Memorial Day in Hampton – A Slice of Americana

“The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.”  –   Thomas Campbell

By Bill Powers

Visiting the Hampton General Store on a regular basis has become a happily anticipated occurrence for us. There is a large selection of ice cream sodas available at the soda fountain, including my personal favorite a root beer float. We always look forward to taking home delicious frozen or refrigerated prepared meals available from a large assortment.  Always a treat are the freshly baked goods from a good selection of brownies, cookies, cakes or pies. We are always greeted by a welcoming and smiling face and by Brutus the friendly resident canine who inhabits the store during the day. 

   As my wife and I were approaching the front door on our last visit, we read an announcement printed on a chalkboard calling attention to the Hampton General Store’s participation in Hampton’s upcoming Memorial Day Observance (May 27th). See a photo of the chalkboard notice which accompanies this article. This year the Hampton General Store will participate in Memorial Day activities at the store’s location across Main Street from the Library and Congregational Church. 

   Further investigation revealed that there are detailed plans that should prove to be engaging for anyone who participates in Hampton’s Observance of Memorial Day on May 27th. Thanks to Bob Grindle, who is the chairman of Hampton’s Memorial Day Planning Committee, I was able to learn about the plans for their remarkable program. 

    A parade is scheduled to begin assembling in front of the Hampton Congregational Church at 9:00 am; stepping off at 9:30 am. Those walking in the parade won’t have to do so on an empty stomach since there will be a pancake breakfast at the Congregational Church from 8 to 9:30 am. At 10:00 am a Memorial Day Ceremony with speakers and a recognition of our Veterans will follow at the Town Hall. 

   At that time John Tillinghast will provide opening remarks. This will be followed by: 1) the Invocation by Reverend Alan Freeman; 2) the “National Anthem” sung by Micelle Brett, during which local Scouts will walk to the flag pole and perform a flag ceremony… raising from ½ staff to full height – then lowering it back to ½ staff; 3) placing of the memorial wreath commemorating fallen veterans to the side of the Memorial Monument; 4) a gun salute by the National Guard “firing detail” and the reading of  the names of recently deceased Hampton veterans by Stan Crawford; 5) Taps and Echo Taps played by the Parish Hill band – followed by a moment of silence; 6) the singing of one verse of “America the Beautiful” by Perry Mandanis; 7) a medley of military service themes during which veterans who are attending will be asked to stand and be recognized; 8)) the introduction of the First Selectman; 9) a Retrospective on the passing of Hampton’s last WWII veterans and a brief history of the Korean War/conflict (the subject of this year’s program; 10) speakers; 11) PHMHS Band performing the “National Anthem” led by Benjamin Loomis; 12) military members who are currently serving read by Stan Crawford; 13) the presentation of the Marsh-Chesters Awards; 14) singing of “God Bless America” by Ms. Bonnie Cardwell and Ms. Renee Cuprak; 15) announcement of the Float Winners;16) Recognition Announcements; 17) Benediction by Pastor Paula of the Hampton Congregational Church.

   Jane Ireland and her equestrian drill team will perform on the ball field immediately after the ceremony. The Annual Chicken BBQ will begin at 11:30 am at the Community Center. The local band, The Barstool Diplomats will be performing during the afternoon in the Community Center. 

  At 12 noon there will be a brief Little River Naval ceremony – It will take place on the Little River bridge at the base of Hammond Hill. Participants will gather flowers and release them to the water in honor of those veterans lost at sea.

  In Hampton Memorial Day is a day-long observance designed to involve everyone in this small town to honor and mourn those who made the supreme sacrifice for America. The way they go about it, is a good way; an incredible way to remember and pay tribute. It is a slice of Americana that should be emulated far and wide.

   Members of The Hampton Memorial Day Planning Committee are: Bob Grindle; Morris Burr; Allan Cahill; Jerry Mizak; Renee Cuprak; Dayna Arriola and John Tillinghast

Good Health Care is Essential in Our Pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness

Stonewall – delay or block (a request, process, or person) by refusing to answer questions or 

by giving evasive replies, especially in politics.                                            

-Oxford Languages 

By Bill Powers

Recent stonewalling by employees and officials from Hartford Healthcare (HHC), Windham Hospital (WCMH), the State Office of Health Strategy (OHS), the Governor’s Office, and even Trinity College about the recent decision to “Terminate Inpatient Obstetric Services” at WCMH has regrettably been my experience while attempting to research this story. It’s as if they would like to bury the story in hopes it will simply go away and protect their interests.   

