After a mid-morning walk, we decided to do a little sightseeing on Hilton Head. With no destination in particular, we took a side road toward the north side of Hilton Head Island.
Within the first half-mile, we discovered no less than three historic African American churches.
Across the street from the latter was the Cherry Hill School
We continued exploring several other secondary roads, some hosting a dichotomy of small communities of Gullah … a people who are the descendants of enslaved Africans who inhabit the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia whose culture and religion and even Gullah language are unique … intermixed with newer housing developments and golf courses.
Our next stop was at Shelter Cove, an inlet and safe harbor for yachts and small watercraft.
as well as some “natives”.
One yacht owner, in particular had had his boat decked out for the Christmas season.
Before leaving the harbor area, we stopped in at the Marina’s Ship’s Store. There we saw one of the best models of the USS Constitution we’ve run across.
On a more serious note, the residents of Shelter Cove had dedicated a unique memorial to its and our nation’s veterans.
Along the many bike trails which crisscross Hilton Head Island there are painted palmetto trees on the bike paths indicating various historic locations.
We had intended to do some additional exploring but we continued to run into a requirement for passes … which cost money … such as driving to see the Harbor Lighthouse (which fortunately we’d visited in the past).
So, back to our motorhome, we settled in and Debbie got to watch most of the Rose Bowl Parade.
Another long drive today, but with relative light traffic … although we still haad some gusty winds out of the west.
Since leaving home, we have been surprised at how few police we’d seen thus far, particularly as it is a holiday period when many people are traveling long distances and the TV news had been reporting increased police presence. However, we did spot a couple of travelers who had the opportunity to meet some of North and South Carolina’s finest … up close and personal!
The only real traffic hold-up we had began after passing highway warning signs announcing
several miles in advance. The traffic quickly began to slow to a crawl in both southbound lanes, Then from our rear we heard the unmistakable whine of an ambulance trying to make its way past the stalled traffic, often straddling the shoulder.
Approaching the pinch point where the two lanes had to merge to a single line, annoying drivers persisted in speeding down the cleared right lane
in an effort to drive as far as possible before having to edge ahead of so many other courteous drivers who had “zippered” in an orderly manner. However, the real frustration was when we saw that the mile-long, one lane restriction was apparently unnecessary as there was zero work apparently being done, despite two trucks parked in the blocked lane and no evidence of any highway department personnel in sight.
There was, however, some levity along the way on the rear of two vehicles which passed us.
We made it to Hilton Head by early afternoon where we have a beautiful and private site
with a view of the Intercoastal Waterway out the front window of our motorhome.
This evening we had our New Year’s Eve dinner at the Sunset Grille
Leaving the restaurant, we took a few minutes to enjoy the adjoining marina
ant the heard the unmistakable sound of fireworks across the water.
Under crystal clear skies, the southern constellation of Orion and its recognizable “K” was clearly visible from the patio of our RV site.
Once again, by the time the ball drops over Times Square, we’ll likely have been fast asleep for some time.
After taking part in the campgrounds courtesy waffle breakfast, we continued our otherwise fairly boring journey south … hoping to get as far south as possible before a cold front with predicted strong winds and possible thunderstorms crossed through the I-95 corridor.
The most interesting thing we saw as the Woof.Bus, an old school bus which had been converted into a mobile vet’s office and treatment vehicle.
Debbie, however, not surprisingly focused her attention on old and dilapidated barns.
Over the course of our travels, we never cease to be amazed at the things people so desperately want to get rid of that they simply discard them along major highways.
Anyone need a burgundy arm chair?
While the rain storm fortunately petered out, the winds
out of the southwest were strong enough to occasionally buffet our motorhome and make driving a periodic challenge.
Between the Richmond area and the intersection of I-75 and I-4, just east of Tampa, four large Confederate flags can’t be missed.
We arrived in our Wade, NC campground around 1:00 PM. After being able to eat our lunch outside under partly sunny skies and a temperature reading of 76o, we “crashed” for the remainder of the afternoon.
With Christmas over, we had our motorhome de-winterized before bringing it over the clubhouse parking lot
where we were able to load it for our winter trip to Sarasota.
With heavy rains forecast along our intended route down I-95, we opted for an early start to get as far south as possible before encounter the precipitation. However, we were driving in a light fog as far south as the Key Bridge in Baltimore.
Shortly after rejoining I-95, we ran into the predicted rain.
However, the traffic was surprisingly light and we made our first 200 miles (including one stop) in just shy of 3½ hours. Then we got to Lorton, VA.
For some still unknown reason, the traffic then begins to back up and speeds can drop to zero.
