Friday, May 27, 2016

The Red Poppy: Universal Symbol of Remembrance

For more than 100 years, millions around the globe have donned a tiny red lapel Poppy on Memorial Day in remembrance of those whose lives were lost in the bloody battlefields of Western Europe, notably in the Flanders Field region of France and Belgium, during World War I.

The story behind the Poppy is compelling as we look back at a war-torn century that has come to symbolize the eternal struggle of war, death and suffering humanity, paradoxically surrounded by the ever resurgence of life in the poppies of Flanders Field.
Much of the fighting during the First World War years of 1914-1918 took place in the previously beautiful countryside that was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again.
Bloody fields of war torn Flanders Field 1915 

The landscape rapidly turned to fields of mud and blood: bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow. Witnesses of those years gradually began to recognize an ironic phenomenon in the continuing new life springing up in the fields of red poppies in the shadows of destruction.
Canadian Artillery Commander
Major John McCrae
On May 2, 1915, during the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres an exploding German artillery shell landed in the gun position of a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who was killed in the explosion.  Helmer was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.  The unit Chaplain had been called away from the site by other duties so, as the brigade doctor, John McCrae conducted the burial service of his friend, Alexis.  

The story continues. Later that evening, after the burial, John McCrae began the draft of his now famous poem: 

May each one of them ever be remembered
in eternal peace
“IN FLANDER'S FIELD” by John McCrae           

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,                               Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,                                    
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.
One hundred one years later, the Red Poppy lives on as the memorial flower of the American Legion, the AL Auxiliary and many other veterans’ service organizations with its message of remembrance of the veteran.  Today, we are inundated with never ending news stories of veterans who are suffering, many not receiving sufficient treatment for the burdens of war they carry with them 24/7. 

To me, the Red Poppy symbolizes a deep moral responsibility each of us has to remember the veterans whose sacrifices continue to preserve our way of life. They and their families need us. Let’s not let them down.
Poppy Chairman of the AL Auxiliary Kiltonic Unit 72, Susan Locks said: “When you wear this little red flower, it helps to keep alive the kind of patriotism so necessary in this great country of ours. The Poppy we are distributing in return for a contribution is made by veterans – to remember veterans – and to help veterans.”  Donations made payable to ‘ALA Kiltonic Unit 72’ may be mailed to the American Legion Auxiliary, 64 Main Street, Southington, CT 06489. 
In the memo please write Poppy Program.

Freelance writer Dick Fortunato is a veteran of the Korean War, having served in the U.S. Army and the Army Reserves from 1951 through 1961. Comments welcome at

Saturday, May 21, 2016

American Legion Auxiliary Awards Book Grant to Southington Catholic

Books are the lifeblood of our continued learning through all of our years, especially from the earliest years of the education of our children. The American Legion Auxiliary Kiltonic Unit # 72 in Southington has long understood the significance of books in our lives. 

Susan Locks, president of American Legion Auxiliary
Unit 72 and Books Grant Award chairperson, Rachel Wache,
present book grant to Southington Catholic Principal
Mary Pat Wirkus. 

A recent academic awards ceremony at Southington Catholic School seemed to be a perfect occasion for the award of a Book Grant to the school in the amount of $486.00 from the American Legion Auxiliary, Kiltonic Unit #72.  Auxiliary President, Susan Locks and Book Grant Chairperson, Rachel Wache, presented the award to Principal Mary Pat Wirkus recognizing, with appreciation, Southington Catholic’s continuing efforts to enrich its library program. Locke noted that the Auxiliary’s literacy programs are funded by the proceeds of their two book drop off boxes, one located on High Street behind the YMCA and the second at the entrance to the Southington Drive-In on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike. The Drop Boxes, recently renamed Big Hearted Books, are still identified by its older name, Got Books, Wache said. 

"The  American Legion Auxiliary’s award to Southington Catholic brings the total of our grants since the program’s inception seven years ago to over $10,000.00, including previous grants to Southington H.S., DePaolo and Kennedy Middle Schools, many Southington elementary schools and the ALTA School, the YMCA’s after school literacy programs and the Southington Library. "

Southington Catholic's first scholastic year is nearing completion.  The school leadership, School Board, Faculty and Parents as well as students are looking forward to many exciting enhancements to school's curriculum and programs. Admissions applications for the 2016-2017 school year are being taken now. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Memorial Day: Honoring Our Veterans and Active Military Who Exemplify Service to County and Community

As published in Appleseed column of May 13, 2016 in the Southington Citizen, 

American Legion Veteran salutes the flag during Taps  2014
Photo by Margaret Waage

Monday, May 30, 2016 is Memorial Day, a day we set aside to remember the service of our millions of veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who fought to protect our freedom and our American way of life. 