Access to affordable quality health care is essential for all of us in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. However, our current so called health care system is inequitable for far too many. Widespread racial, wealth and income disparities and where you may live – rule the day. What is evident is the growing number of maternity deserts as part of the closure of core healthcare services and entire hospitals in some urban and many rural areas of America. There exists an inability for many people to afford needed pharmaceuticals. There is an ever- increasing inability to provide adequate numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, as our population ages. These in addition to other critical factors (such as health care monopolies, lack of effective government initiatives and private insurance profiteering) threaten the ability of many Americans to be afforded their inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The persistent gaps in health care for people of color, women, and the economically disadvantaged often are affected by prejudice and therefore may constitute a violation of civil rights.

Leah Ralls, the President of the local Windham/Willimantic Branch of the Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP, believes “that the actions of Hartford Health Care/ Windham Hospital and Connecticut State Office of Heath Strategy’s joint final decision on December 1, 2023 to permanently close our WCMH Maternity Unit violates the civil rights for many of our neighbors who are entitled to adequate health care.” Her organization works to assure equity and justice for all. 

STONEWALLED at Trinity College –   You might be wondering how Trinity could be involved with the HHC/WCMH closing of an inpatient maternity unit. Trinity College’s President, Dr. Joanne Berger – Sweeney, is also the Chairman of HHC’s Board of Directors.  Exactly fifty years ago, I received a Master’s degree at Trinity. Any expectation that it might provide me an opportunity for at least five minutes to speak with the president turned out to be only a pipedream. Answers to a few simple questions is what was being sought: 1) How much information about the concerns of our local elected and appointed officials and residents concerning the very unpopular termination of obstetric services at WCMH was provided to the HHC Board? 2) Were they apprised of the issues and concerns raised by the people’s voices – the voices of our neighbors? 3) Did they consider allowing community input for their decision?  4) Was the HHC board decision approved before or after the abrupt closure of the maternity unit and the earlier closing of the ICU? My attempts by phone last December to schedule an interview with Berger-Sweeney were finally answered by Kristen Cole on January 2nd (who has a long title: Senior Director of Strategic Content and Media Relations). She answered in an email that: “Unfortunately, she (Berger-Sweeny) can’t pursue this opportunity.” So much for helping out a writer doing research for a story who is also an alumnus and the recipient of four national literary awards. Not yet discouraged, I contacted Jason Rojas who works as the President’s Chief of Staff and Associate Director for External Affairs (an even longer title). If his name is familiar to you, it may be because of his PART-TIME job; he is a member of the General Assembly and the Majority Leader. He said he would look into it and get back to me. After several weeks, when I had not heard back, I contacted him again, since my deadline for submission of my story for the March issue of Neighbors was approaching. When he asked for more specific information about the purpose for speaking with the president, I told him. Clearly agitated, he replied that “Being the president of Trinity and the Chairman of Hartford Health Care’s Board are not at all connected!” Somewhat insulted, and desperately working to hold back a laugh, I replied: “Do you honestly believe that if she was not Trinity’s president, she would be the chairman of the HHC Board? The connection seems pretty clear to me!”  But he would considerate it – I never heard back!