Then, just as suddenly, it will spread out and highway speeds can again be achieved. However, the cause for the traffic jams remain a mystery … no construction, no visible accident and no other cause we could determine. And, this was not unusual, every year we find similar traffic conditions south of Lorton … as do nearly every other driver we speak with.
The bottom line was it took us some three hours to cover the final 90 miles!
By the time we reached Ashland, VA
the rain had pretty much stopped, although more is expected later this evening.
As with the last day of each of our prior trips, our drive home was with mixed emotions … especially for me. While we enjoy getting home, there is something about our vagabond routine and life-style on the road which I will miss before striking out on our next trip. And, this trip, in particular was special haivng completed visiting both the "official" presidential libraries/museums and final five state capitols (NY, VT, ME, RI and CT) we'd not previously toured; family (brother-and sister-in-law John and Judi Melby, cousin Sandy and Jeff Fitts, Diana Louis, cousin Sue and Bob Goodrich, friends Jean and Joe Dominguez, our daughter Nancy & family, brother-and-sister-in-law Dick Louis and Kate Morse and cousin Barbara and Ned Jenec), friends (Dorothy Milne and John & Jeanne Milne) and attending the memorial weekend in remembrance of our friend Ken Grenier, where we renewed many old acquaintences.
We had a beautiful sunny day with almost no winds to contend with during the entire trip. Before we even exited our Moodus, CT campground, we passed a motorhome whose driver had obviosuly been behind the wheel for way too long.
Next, was a home-made travel trailer built ot look like a caboose.
Before crossing a partially fog-shrouded Connecticut River
on the narrow East Haddem bridge
we passed by the Goodspeed Opera House
Goodspeed’s beginnings date back to 1963 when it opened our doors as a professional musical theater in an historic building on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam. From 1968 to 2014, Goodspeed transformed from a struggling entity into a non-profit arts organization with a mission to discover rarely produced musicals from the repertoire, reworking them and bringing them to life. The theater has produced over 250 musicals, including over 70 world premieres, and exported 21 productions to Broadway. Goodspeed stands as the first regional theater in America to earn two special Tony Awards, one in 1980 for outstanding contributions to the American musical and a second in 1995 for distinguished achievement for a regional theater.
We spotted the former Goodspeed Train Depot,
a Tractor on a roof and Chainsaw being used as a wind vane,
more signs that despite near record temperatures fall was not far away,
and crops in a freshly tilled field.
Merging onto I-95 in Old Saybrook, CT we spotted the first of several motorists who were clearly having a bad day.
There was a beautifully resotred wooden boat
as we were approaching New Haven
Then we spotted a couple of other motorists who must have figured it was not their day.
So far, the traffic had moved along at or close to the 65 MPH speed limit. Then, the first and longer of two slowdowns this one lasting some 20-plus minutes caused by a highway tree trimming crew. There was an osprey nest build near the top of a high-tension wire tower in Bridegport.
Then, traffic delay number two,
the result of major construciton rebuiilding the exit ramps off I-95 onto I-287 with two lanes merging into one and intermittend "stops". Once on I-287, the normally sluggish traffic moved right along and we were soon crossing the recently opened, nearly $4 billion Mario C. Coumo Birdge (which replaced the TapanZee in October 2018).
There was a pickle truck,
the third driver who was not going ot make it home on time for dinner
a sign you have to "study" to read
and yet another traveler who, despite his obvious rush, found time to meet a local state policeman.
Crossing the Delaware River just five miles form home
on the new Scudder Mill Bridge was a breeze
although now tolled.
Once back at Shady Brook, it took us a little more than two hours to unload, return our coach to the gated lot where we store it and pick-up our accumulated mail at the post office and get back home before the clock struck five … "wine time"!
Later I accessed my EZ-Pass account where I discovered that the toll for an RV on the new Scudder Mill Bridge was a staggering $17.00 … the most we've ever paid for any bridge and almost as expensive as the toll to drive from home to the Pennsylvania/Ohio state line!
This morning we drove 24 miles to Hartford to visit and tour Connecticut's state capitol … our 50th!
From the time we approached the Connecticut State House it was clear it was one of the most architectually magnificent.
The capitol's dome is 54 feet in diameter and rises 257 feet above the hill top on which it stands. Surrounding the gold dome are twleve allegorial statues (two of each of six muses) strategically placed such that from any angle six are always visible. Adorning the stairways to the third flood are replicas of these statues.
Education and Law
Force and War
On the facades of the capitol are 26 Gothic niches for sculptures (eight of these niches are presently empty – to be filled in the future)
and 17 tympana (carved scenes above the portals, several of whch are also empty) depicting notable events in the state's history.
