long after his military service, his brother said, and he would earn other honors, including being named to the State Veterans Hall of Fame. In his retirement, Beamon became an active member and eventual chairman of the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee.
“Waterbury’s lost a true hero,” said Bob Dorr, a fellow member of the Committee, when Beamon died. “He was obviously a wonderful person, a trailblazer. His service to our country, our city and our state really is unmatched.”
Friends and community leaders mourned the loss of William Battle, who died in July at 82. He was remembered as one of the city’s strongest advocates and a man who spoke and acted from the heart.
“He absolutely loved Torrington, as only a convert can,” said his neighbor, John Kissko. “He compared living here, on Red Mountain Avenue, to living in the south of France.”
Battle, tall and rail-thin, was a recognizable fixture at city meetings and events. He spoke up, he debated, he quietly but forcefully made his points at the microphone during meetings. He participated in parades, in ceremonies, at the polls on Election Day. He co-hosted “City Views” on cable access with local attorney Samuel Slaiby.
He was a prodigious author of letters to the editor, expounding on topics from his vote for President Donald Trump to why he wanted Torrington public schools to teach Latin, to his skepticism of newfangled ideas about education.
Battle, New York City born, spent his childhood in New Haven, then went on to Howard University and the U.S. Army, and a tour of the world working for IBM. He met his wife, Darlene, when he returned to his ailing mother in Connecticut. They moved to Torrington after their son was born. He worked with anyone interested in the good of the city, regardless of party affiliation.
“He believed with all his heart that Torrington was a great place to raise a family,” said Mayor Elinor C. Carbone. “He certainly gave so much to the city.”
Susan Holbrook, a descendant of the city’s Coe family and a longtime advocate of Coe Memorial Park, died in July at age 57.
Holbrook, the great-great-granddaughter of Lyman Coe, president of Coe Brass Co., was a regular presence on the Coe Memorial Park Committee in Torrington, of which she served as chairwoman for many years. The committee oversaw the $4 million trust set up by the Coe family in the early 1900s, when the three children of Lyman Coe donated the land that now includes the civic center and the park.
Before it was a park, the plot of land straddling South Main and Litchfield streets was the site of the grandiose Victorian home of the Coe family.
Mark McEachern, executive director of the Torrington Historical Society and a member of the Coe Memorial Park Committee, said Holbrook was the most knowledgeable person about the Coe family and the park.
“She served a watchdog function to make sure funds dedicated to improve the park were always used in that fashion,” McEachern said.
Holbrook also helped create and implement a master plan that included horticulture gardens, and additional parking and gardens in the park’s west end.
Friends of Gregory A. Hadley Sr. honored his life’s work by marching with T-shirts emblazoned with a message he believed in: “Silence the Violence.”
Hadley, 66, a Waterbury alderman serving his fourth term who also ran the WOW-NRZ Community Learning Center, died in September shortly after a cancer diagnosis.
Hadley worked with J&J Inc., a group of local individuals who raise money for community causes and scholarships, and he was president of the city’s Black Democratic Club. He donated his yearly aldermanic stipends of a few thousand dollars to charity.
Hadley served as a mentor to The UnGroup Society, a collection of volunteers who came together in recent years to promote community and charitable events. The group has met with a great deal of success with prom dress giveaways, clothing drives and community meals. It’s Spirit of Unity Festival draws thousands to Library Park every summer.
Kevin Purcell of Torrington was such a devoted Rotarian, that in August, when he was at Wolcott Hall Nursing Center, five Rotarians ended their monthly meeting by jumping in their cars and going to Purcell’s room.
They handed Purcell the service organization’s gavel and bell, which he gladly thumped and rang, the customary ending of Rotary meetings.
A week later, Purcell died, at 76.
Friends and advocates of the disabled mourned Purcell not only for his devotion to the Rotary’s public service but for his compassionate nature as a caregiver and advocate for individuals with disabilities. He was a retired administrative supervisor with the state Department of Developmental Services and in his retirement worked as an independent advocate for disabled, people.
“When you saw him advocate on behalf of those he served, you saw the best of Kevin Purcell,” said Brian E. Mattiello, vice president of organizational development at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital.
School dismissed early and students and adults across generations cried at the news that beloved longtime baseball coach Dave Pelletier had died.
Pelletier, a retired correctional officer who was working as a school security guard at Wolcott High School, died at 55 in November.
He first volunteered as a coach in town when he was 14. He spent 36 years as a youth baseball coach for the Roberto Clemente age group and he led the district’s United Sports program. He had just retired in July, under doctor’s orders, he said at the time, to slow down.
Jim Maisto, who coached with Pelletier for 15 years, was not surprised to hear condolences pour in from across Greater Waterbury. “Everyone loved him, not just our kids but all opposing kids and coaches. He taught the kids the game and most importantly discipline. He was a leader in Unified Sports and in everything that he did.”
Women nationwide can thank the late Nancy Cappello for making the term “dense breast tissue” a regular and recognized part of cancer detection efforts.
Cappello, 66, of Woodbury, died in November from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare bone marrow cancer that doctors say was caused by her aggressive breast cancer chemotherapy years earlier. Cappello learned she had Stage 3 breast cancer after years of regular mammograms, when she was told that because of her dense tissue, potentially lethal tumors would not be visible using standard methods.
Cappello went on to found “Are You Dense,” an advocacy nonprofit, and worked with Connecticut lawmakers who passed the first density reporting law in the nation in 2009. Women with dense breast tissue are now informed of it and told about the value of ultrasounds, which can see better through dense tissue. A law passed in 2005 mandated insurance companies cover ultrasounds for women whose mammogram show dense tissue because it is more accurate at picking up abnormalities.
Since Connecticut passed its laws, 32 states have similar laws on the books.
At October’s annual Malcolm Baldrige dinner, Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce members and guests toasted the memory of Jacqueline Carroll Hanratty with champagne.
The indomitable businesswoman, known for building the state’s largest temporary agency through sheer grit, pluck and savvy, died in July. She was 86.
Known as Jaci, the single mother overcame poverty to become one of Connecticut’s most successful businesswoman, and she then devoted herself to charity.#
Jaci Carroll Staffing started in 1976 above the old Colonial Coffee Shop with little more than resourcefulness and a couple of phone lines. The company, which supplies part-time, full-time and direct hires to many of the area businesses, hit the $10 million sales mark within five years. It now boasts three locations.
Carroll was a favorite across city circles, her honors including the Brass Button, Saint Mary’s Champion, Fred and Lucille Kellogg Award for Community Service and the Franciscan Life Center’s Corporate Sponsorship Award. She was as relentless at raising money for the needs of her city as she had been ingenious at carving her own business.
Gregarious, dynamic and loquacious, Carroll spent time on every volunteer board, business organization and philanthropic endeavor particularly those that dealt with children, women and her own devout Catholic faith. She raised millions for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.