The East Region of Hartford Healthcare includes both Backus Hospital in Norwich and WCMH in Willimantic. It has its own board of directors, separate from the HHC board. After being refused an interview with the East Region’s president, I began to contact members of their board of directors. The first person I reached was the board’s chairman, a bank president, whose bank has 12 branches headquartered in Norwich. I told him I was writing a story and would like to interview him. As soon as he learned the story was about the terminated inpatient obstetric service at WCMH, he apologized and said that he was “not supposed to discuss that” and referred me to a HHC public relations contact in Hartford. None of the following members returned my calls. (I never heard back!): A wound care surgeon who according to his office works for HHC and only practices at Bachus Hospital; A retired long term human resources director for the City of Norwich; A medical internist, possibly retired; A Hartford attorney; A college professor at Quinnipiac University; and, an HHC physician working at Natchaug Hospital. Eventually, I was able to briefly penetrate the protective shell to have a conversation with a board member who resides in a Connecticut coastal community and previously taught in my graduate clinical/community psychology program. For many years, he had been an administrator with HHC and he is very positive about “the many things HHC had done to improve healthcare provided by WCMH.” He told me that “the board met three or four times a year and generally discussed issues centered around safety.” As far as learning about the “details” for who, what, when, where, and why the decision was made to terminate the inpatient maternity unit at WCMH, he referred me to the HCC East Region president. That is where I started!  So, it was back to square one and I had gone full-circle. However, I decided to take still another whack at it, because it seemed as though there definitely could be an interesting “other side” of this story to tell. In my email of January 26, 2024 to Donna Handley, senior vice president of HCC and president of the East Region, I told her that a board member referred me to her and I included 8 questions (which I had also shared with Rebecca Stewart, HHC Vice President of Media Strategy and the East Region Board Chairman). I assured president Handley: “My intention has been to gather factual information to include in my writings for a fair and balanced presentation.” I never heard back! It seems that she has placed the last stone in a barrier to provide facts from the East Region organization. It is striking that the East Region Board of HHC seems to be filled with present and former HHC employees and with others connected to Norwich, while appearing to lack adequate representation from the Windham area. 



To me, the December 1, 2023, OHS press release about the final decision to terminate obstetric services at WCMH and negotiated by OHS with WCMH/HHC continues to be incomprehensible. It purports to replace a maternity unit with a birthing center, if, after commissioning a study, WCMH/HHC still wants to do it. The unit had suddenly been closed three-and-a- half years earlier. The delays and blocking of attempts to obtain facts about the why, who, when, and where that decision was made can only be characterized as stonewalling. Most of my questions addressed to OHS are unanswered. Some have received evasive replies. For instance, “What are the names and titles of the persons who were involved in the negotiations?” –  the answer – “Attorneys and staff members.” After consulting with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, an FOI request was made on December 14, 2023 for records of the OHS and WCMH/HHC negotiations.  Eventually, I received an answer from OHS on February 26,2024 stating: “the records requested are exempt from disclosure under FOIA for the following reasons… 1. Preliminary drafts or notes provided the public agency has determined that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. 2. ‘Trade secrets’ or ‘Commercial or financial information given in confidence, not required by statute.’ 3. ‘Communications privileged by the attorney-client relationship’.” This has been followed-up by a chain of verbal and written communications with the FOI Commission and Daniel Csuka, OHS staff attorney and hearing officer, about challenging this decision by way of an appeal. (On March 26, 2024, as I was proofing this story for submission to NEIGHBORS, Mr. Csuka agreed to a meeting during the first week of April to discuss in more detail the reasons OHS denied my complaint.) My questions include: how the interests of our abandoned local moms and newborns were represented in the process; what evidence was presented at hearings in defense of the patients who would suffer limitations and possible irreversible harm from the OSH decision; and, were violations of civil rights considered? Can’t OHS redact “trade secrets” and unrelated “financial information”? Whose attorney-client privileged communications are being addressed – those of HHC or OHS? Were the issues expressed by our local government officials who intensely voiced their concerns against the injustice, lack of transparency and absence of community involvement by HHC taken into consideration as evidence?    


I have previously written in Neighbors that local elected officials have discussed their concerns over the termination of obstetrical services at WCMH directly with the governor and lieutenant governor. The final decision to do so, after it was abruptly closed years earlier, was made by “OHS Executive Director Deidre S. Gifford. She retained ultimate decision-making authority” (OHS communication). On February 6, 2024, Julia Bergman, Communications Director for the Office of the Governor, wrote me that: “Dr. Gifford in her role as Executive Director of OHS, serves also as the Senior Advisor for Health and Human Services to Governor Lamont. She reports to Governor Lamont. Governor Lamont is strongly supportive of Dr. Gifford’s work to increase health care access and reduce healthcare costs for Connecticut residents.” Bergman was responding to my January 18, 2024, email requesting the organizational relationship between Gifford and Lamont (after OHS failed to respond) and who assesses Gifford’s performance, and a description of the process. You’ll notice that Bergman only addressed the first part. When I requested the missing information, she replied on February 6th: “I will get you info about the evaluation process. I would not make any assumptions. I am not positive that there is a formal evaluation process for the commissioners but I want to confirm that.” On March 15th I requested the information again and asked for her source when she provides it. I never heard back! 