The current building is the third capitol building for the State of Connecticut since the American Revolution. Prior to its occupancy, the state legislature, formally the General Assembly of Connecticut met alternately in New Haven
and Hartford. The First State House in Hartford served from 1720 until 1796,
Built circa 1720
when the adjacent and recently completed Old State House designed by Charles Bulfinch opened
After the Civil War, it became evident a single capitol was desirable and a competition between the two cities began. Ultimately, Hartford and the new sole capital needed one central capitol building.
The Connecticut state capitol building dominates a high point of ground overlooking Busnell Park, on property once owned by Washington College (not Trinity College). When Hartford won out over New Haven at the seat of state government, a commission was established to secure a site and select an architect to design a monumental structure that would symbolize the wealth and power of the state and its ties to its European cultural past.
The original design called for a modern secular Gothic brick building with a clock tower. In keeping with not only the allocated budget of $900,000, but for the then popular public architecture of the day. However, the clock tower concept met with resistance by the Board of Capitol Commissioners who preferred a dome. The budget was increased to $2.5 million and redesigned in a High Victorian Gothic style.
The exterior is of marble from East Canaan, Connecticut and granite from Westerly, Rhode Island. The building is roughly rectangular, the interior spaces organized around two open interior courts that run vertically to large skylights. In the center is a third circular open rotunda beneath the dome. The larger hall of the House of Representatives forms an extension on the south side.
The interior floors are inlaid with white marble and red slate from Connecticut and colored marble from Italy while the stenciling, stained glass windows and light fixtures were designed by a Boston company.
Atop the gold leaf dome originally stood the Genius of Connecticut, a 17’ 10” tall figure of a woman holding a wreath of Mountain Laurel (the state flower) in her left hand and a wreath of white oak (the state tree) leaves adorns her head. Her outstretched wings symbolize protection of Connecticut’s people. Weighing 6,000 pounds, the statue was cast of bronze in Munich and sat atop the state house until 1938 when the great hurricane of that year damaged it. Fearing it would topple, it was removed to the interior of the capitol.
Original Genius of Connecticut
An identical replica has been made and hopefully someday will be mounted on the capitol dome
Looking up from beneath the statue the interior of the domcan be seen far above
Climbing to the second and thrid floors the details of the dome's intricate painting become visible.
Actualy, our tour began in the adjacent Legislative Office Building (LOB) which is connected to the Capitol by an underground tunnel. The LOB is pretty remarkable itself.
Marble column is the only marble in the LOB which came from Conencticut
Stylized eagle rests atop the marble column
We really didn't apprecaite the three-dimensional floor pattern until looking at our pictures
State Seal – The grape vines represent the first three settlemnts in the Connecticut Colony (Windsor, Wethersfield and Hartford) or the first three colonies (New Haven, Saybrook and Connecticut which became Harford in 1665). The motto translates to "He who is transplanted still sustains"
Legislative Hearing Room
Each hearing room is named after the center panel on its door. These panels are made of individual pices of wood, incluing those which make up the writing on the above panel. Some 20,000-plus pieces were required to complete the paanel's image.
We then returned to the Capitol via a moving walkway
beside which were a number of extremely interesting and historic images
The Charter Oak
Christening of the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) in 1954 – the world's first atomic-powered submarine
Harriett Beacher Stowe – author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum – est 1842
James Mars (1790-1880) was a Connecticut slave who, with his family, refused to follow his master, a minister named Thompson, to Virginia, where he would have been denied the emancipation guaranteed him at age twenty-five under Connecticut law. With the help of the white citizens of Norfolk, Connecticut, Mars successfully evaded his master's attempts to kidnap and smuggle him across state lines. In his later life, he enjoyed a prominent place in New England's African American community
Connecticut native Samuel Clemens – aka Mark Twain
Merritt Parkway in 1939
Pvt. Henry Cornwall – First Connecticut Casualty of the Civil War – 1862
Windsor Tobacco fields and barn
Campaign for women's sufferage
Wethersfield Academy for Women – founded in 1804
A Yankee Peddler
The Algonquin Man
and a series of posters addressing the suicide crisis, in part the result of the opiod crisis.
The architecture throughout the building is nothing short of breathtaking.
Much of the color throughout the building is made from silver and gold leaf as, when originally painted, it was thought the silver and gold would reflect the then-used gas lighting better
Some of the many statues and artifacts on display throughout the building.
Connecticut's Liberty Bell – President Truman had 55 cast, one for each state and territory, part of a plan to help sell U.S. bonds
Forlorn Soldier – Oldest Wooden Statue in America
Fountain fed from an undergournd brook from whch legislators in the early days of the building drew water to give to their horses
Governor WIlliam A. Buckingham – Often working around the clock, the governor felt personally obliged to give his all to the state, even investing his own capital to help fund the war. On several occasions he took out personal loans to pay soldiers for their service. During the war, the governor kept in close contact with Union leaders, including President Lincoln, who recognized the remarkable effort that he put forth. However, the governor had to fight opposition in Connecticut. Criticism for the war and the Union littered the papers, but Buckingham kept Connecticut largely unified.