Our hearts call us to express our deepest gratitude for those who have valiantly made the supreme sacrifice in service to their country and the men and women on active duty today.  But somehow the words do not come easy.

Ask a veteran what patriotic service is all about. You will hear various answers and you will learn that words alone cannot fully express their innermost feelings of gratitude for their fallen comrades in arms and for those who are putting their lives on the line today in all parts of the world. 

Rather than in words, you will see the meaning of patriotic service to God and Country in the ingrained actions of  service of veterans.

Consider an act of such service of eleven heroic veterans that took place on the morning of Saturday April 30th at St. Thomas Cemetery in Southington.
Clearing headstones at veterans graves in St. Thomas Cemetery -L to R John Tripp, Jack Osakowicz, Jim Botsacos,Bob Abbott, Steve Pintarich, Tom Nedjoika, Mike Nedjoika, Craig Jones, Pat Huntley, Ron Plourde, Dan Valente - Photo by Dick Fortunato
Eleven veterans, members of the American Legion Kiltonic Post 72, the Sons of the Legion Squadron 72, and the Southington Knights of Columbus, Isabella Assembly 122, came together with their weed-whackers, lawn mowers, cutting tools and other garden implements to clear the headstones and grave areas of veterans buried at St. Thomas Cemetery. The project included identifying and clean-up of the veterans’ graves before they went to work for about two hours making the graves and flag holders ready for placement of flags on May 21

On Memorial Day, May 30th, beginning at 7:30 am and until completion at 8:45 am, volunteers of the American Legion and the Marine Corps League will alternate visits and tributes to our fallen veterans at each of Southington’s twelve cemeteries and parks. 

Miss Southington 2014 at Memorial Day Paraade
Photo By Margaret Waage
Veterans’ organizations will jointly hold a flag raising ceremony at 8:45 am at Southington Care Center. The annual Memorial Day Parade with many civic organizations, school bands and local groups participating will form between 9:45 and 10:15 am and step off at 10:30 Miam.

A Memorial Ceremony honoring veterans will follow the parade at the steps of the American Legion Hall off the Town Green.

Now, as a community, Southington touches the hearts and needs of its neighbors in hundreds of ways every day. But Memorial Day ironically points out something interesting … that many veterans have carried forward, as a way of life, a strong spirit of service to God, Country, family and community not only on Veterans' Days, but on the rest of the rest of the 364 days of the year. 

A veteran, whether on active duty, retired, national guard or reserve, is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of up to and including my life. That is honor, and sadly there are too many people in our country who no longer understand it.  
                                              - Author unknown

Freelance writer, Dick Fortunato is a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War. Comments welcome at

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Remembering Our Heroes of the Noble Nursing Profession

This week, thoughts turn to the noble profession of nursing. Nurses and their partners in healing are often intricately connected, a lifeline to us, in times of distress, when the need for healing, caring and comforting is greatest. This week, May 6 to 12, is designated National Nursing Week, honoring the birthday of Florence Nightingale.  
Nursing is much more than a job. The true calling stems from an innate compassion to help the suffering and an inner passion for healing. That spark is seen even in aspiring young nursing students. Who has not witnessed the nurse’s call to duty at the hospital bedside of a loved one, in the operating room, or in an emergency room!

A professional healer who has made nursing her life’s work caught our attention when Hartford HealthCare at Home announced last December that Southington resident, Patricia Trotta, RN, MSN had received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Coalition to Improve End of Life Care.

A graduate of Yale School of Nursing, Trotta began as an oncology clinical nurse specialist and continued in that field for more than 25 years at the V.A. Hospital in Newington, continuing at Hartford Hospital and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Meriden, (now MidState Medical Center). In 2010. she  joined Hartford HealthCare at Home’s hospice team, serving in central and eastern Connecticut.