The stonewalling I have experienced by so many is remarkable. So many have declined to talk about the details of how and why Windham Community Memorial Hospital was allowed to terminate its inpatient obstetric services. It is questionable that such a strange final decision was negotiated by the OHS executive director, Deidre S. Gifford. Fortunately,  It has been refreshing to talk with the dedicated members from Windham United to Save Our Health Care (WUSH) as well as local elected and appointed officials from our area towns who continue to be advocates for quality health care for all of our neighbors, while thankfully providing useful and factual information.

My interviews with six state representatives and our state senator from this area were informative explanatory and actually revitalizing. I had gone in with a certain mind set – As our representatives, how could they stand by and allow WCMH/HCC to get away with this? They were all aware of the situation at WCMH and all, regardless of political party, voiced concern. It was a relief that they all spoke freely about their perceptions of how it came to be. They spoke of the difficulties related to being only part-time legislators contrasted to the full-time presence of the executive branch and its comparatively more and extensive capacity. Many spoke of the extraordinary clout of the health care lobby in the state, often mentioning the Connecticut Hospital Association.  It was stated that Hartford Health Care, in particular, has been able through its cadre of attorneys to purposely complicate and delay action by the state. All but one voiced the opinion that further legislative action will be necessary to neutralize the influence of certain health care organizations in the public’s interest. Some suggested that federal funding will most likely be necessary in order to preserve and continue the operation of smaller rural healthcare providers. All seemed to agree that good and accessible healthcare is essential for everyone.

Bill Powers is a retired teacher, healthcare provider and administrator.

No Axe to Grind – Simply in Pursuit of the Facts

“Everyman has a right to his own opinion, 

but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.”

        -Bernard Baruch

By Bill Powers                                   

Do I have an “axe to grind” with Hartford Heath Care? Hell No! On the contrary, Hartford Hospital is where I took my first breath. Fortunately for me, my family lived only a few blocks from the hospital.  In the first month of infancy, I developed pneumonia, and during a heavy snowstorm, my father ran through the streets with me in his arms to the hospital. They saved my life!  

Twenty-five years later, as a young registered respiratory therapist, it was tremendously exciting to return to the hospital to develop a new program at their School of Allied Health to educate respiratory therapists and technicians. Later, I was promoted to technical director of a newly organized Respiratory Care Department. Today I am honored that that my photo with my medical director, Donald R. Morrison, hangs in the Lobby of Hartford Hospital in the History of Hartford Hospital Photographic Gallery. 

During those years I was able to take advantage of the hospital’s nationally recognized employee development program that included management skills training and a generous tuition reimbursement benefit. That benefit allowed me to complete my bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. The Master’s in Health Care Management from Hartford Graduate Center/R.P.I. qualified me for the Operating Room Manager’s position at the hospital and eventually for two hospital administration jobs at other medical centers. The positions at Hartford Hospital gave me the opportunity to actively participate in the evolution of a growing profession by serving at state and national elected and appointed leadership roles. I was able to write and see my articles published in allied health and medical journals as well as presenting our work at national meetings. For me Hartford Hospital was a “land of opportunity and personal growth” 

After three decades, it was time for me to change my career path. Institutions that were to become integral parts of what is now Hartford Health Care (HHC) have significantly and thankfully contributed to that goal. As part of my master’s degree in clinical/community psychology, Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield welcomed me for internships in psychology and addictive behaviors. The clinicians were generous with their time, demonstrating and explaining that allowed me to refine assessment techniques, interventions and therapeutic techniques. 

Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH) granted me privileges to work in their Emergency Department (E.D.) and to see inpatients as a Licensed Professional Counselor while a provider with United Services. I was able to work with an incredibly talented and compassionate group of E.D. doctors, community psychiatrists, nurses and other support staff, while providing crisis intervention, emergency behavioral assessments and placements. I witnessed their dedication and teamwork and loved being part of their team. 