Hand-carved Wooden hallway bench
Orville Hitchcock Platt
Prudence Crandall – A Quaker abolitionist and teacher, Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) defied prevailing patterns of racial discrimination when she opened one of the first schools for African American girls in Connecticut in 1833. Though supported by leading anti-slavery activists, Crandall, a white woman, faced legal harassment and social ridicule for her efforts to educate free blacks in the North.
Born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island on September 3, 1803 to farmers Pardon and Esther Carpenter Crandall, Prudence Crandall moved with her family to Canterbury, Connecticut when she was ten years old. She attended the New England Friends’ Boarding School in Providence, where she studied arithmetic, Latin and science—subjects not typical for women but embraced by Quakers who believed in equal educational opportunities. She taught briefly in Plainfield, and in 1831 opened a private girl’s academy in Canterbury, where she initially taught daughters from the town’s wealthiest families. Ranked as one of the state’s best schools, her rigorous curriculum provided female students with an education comparable to that of prominent schools for boys.
In 1832, Crandall admitted Sarah Harris, an African American woman from a successful family, who sought to become a teacher. Local white parents were outraged, urging Crandall to expel Harris. She refused. When white parents withdrew their children, Crandall transformed her boarding school into one for African American girls. That, too, met with hostility from local white men who feared that it would draw more African Americans into their community and would lead to interracial marriage. White Canterbury townspeople continuously protested Crandall’s school.
When African American students ventured beyond the school, they were met with taunts, threats and violence. Some whites pelted them with eggs, stones or manure. When Crandall continued undaunted, the Canterbury legislature passed its 1833 “Black Law” (repealed in 1838), making it illegal to run a school teaching African American students from a state other than Connecticut. Crandall was arrested and jailed. Her first trial ended in a hung jury; the second trial resulted in her conviction, which was overturned by a higher court. On the night of September 9,1834, an angry mob broke most of the school’s windows and smashed furniture. Fearing for her students’ safety, Crandall finally closed the school.
Early phone booth with a double door to ensure privacy
Allegedly the remnant of an oak tree containing pieces of artillery fire that were supposedly from the Civil War battle of Chickamauga.
Figurehead for the USS Connecticut, the flagship for the "Great White Fleet" that sailed around the world on a goodwill misison arranged by Preident Theodore Roosevelt in 1907.
Figurehead of the USS Hartford
Sloop USS Hartford – flagship of Admiral David Farragut at the Battle of Manilia Bay, where he famously declared, "Damn the torpedoes."
Vietnam Memorial in Miniature – Three soldiers
Vietnam Memorial in Miniature – Nurses Memorial
Korean War Memorial in Miniature
World War II Iwo Jima Memorial in Miniature
Connecticut recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor
Hallway outside the House Chamber
Collumbus water dispenser
Behind the Dais is the Charter Oak Chair (or Wishing Chair – the seat of the Lieutenant Governor who is the presiding office and president of the Senate). Legend has it that if one makes a wish while sitting in the chair it will eventualy become true … and many Lieutenant Governors have, indeed wished to become Governor and ultimately done so.
What do you suppose we wished for?
Unfortunately, the Governor was in a conference and our schedule did not permit us to remain around to meet him, we were able to see his outer office.
As with other state capitols, there are always statues and monuments of note, recognizing the state's history and its veterans who have defended our natiion since the Revolution.
Marquis de Lafayette
Col. Thomas Knowlton is widely recognized war hero. His service during the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution are memorialized. Knowlton first saw military action when he enlisted as a private in Colonel Phineas Lyman’s Connecticut provincial regiment in 1757 during the Seven Years’ War (known in America as the French and Indian War). He fought in numerous important battles during the war, including the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga in 1758. His service culminated with the siege of Havana in 1762, by which time he had risen to the rank of second lieutenant.
Civil War's Andersonville Prison Memorial
Corning Fountain features Native Americans representing local tribes, with a deer on top. The city’s name literally means “hart ford,” as in “a place where deer cross a river,”
First Connecticut Heavy Artillary (1860) – Internet photo
Nearby buildigns we had time to see included
Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
City skyscraper and landmark – Traveler's Building
After leaving the Capitol building, we walked across the street to the Supreme Court building.
Old wall drinking fountain
As the Court was hearing a Freedome of Speech case (I listened in for several minutes), we could obviously not wander around it and take pictures. However, the following photo from the Internet does capture some of the grandeur of the court room.
