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Chamber Proud of Culinary Graduates

Chamber President Larry McHugh offers Mother’s Day wishes, recognizes Golf Tournament winners, recaps last week and honors the loss of two friends.

 

Happy Mother’s Day! I would like to begin this week’s column by recognizing all of the mothers in Middlesex County and thanking them for all of the love and support they give to their families and loved ones. 

Now that we are in the middle part of May, it is time to put a bow on the Chamber’s Golf Tournament which was held May 4 at Portland Golf Course. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all the winners from our sold-out, 144-golfer field. 

1st Place: Chris Arace, Chris Croft, Armand Lupo, Sean McHugh

2nd Place: David Director, Todd Director, Art Director, Jim Meltzer

3rd Place: Donald FitzGerald, Tim FitzGerald, Eric Gocklowski, Martin Keniry

Low Mixed Team:  Darlene Briggs, John Dolishny, Joe Regan, Russ Cecunjanin

Closest to Pins:

Hole # 4: Sean McHugh

Hole # 8: Dave Director

Hole # 14: Kevin Hitchcock

Hole # 17: Dan Valk

Thanks again to everyone who made this event a big success and we are already looking ahead to next year. 

Last Sunday, I was proud to attend the 90th birthday party for my friend George Hamrah. George is a man that comes from an outstanding family, and I was happy to participate in this celebration in his honor. 

This past Wednesday, I attended the graduation dinner for the Chamber’s Culinary Training Program held at . This program is comprised of a 60-hour, two-month curriculum that provides extensive training in the culinary arts for selected employees from local businesses within the food service industry. Chef Nicholas Follacchio is the head instructor of the program and he is assisted by Vinal Tech’s Head Cook, Tom Mesner. 

The program is funded by the Connecticut Department of Labor. I want to thank Chef Follacchio and Chef Mesner, Vinal Tech, for hosting this program and especially, the Department of Labor for their continued support.

The graduating students: Damien LaBreck of the Hawthorne Inn, Berlin; Audrey Radzunas of Lyman Orchards, Middlefield; Steven Salimeno of the Crowne Plaza Cromwell; Tod Carano of Court Street Café, Middletown; Davynne Hines of John’s Café and Catering, Middletown; Amelia Passacantando of Public Market, Middletown; John Mears of Chef’s Palate Catering, Middletown; Jose Quinones of Covenant Village of Cromwell, and Steven Stolfi of Angelico’s on The Lake, East Hampton.

Each put out a great spread at the graduation and I wish them the best as they move forward with their careers in the food service industry. 

That same evening, I was honored to attend the swearing in ceremony of Bill McKenna as the new chief of police in Middletown. It was a wonderful event with terrific remarks from Tom Serra, the emcee for the night, Mayor Dan Drew and Bill, whose remarks made us all proud. 

Friday morning, our Chester, Deep River and Essex Division hosted a special guest speaker at its May meeting. Commissioner Catherine Smith of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development gave a great presentation on some of the pro-business programs that are being implemented at the state level. She also provided a brief recap of the recently completed legislative session. I want to again thank Commissioner Smith for visiting with our members and for her hard work on behalf of the Connecticut business community.

On Friday afternoon, I was happy to attend the Middletown Mentor Program Year-end celebration picnic at the Connecticut Valley Hospital Picnic Grounds. This event honored the great work of the program, especially our mentors and their mentees. The Middletown Mentor Program, now in its 20th year, is a special program chaired by Cheryl Kraft of Connecticut Valley Hospital. 

I want to once again recognize Hal Kaplan, School Coordinator, and Jennifer De Kine, Chamber Staff Liaison, for their dedication. Also, I want to offer a special thanks to Helene Vartelas, CEO of Connecticut Valley Hospital for hosting this important event. These mentors take time out of their busy schedules to visit with our local students and provide them with great examples of how to be a successful, contributing member of society. They have our thanks. 

I want to take a moment to wish a speedy recovery to a good friend, Bob Byrne of Connecticut Rental Center. Bob has run into some health difficulties lately but he is resting comfortably at Hartford Hospital. Our best wishes and thoughts go out to Bob and we look forward to seeing him soon. 

Looking ahead, we are expecting a great crowd this Wednesday at the Chamber’s Annual Rock Cats Business After Work at New Britain Stadium. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and will include free food, beer, wine, soft drinks and dessert.  Chamber members are welcome to stay for the game which begins at 6:35 p.m.  We know the sun always shines in Middlesex County and we are expecting it to also shine on New Britain Stadium on Wednesday.   

Finally, I want to close this week’s column by recognizing the passing of two great men and community servants, James S. “Jimmy” Salonia and Francis “Fran” Patnaude. 

Jimmy was born in Middletown and graduated from Middletown High School. He joined the Army and was a valued member of the Army Band during the Korean War. He owned Regal Men’s Shop in Middletown for 37 years and was an outstanding member of our Chamber. Jimmy was honored by the Chamber’s Central Business Bureau for his devotion to the improvement of the Middletown Business Community. Our thoughts are with his wife Dorothy and their family during this difficult time. 

Fran Patnaude graduated from Middletown High School in 1943 and joined the U.S. Navy in his senior year. He went on to serve our country in World War II in the Ordinance Division. After his military service, Fran went on to work in the city of Middletown Water Department for 28 years and has the distinction of being the longest serving member of the Middletown Common Council, serving for 22 years through 11 consecutive terms. 

He was a great athlete who was inducted into the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. I was honored to coach his two sons, Fran and Steve, and his son-in-law, Greg Hancock, at Xavier High School where they were all outstanding players and even better kids. Our thoughts are also with Fran’s wife Marian and their family. 

These two gentlemen were great friends to me personally and strong supporters of the Middlesex Chamber. They will be missed. 

For information, contact Jeff Pugliese at jpugliese@middlesexchamber.com.

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