“We are so proud of the recognition Pat Trotta has received. The work she has done to advocate for hospice and palliative care in Connecticut has been a tremendous asset,” said Laurie G. St. John, RN, MSN, vice president of Hospice and Palliative Care, Hartford HealthCare at Home.
Trotta’s career has included working as program manager of the American Cancer Society’s New England Pain Relief Project in organizing pain education and advocacy initiatives throughout the region. She also was coordinator of the Connecticut Cancer Partnership and a founding co-chairwoman of the Partnership’s Palliative & Hospice Committee where she developed goals and objectives for the State of Connecticut’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan.
Trotta is a board member of the Connecticut Coalition to Improve End of Life where she has been instrumental in the coalition receiving two $30,000 grants from the Connecticut Cancer Partnership for projects of palliative and hospice care.  
The state called her into service when in 2013 Gov. (Daniel P.) Malloy appointed her to the Connecticut State Palliative Advisory Council which analyzes the current state of palliative care in Connecticut and advises the Department of Public Health on matters related to improving the quality of life for people with serious illnesses.
Trotta noted that Connecticut ranks 51st in the nation for length of stay on Medicare hospice care, (only 14 days compared to 23 days national level). That’s not enough time for a patient and family to receive the care that is available in palliative care that could help them experience a peaceful, comfortable and dignified death.
“People need to understand more about hospice and palliative care which is about relieving symptoms of patients with a life expectancy of months, not years,  where the focus is on quality of life or comfort care and the active management of pain and the psychological, social and spiritual issues often experienced during serious illness.” Trotta said. “We need to encourage conversation about personal end of life wishes. Too many do not discuss this with their families or physicians which results in multiple futile treatments. Most people prefer to die at home, but too many die in an ER or hospital.”
“None of us like to discuss end of life, but it is so important to make our wishes clear as the kind of care we prefer. Even our physicians have trouble talking to their patients about it. Over the past 30 years I have seen exciting growth and advances. Still, there are barriers to ensuring the high-quality palliative and hospice care that are available. I am encouraged in the certainty that Hartford HealthCare at Home will continue to provide leadership in this important care to Connecticut residents”.
Pat Trotta, who exemplifies the best in our nursing profession, also teaches a Barre Class at the YMCA in Southington on Monday mornings. 
As published in the Appleseed column in the Southington Citizen on Friday, May 13, 2016. Freelance writer Dick Fortunato welcomes reader comments at or in the Comments section below.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reflections of Love - Mother's Day Plus Two

Not too old to remember the precious moments
In the sweetness of early childhood
Taking in the wonders of the tiny universe around me
The world's troubles not mine

Moving forward in the journey of life
In the warmth of gentle caring arms
Her eyes, words and touch connecting
Nurturing me with the taste of love

Mother, gone now some forty years
Never forgotten, loved all this time
Serene, in the enduring uniqueness
Of that life giving kind of love

But sadly I weep now for the
Broken hearts and suffering spirits
Of broken families denied

That special love and peace

Be not lost in the darkness, I pray
Reach rather, for the light of
The merciful grace of God
Whose Spirit is a prayerful breath away

For as exquisite as is
Mother's love
God is love,
Perfection personified


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Knights of Columbus Assembly 122 Honors 4 Catholic Citizens of the Year

On Sunday, May 22nd, four special people, who have given our Southington and their church communities years of service, will be honored for their outstanding Catholic Citizenship by the 4th Degree Isabella Assembly 122 of the Southington Knights of Columbus.

The awards will be presented at a Luncheon at Hawk’s Landing CC from Noon to 3 pm on May 22nd.  All are invited to join in the celebration of the honorees by contacting Phil Mazzatti at 860 276 8228 or at Or simply mail a check of $28.00 per person directly to Phil Mazzatti at 59 Marcy Drive, Southington, CT.  Make checks payable to Knights of Columbus. 

This event is not held as a fundraiser. Instead it is an expression of the 4th degree principle of Patriotism. 

The Knights of Columbus follow four core principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Honoring those who have long demonstrated steadfast service to their faith and patriotism ... to church and community. 

This year's awardees are: Gloria Colonero, Nicholas DePaola, John J. Leary and Sr. Marie Roccapriore each of whom have demonstrated years of faithful and selfless commitment to Catholic Citizenship.

Gloria Colonero, a parishioner of 30 years at Mary Our Queen, along with her husband, Vincent, daughter, Kate and son, Greg are a Catholic family sharing what they have with others. Colonero’s parish activities include 3 years of service on the Parish Council, the Prayer Shawl Ministry and captain of the MOQ Relay for Life Team fighting cancer for ten years. A member of the Ladies Guild, Gloria is also an inspired member of 25 years on the Family Life committee. She hosts the All Souls Day Mass, annual Anniversary Mass receptions and volunteers at parish dinners and other functions. In the community, Gloria served as PTO President at South End School and was a member and president of the Junior Woman's Club of Southington; was an Indian Guides mom and a Girl Scouts leader and also worked with the Women's Auxiliary at Recreation Park. She   has volunteered in the neighborhood American Heart Association; the March of Dimes and continues her service of 19 years in the Relay for Life since its inception and is a member of the RFL Town Committee. Gloria is on the he Bread for Life Board of Directors, serving now as its fundraising events chairperson.

