After three days in the office in early April, I flew from DC to Hartford, Connecticut where I was met at the airport by State Regent, April Staley and Curator General, Jennie Rehnberg. We drove a short distance to the charming and historic town of Windsor, one of the oldest towns in Connecticut, settled in 1633.
April’s state theme is “Preserving Our Heritage, Communicating our Missions, Growing for the Future” and the conference theme was “Celebrating America!” Other conference guests included Phyllis Gagnon, State Regent of New Hampshire and LeAnn Turbyfill, National Chair, Celebrate America! Committee.
Following an informal welcome tea for State Officers, Honorary State Regents and District Directors, we traveled to the Mill on the River, a historic restaurant in an old mill on the banks of the Podunk River. I learned from Wikipedia that “Podunk” was a real word and that it is “of Algonquian origin, and denoted both the Podunk people and marshy locations, particularly their winter village site on the border of East Hartford, Connecticut and South Windsor, Connecticut. However, Podunk was first defined in an American national dictionary in 1934, as an imaginary small town taken as typical of placid dullness and lack of contact with the progress of the world.” The State Officers and Chapter Regents’ Club dinner was anything but dull as April was surprised with a birthday cake and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
The following morning began with the Juniors Breakfast in which the many members who support, mentor and encourage them were able to celebrate the Juniors and their accomplishments. Afterwards we departed for the Oliver Ellsworth Homestead, one of the significant historic properties which the Connecticut Society maintains.
Oliver Ellsworth was born in Windsor in 1745, studied the ministry at Yale and graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and began a study of law. Elected to state level office in 1773, Ellsworth quickly became one of the most powerful political figures and successful lawyers in Connecticut. He served throughout the Revolutionary War in many state and federal political positions, including delegate to the Continental Congress, member of Connecticut's Council of Safety, the Governor's Council, and Committee of the Pay Table. He was one of the five men who drafted the Constitution and one of the three who proposed the Connecticut Compromise that resolved issues allowing the Constitution to be ratified. He served as the Third Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and was appointed by President John Adams as a commissioner to France to renegotiate a treaty and prevent war with France. Highly respected by Napoleon, the house museum includes many family pieces as well as several remarkable gifts from Napoleon.
Following a wonderful tour of the home, it was a pleasure to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for a memorial garden around the flag pole at the Ellsworth Homestead. This was one of Jennie Rehnberg’s projects in which members may purchase donor bricks in honor of loved ones and DAR friends.
We drove to the historic community of Windsor and placed a wreath at the grave of Oliver Ellsworth as State Historian, Deborah Payne shared the significance of his contributions to the colonial cause. Lunch was served across the street at The Windsor Historical Society and we had an opportunity to view the collection which includes objects from Native American settlement and the founding of Windsor in 1633 until the present.
The Opening Session Friday afternoon convened with greetings, introductions and the presentation of 100% participation certificates to 24 of the 41chapters who have met the goal of $6 per member for the President General’s Project. That is an astonishing number for the first year of this administration and I am deeply grateful for their support. The session included a new format for District reports in which a PowerPoint presentation showcasing the remarkable activities of the chapters was displayed while the reports were presented.
After the Memorial Service, I welcomed members of the Heritage and Founders Club to a tea and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to personally express appreciation to those who have been generous to DAR as well as to share some of the upcoming projects and goals.
The Gala Awards Banquet featured an outstanding vocal ensemble of young girls, ages 8-16, as they participated in SingOut! CT. Following my address on the objectives of the President General’s Project as well as the many activities at Headquarters, awards were presented to the Outstanding Teacher of American History, DAR Good Citizen and the Outstanding Junior Member, Anne Savo. The table favors were darling Celebrate America! cookies featuring a combined logo of the administration eagle and the grapevines featured in the Connecticut Flag which is part of April’s emblem.
April continued the charming tradition begun in Vermont with the presentation of a Connecticut charm for my new bracelet. In addition to the generous gifts to the President General’s Project, Junior Chair Nikki Rittenhouse presented a gorgeous stained glass suncatcher of my emblem, made by her mother.
April’s projects include improving the Historic Properties and enhancing the Promotional Materials. In addition to the Ellsworth Homestead, the Connecticut Daughters also own the Jonathan Trumbull House, home of the only colonial governor who supported the colonies. They are to be commended for maintaining such important pieces of our colonial history.
I regretted having to leave very early Saturday morning for another conference as I would have enjoyed LeAnn’s presentation and open forum on Celebrate America! It's obvious the Connecticut Daughters have taken it to heart as they have already logged almost 15,000 hours this year which is quite remarkable for their 2500 members!
The Connecticut Daughters truly are Preserving Our Heritage, Communicating our Missions, Growing for the Future!