We were, however, able to visit the state library in the building
There is an early mechanical voting machine, patented in the 1890s and still used up through the 1956 elections
and a special casting recognizing the contributions fo Pratt Whitney to the state and City of Hartford.
Parenthetically, my dad worked for Pratt Whitney (which was the largest manufacturer of air craft engines for American forces) during World War II … and the reason I was born just 1½ from the Capitol at St. Francis Hospital.
However, the most important exhibits involved Connecticut's three most important historical documents
The Fundamental Orders (1639)
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was an early agreement between the colonial communities of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor that established a representative government based on the example of a number of Massachusetts colonies. It's arguably the very first constitution of the American colonies and expanded Representative Government by allowing land owners to vote. Inspired by Thomas Hooker's sermon of May 31, 1638, they provided the framework for the government of Connecticut colony from 1639 to 1662. It expanded the idea of Representative Government by allowing non-church members to vote and limits the power of government. This document is also the justification for Connecticut being called the "Constitution State".
The Royal Charter of 1662 – signed by King Charles II
After the English Parliament restored the monarchy in 1660, and King Charles II assumed the English throne, Connecticut which had never been officially recognized as a colony by the British government, the General Court determined that the independence of Connecticut must be legitimized. Governor John Winthrop, Jr. was sent as an emissary to negotiate with the English government, and set sail for England on July 23, 1661. He proved successful in his mission, and the English attorney general approved a bill for incorporation of the Connecticut Charter. The document was returned to Connecticut after being officially sealed and registered, and was adopted by the General Court on October 9, 1662
Charles’s death in 1685 brought his brother, James II, to the throne. King James disapproved of the Royal Charters and demanded their return. The charters interfered with James’s plan to establish the Dominion of New England.
In 1687, Sir Edmond Andros, the Royal Governor of the Dominion, met with leaders of the Connecticut colony in Hartford. Debates continued for hours as the colonists steadfastly refused to give up the Charter. According to legend, all of the candles in the meeting house suddenly blew out and, during the confusion, the Charter disappeared. It was hidden in the trunk of a large white oak tree where it was protected from the King and from Andros. Despite Connecticut’s resistance, it became part of the Dominion of New England for the next two years. In 1689 James II was overthrown and Andros lost power in the colonies. The Connecticut Charter emerged from hiding and was used to govern Connecticut until 1818.
On August 21, 1856, the Charter Oak, estimated at nearly 1,000 years old, fell down during a violent storm. Original artifacts made from its wood, along with numerous images, are on display at the Connecticut Historical Society and continue to tell the legend today.
The State Constitution of 1818
Unlike most of the original colonies, Connecticut did not adopt a constitution when it became a state. Instead, it continued to operate under a charter granted by King Charles II to the Connecticut Colony in 1662. Under the charter the general assembly had pretty much unchecked power. Although in other respects the way the state operated was extremely democratic in principle (elections were held every six months, for example), it didn’t quite work that way in practice.
A convention met in the Old State House in Hartford from August 26 to September 16, 1818. There were about 200 delegates, one or two from each town in the state. Governor Wolcott was elected president of the convention. A 24-member drafting committee submitted a document for consideration. After some changes to the committee’s draft, on September 15, 1818, approved the finished product by a vote of 134 to 61.
The constitution had to be approved by a majority vote of the state’s electors. The vote was close. On October 5, 1818, the electors ratified the constitution by a vote of 13,918 to 12,364. As a result of the process the promise of the Preamble to the Connecticut Constitution was realized. The constitution was established by “the people of Connecticut.”
The Connecticut Constitution begins with a Declaration of Rights which has remained surprisingly intact during the last 200 years. A lthough there is a substantial overlap with the Bill of Rights to the Federal Constitution adopted in 1791, the overlap isn’t complete. Connecticut’s Declaration of Rights contains some rights not provided in the federal version, and some rights that are provided in both versions have been treated more expansively by the Connecticut courts than by the federal courts.
It contains three important rights not found in the Federal Bill of Rights. Section 1 provides “that all men when they form a social compact are equal in rights; and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.” Section 10 provides that “No person shall be arrested, detained or punished, except in cases clearly warranted by law.” Section 12 provides that “All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his person, property or reputation, shall have remedy by course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.”
After leaving Hartford, we had lunch with Debbies cousin Barbara and her husband Ned. While it was wonderfult to see them we were shcoked to learn that it had been 19 years since we'd last been together.
Heading off-Cape, we passed the first of many state police across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut who had pulled over drivers.