Nicholas DePaola, a Trustee of St. Aloysius Church for 44 years, has served his parish on the following committees: Stewardship, Renew, Building and Grounds, CCD Center Chairman, new heating system for church and HVAC system for the rectory and did the church’s snowplowing (35 years) and lawn mowing (15 years). , Nick was also a CCD teacher, CYO leader and a member of the Finance Committee, Parish Council and Holy Name Society. DePaola’s civic experience includes 16 years on the Southington Town Council, (3 as chair); 8 years as Police Commissioner, (2 as chair); 4 years on the Parks and Recreation Board, (2 as chair); and 20 years on the Town’s Permanent Building Committee. His service and leadership included many years of Little League Baseball, Jaycee, Park Basketball League, Kiwanis Club, Elks Club, Sons of Italy, UNICO, local Red Cross and the YMCA  Board.  A past Faithful Navigator the Knights, Nick’s service to Southington in his professional career in education included: elementary school teacher; Director of Southington Elementary Education; Adjunct Professor at CCSU and of Briarwood College Evening Division, Director of Briarwood Foundation and member of the Board of Trustees of the four state universities. Nick has been honored for community leadership by the Southington JayCee, New England Lieutenant Governors of the Kiwanis, Kiwanian of the Year, UNICO Gold Medal, St. Joseph Medal of the Archdiocese of Hartford and an Honorary Doctorate at Briarwood College.

John J. Leary is most proud to be the husband of Karen Matthews Leary and their children Lauren and Matthew. John is deeply committed to his immediate family, his mother and grandfather, 99 along with his strong Catholic Faith, and service to others. He is guided by a strong belief in the dignity of the human person and care for God’s creations. He is a graduate of Catholic elementary and high schools in Waterbury. He and his wife Karen feel blessed to be able to provide their children with the same high quality Catholic Education from kindergarten through college. John is a Distinguished Eagle Scout and an active member of 37 years in his original Boy Scouts of America troop 3 in Waterbury which he currently leads. John instills within boys the duties as Scouts to God, Country, Self & Others. His son Mathew is also an Eagle Scout.  John lives his faith and scouting duties with his service of years on the St Dominic Parish Finance Board, active membership of the Steering Committee of the merger of St. Dominic and St. Thomas School as the new Southington Catholic School and currently serves on its School Board. With a long history of community service, John is in his fourth term on the Southington Board of Finance, five years as its chairman, and is one of the Town’s financial architects of the cost-efficient funding of the past five years successful course in upgrading the Town’s infrastructure, technology and communications. In the professional world, John is Director of Financial Consolidations for Tronox Limited, a global leader in mining and chemicals who is credited not only in bringing business acumen to his work but also fostering excellent communication and collaboration that leads to increased group effectiveness and success.

Sr. Marie Roccapiore, M.P.F, a native of Meriden, CT and member of the Religious Teachers Filippini Community, Morristown, NJ , holds degrees from Villa Walsh College, Morristown; Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore; LaSalle Univ., Philadelphia; and Hartford Seminary, Hartford, CT.   Sr. Marie has taught at elementary schools in N.J., R.I., MD, CT and PA where she was principal of St. Nicholas Tolentine in Philadelphia. She was Director of Religious Education (D.R.E.) and Pastoral Minister and Coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in Connecticut parishes. Currently, Sr. Marie’s 20 year Apostolate at St. Thomas Church in Southington includes service as its DRE, direction of Spirit Joy Children’s Music Ministry which she founded for the purpose of bringing the Joy of the Holy Spirit to the sick and elderly in hospitals, nursing homes, health care facilities and assisted living residences. Together with 20 other local women, her Lap Blanket Prayer Ministry has brought comfort to those in local care facilities with more than 1,000 hand-knitted blankets. Sr. Marie has dedicated her life in service to God through service to others. She was recently honored by UNICO with its 2016 Gold Medal for “service above self.” 

Please, join Appleseed in applauding the service of these four among many in Southington who do so much to make our town great.

Southington Parents - Be in the Know about the Connecticut Host Law

I urge Southington Parents to read the following announcement and plan to attend a vital informational event that you need to know concerning the safety and health risks facing young people today.

The Reality and Impact of the Connecticut Social Host Law is sponsored by the STEPS Coaltion, Southington's Town-wide Efforts to Promote Success in Growing Great Kids, in collaboration with the Southington Police Department and the Wheeler Clinic.                                                                    
Dick Fortunato

Take one evening of your valuable time to protect the invaluable healthy growth of your kid!