We crossed the Cape Cod Canal over the Sagamore Bridge
From there a pretty uneventful and frankly boring drive to Fall River
where below the Taunton River Bridge the USS Massachusetts (BB-59) is moored …
and where I took a scout troop for an overnight more years ago than I care to remember.
Approaching Providence the traffic suddenly backed up … and for a good reason.
\There were also a couple of humerous company "signs" …
as was the skeleton riding on the back of a semi which passed us.
Leaving the Interstates, we began to see some evolving fall foliage
After crossing the Connecticut River
we found ourselves on some narrow two-lane roads
to reach the Grandview Camp Resort and Cottages …
formerly the Grand View Resort and Day Camp.
In 1946, the Pivnick family was inspired by the beautiful view from a hillside in Moodus, Connecticut. They envisioned a vacation place where families could get away from their everyday life in the city and enjoy the fresh air and relaxing atmosphere of the country. Their vision then became The Grand View Resort and Day Camp.
The family built a hotel, a playhouse, cottages and a swimming pool. For the next 30 years, city folks flocked to the Moodus countryside. It was just like the movie "Dirty Dancing". By 1975 air travel, cruising and RV camping became more affordable and the resort in Moodus became a thing of the past.
The Grand View Pool about 1946 – 1974
Soon after the resort closed it became the home of The Torah Institute, a Jewish heritage learning center and retreat. They enjoyed summers here for about 20 years.
For a short time after the resort became a basketball camp for city kids.
With no one caring for the once happy, full of life resort, things soon turned into a sad state of disrepair. Vandals and trespassers were stealing and destroying the property and buildings.
Today it is a very pretty campground …although without the owner's "last mile" directions, as opposed to using our GPS, we'd still be driving around and totally lost.
Statisticaly, we went over 92,000 miles of RV traveling on this, our 1,401st day on the road.
On Friday we drove to Eastham (Cape Cod), MA to be a part of the celebration of the life of our best friend, Ken Grenier.
While Debbie spent time with Ken's wife and her dear friend, Cheri
and other friends, specifically including Ken's & Cheryl's and our very close friends Robert and Sue Ann Gildersleve
I had the pleasure and honor of playing golf with Ken's 15-year old grandson,
Kenny on both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning on two courses (Highland Links in Truro
and Captain's in Brewster) special to his grandfather.
Terry Finn (Ken's Brother-in-Law, Grandson Kenny and Dick at Captain's Golf Course
Kenny using his grandfather's golf cart and head covers
Sunday afternoon was dedicated to a casual party to remember and celebrate Ken … with more than 50 people attending, some traveling from as far away as Arizona, Montana and Michigan.
After Ken's daughter spoke both Debbie and Ishared some of our thoughts and recollections about the fifty-two-plus years we'd known Ken.
Remembering My Friend Ken Grenier
My name is Dick Newbert.
I know Cheryl, Jacque, Kim and Kenny truly appreciate everyone being here today!
My wife, Debbie, and I have been fortunate to have been able to call Ken and Cheryl our dearest friends since 1966 … and probably known them longer than almost everyone else here this afternoon.
Debbie and I were married on June 10th of that year and the following morning were at Logan Airport on our way to a Bermuda honeymoon. At one point I found myself seated outside the ladies room beside another young twentysomething who had gotten married just hours earlier and was also headed to Bermuda. While patiently waiting, our intermittent banter came down to macho joking as to whether this was what married life was going to be all about.
Unbeknownst to us, our wives had spoken before emerging from the ladies room.
An hour or so later, we found ourselves in boarding line right behind this same individual and his new bride. He, or maybe it was his wife … no one is sure a half century later who was the culprit … dropped his Old Spice After Shave which shattered and splattered on the tile floor … at which point we found out his name when his wife, with a combination of frustration and disbelief, yelled; “Oh, Kenny!”
We didn’t know it at that moment, but while helping them pick-up the pieces of the broken bottle, our incredibly special, fifty-three year plus relationship began.
It must have been fate … as we found ourselves seated behind them on the plane … followed directly behind them going through Customs … caught the next cab after them … and, although booked at neighboring resorts, we had to register at Mermaid Beach where they were staying and arrived to check-in as they were headed for their room.
On the spur of the moment, we decided to get together the following morning … which turned into a non-stop week of exploring the entire island, eating our lunches and dinners, and just hanging out around Mermaid Beach’s pool and beach together. And, as Bermuda is a left-hand drive country, navigating our rented Mopeds produced some exciting moments.
Our most memorable late afternoon and evening was at the Reefs Resort. Arriving well before the dinner hour, we enjoyed several rounds of drinks as we looked out over a gorgeous, aqua blue ocean. A very leisurely dinner and more alcohol followed. Eventually, we found ourselves the only patrons left at some time around or possibly after midnight.
As we had arrived on our Mopeds, it only seemed logical at the time that they should be our means of transportation back to our motels. Climbing on our individual scooters, we headed down a narrow and unlit roadway. Fortunately, there was no traffic.Ken was the leader of our motley caravan, followed by me and further back Debbie and Cheryl bringing up the rear. Ken, possibly more concerned with keeping his scooter upright than where we were, slowly pulled away from us.
Suddenly, Cheryl, Debbie and I were passed by a threesome of other late night revelers also on Mopeds. As the trio pulled up behind Ken, he must have assumed they were his wife and new-found friends, at which time he picked up his speed … and soon his tail lights and those of the folks who’d passed us disappeared over a distant hill.
From behind, I believe I again heard those so oft spoken words, “Oh, Kenny!”
At some point the three motor-bikers passed Ken who suddenly realized we were nowhere in sight. Wondering where we were he pulled over and waited. Several minutes later we finally caught up to a clearly embarrassed but relieved Ken Grenier.
After an unforgettable week, the four of us returned to Boston on the same flight, after which Debbie and I and Ken and Cheryl bid a sad farewell and hoped we could get together in the future, deep down knowing such one-week relationships rarely last.
However, just three months later we found ourselves living less than an hour apart … Ken and Chery in Bridgeport, CT (where they lived with their pet rabbit which delighted in chewing electrical wires behind their couch) and Debbie and I in Dobbs Ferry, NY. We made a point of getting together in both places.
After we moved back to the Boston area and Ken and Cheryl relocated to Sandy Hook, CT, distance, careers and child raising kept us from seeing much of each other, getting together only very occasionally for a number of years. However, our friendship not only didn’t suffer, it actually grew. When we did get together, it was like we’d seen each other just the day before.
During one of our infrequent visits to see Ken and Cheryl in Sandy Hook we went out to dinner at the Copper Mine Restaurant on Stevenson Dam. Suddenly, Ken and I found ourselves … once again … amazingly misunderstood and misjudged … and for some still vague reason were asked to leave. Cheryl and Debbie, however, had their own theories and were remarkably silent toward us … for several days!
On another occasion Ken and I got back from playing golf to find my son, Doug, had gotten in to and apparently swallowed some Sweet Pea seeds and had been whisked off by Debbie and Cheryl to the local hospital to have his stomach pumped. The moral of this story, as we later “learned” had we’d been watching the kids instead of playing golf, this problem would never have occurred.
As most of you know, Ken was a high school basketball star and good enough to earn a scholarship to Bridgeport University. Once there he began to discover he was playing with and against many other super stars from their respective high schools. He loved to tell the story of a game, against Seton Hall, when his team grabbed a defensive rebound and tossed Ken a breakaway pass. Ken dribbled down the court at full speed and went for the easy layup when, as he described it, all he saw was a huge hand slam his shot back in his face. His dreams of someday playing in a Celtics uniform died that night.
As we have a family cottage in Brewster on Cape Cod … just 5 miles from here … Ken and Cheryl became the only couple we ever invited to stay with us. On this fateful week, they fell in love with the Cape but concurrently discovered Jacque and Kim were deathly afraid of our dog. Soon thereafter, canines, beginning with Cassie, became full-fledged members of their family for many years.
During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s I had to travel from our home in Massachusetts and later New Hampshire to the Norfolk, VA or Washington DC areas for my annual two-week Naval Reserve active duty training. I was fortunate to have an open invitation from the Greniers to stop and have dinner and/or even spend the night on my treks going and returning from these trips.
On one occasion, Cheryl’s meatloaf dinner became infamous. Whether or not it tasted as “unique” Ken and I recollected it became humorous folk lore. Cheryl still swears it was just a missing ingredient. However, I can vouch for the fact that Cheryl is a really good cook … when she cooks!
On another trip to Norfolk, I stopped in Sandy Hook during which time Ken and I had a way too many beers before I continued my drive south. After I had left Ken and Cheryl were worried sick that they’d let drive in my condition. Fortunately, I safely reached a motel at the southern end of the New Jersey Turnpike.
There is another story, which, as I was not there, is only hearsay. Apparently, one day Cheryl asked Ken to dispose of their rabbit hutch. Next time she checked, it was gone. Ken had come through, again! Shortly thereafter, Cheryl received a call from a neighbor asking … you guessed it … for Ken to please pick-up the rabbit hutch. In response to his wife’s request, he had walked to the end of his driveway, crossed the street and unceremoniously disposed of it in the neighbor’s woods.
While not there, I can clearly hear; “Oh, Kenny!”
The four of us returned to Bermuda twice, in 1984 and again in 1998 to celebrate our 18th and 32nd anniversaries. On our last trip, Ken and I were fortunate enough to wrangle a free round of golf at the exclusive Castle Harbor Golf Club.
And while on the subject of golf. While I enjoyed the game, it was a passion for Ken.
He played at every opportunity and his trip to Scotland to play and Old Course at St. Andrews and other iconic courses was one of the highlights of his life.
Those of you who had the opportunity to play golf with Ken know he was not a slave to fashion … with some of his hats, in particular, looking like they predated the invention of the game.
Their love for the Cape first brought them to Wellfleet where purchased a small cottage where we visited on a number of occasions. To no one’s surprise it was less than a mile from the Chequessett Golf Course where Ken became a regular.
After Ken’s retirement and their move to Eastham, we began to get together more often. However, retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and Ken, needing an outlet and wanting to supplement his pension, became a Ranger at Truro’s Highland Links Golf Course and a seasonal tax preparer for H&R Block … both providing him with some pretty amusing stories about the people he encountered.
Ken and I often teased Cheryl about Ken’s grueling year-round work schedule during his retirement years. He could legitimately justify he worked twelve months in every a year … to which Cheryl would point out that while technically accurate, in some months he worked only a single day. Ken would just smile and claim Cheryl had proved his point.
Two New Year’s Eves with them at the Cape stand out. One where the four of us rented a tiny cottage in Eastham and attended some frigid First Night celebrations in Chatham.
Another year after they purchased their Eastham home, we were staying there and again planned to take in some local First Night activities. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and we found ourselves literally snowed it. As always, when with Ken and Cheryl we had a great time and were still fast asleep well before the ball dropped in Times Square.
If laughter is any measure of a relationship, then ours with Ken and Cheryl was a 20 on a 10-point scale. We could have fun going out to dinner, taking trips to Provincetown or Sarasota’s Siesta Beach Drum Circle, sitting around playing cards and other games or just talking. I sometimes think we treasure the latter the most!
Ken and Cheryl have always had an amazing circle of friends. Over the years we were counted ourselves lucky to become part of that special group which included Robert and Sue Ann Gildersleve – Jim and Sue DeCarlo – Doug and Penny Frank – Steve Helman – George Fernandez – Ron and Martha Hyams – Chuck and Jan Zimmer, to name just a few.
After Ken and Cheryl purchased their place in Sarasota and we began spending the winters there, we spent time with them almost daily. Ken loved it there … especially sitting on the patio he’d set up under their carport. I can’t begin to count the number of hours the four of us spent together there.
Over the years, Ken and I also found time to play a lot of golf while Debbie and Cheryl did whatever Debbie and Cheryl wanted to do. And, thanks to Cheryl’s wonderful hospitality, we seemed to have dinner at their place several nights a week throughout the winter. Ken’s mealtime assistance, aside from occasionally grilling, was wiping down the glass topped dining table with Windex sometimes as the dishes were still being removed.
There was one evening we were having hamburgers and a salad when I began to choke. On the way to the kitchen, as throwing-up on the table seemed somewhat impolite, I did a face plant on the floor… and Ken had to rush me to the hospital for several stitches. However, my accident delayed our departure from Sarasota for a week … more time to spend with Ken and Cheryl.
Frequently, after dinner Ken and I would inhale slices of Der Dutchman’s incredible chocolate cream pies or raid Cheryl’s freezer for some Klondike Pies or Fat Boys. Predictably, and in spite of Cheryl’s and Debbie’s pleas to be careful, both of us would inevitably end up with chocolate gracing the fronts of our shirts. Only two of the four of us found it humorous.
Another morning back on the Cape, on the way to play an early morning round of golf at Highland Links, Ken wanted to stop for, of all things, cream puffs. And these cream puffs were huge! We got back in the car and headed for the course while trying to eat the cream puffs. They were delicious but also full of a whipped cream filling … which squirted all over both of us. With no napkins, we were pretty well covered by the time we reached the course. All we could to is lick our fingers and laugh at the situation. However, we were unquestionably the sweetest twosome on the course that day.
Debbie and I were shocked and heartbroken when Ken called us with news of his illness in the fall of 2016. Shortly thereafter, we coordinated a surprise visit with Cheryl. When we walked into their Eastham home, Ken had a look for surprise and delight we’ll never forget. Our planned two day visit stretched into nearly a week.
Being a realist, Ken knew the seriousness of his cancer and faced several treatment options. He chose a path which permitted him to enjoy nearly a year and one-half of golf and normality (other than for his treatments), both on the Cape and in Florida.
In January of 2018, Kim and Terry visited them in Florida and the six of us took a day trip to Everglades City for an air boat trip through the Everglades. Ken and I had our picture taken that day [will show a copy of the photo] …