The people who worked at Hartford Hospital, Natchaug Hospital and the WCMH’s E.D. when I was there contributed greatly to my development as a clinician, as a professional, and as a person, and I am deeply indebted to them. For them it was so much more than a job. It was a passion to help humankind. 

I hope that you have read my other article in this issue of Neighbors titled “First It Was the Loss of Intensive Care Then Inpatient Maternity Services – What’s Next?”  Perhaps now you will understand why I have “no axe to grind” but currently have “a bone to pick” with HHC/WCMH. I have gathered what appear to be numerous “facts”, that are not just opinions, from passionate opponents of the termination of critical services at WCMH. In order to write a story that is fair, balanced and factual, I need “facts” from HHC and WCMH as they see them, and they are not willing to have a conversation about that. It is unfortunate and disheartening. We deserve the facts. We deserve transparency and the truth about our health care services and who, when, where and how decisions about our health care are being made. 

Bill Powers is a former, respiratory therapist, teacher, counselor and health care administrator.

First It Was the Loss of Intensive Care – 

Then Inpatient Maternity Services – What’s Next?

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, 

it would change the Earth.  

      -William Faulkner

By Bill Powers      

Local officials in our area intensely voiced their concerns against the injustice, lack of transparency and absence of community involvement for Hartford Health Care’s (HHC) decisions for closing the ICU and inpatient maternity unit at Windham hospital. HHC displayed a lack of compassion for moms and their newborns and their families, and demonstrated a callousness that reflects both arrogance and a directed effort to exploit those least able to defend themselves. HHC’s apparent greed and lack of concern, veiled by claims of efficiency, is at the public’s expense and reeks of hypocrisy with respect to HHC’s own mission and statement of values. 


A few years ago, Ashford’s current First Selectwoman Cathryn Silver-Smith, at a regional meeting of elected officials, told our Governor that the termination of inpatient maternity services at Windham Community Memorial Hospital (WCMH) gave her concerns that “women were now placed in a position of having to deliver their babies on the way to the hospital; God forbid there being complications.” Additionally, she said: “At the same meeting Lisa Thomas, Chairwoman of the Coventry Town Council spoke to the Governor to express concerns about the termination of inpatient maternity services.” Later in August of 2021, the Ashford Democratic Town Committee issued a press release – “REOPEN WINDHAM HOSPITAL MATERNITY UNIT NOW!”

Lisa Thomas, in addition to many others, has been and remains very vocal and active not only about the local “maternity dessert” and the termination of hospital inpatient labor and delivery services at Windham Hospital/HHC but also northeastern Connecticut. She told me: “There was a lengthy Certificate of Need (CON) hearing for which the Coventry Town Council’s Resolution was submitted and at which many testified, there has been a plethora of media coverage, and there have been rallies. The loss of critical care health services in northeastern CT is more than just labor and delivery. I currently serve on Comptroller Scanlon’s healthcare task force – specifically the Rural Health subcommittee co-chaired by Kyle Kramer, and the Women’s Health subcommittee. Additionally, I have spoken with both the Governor and Lt. Governor at length about the loss of critical care in rural Connecticut.”

There can be no doubt that the November 1, 2021, “resolution” adopted by the Coventry Town Council described by Lisa Thomas was both a significant and powerful statement “Concerning Termination of Services at Windham Community Memorial Hospital.” The Resolution stated: “The Coventry Town Council demands that Windham Hospital restore Intensive Care and maternity services of Labor and Delivery to its original levels, and develop integrated services with a community needs assessment informed by meaningful and diverse community input.” I am finding that Its contents not only reflect the concerns, needs, issues and attitudes of Coventry’s local elected officials but also of the vast majority of us residing in northeastern Connecticut. 

Previously, more than a year earlier (October 6, 2020), the Windham Town Council issued Resolution No. 2803 in which the Council produced a persuasive and articulately written document that “demanded Windham Hospital restore all core services, especially maternity services of Labor and Delivery to its original levels, and develop integrated services with a community needs assessment informed by meaningful and diverse community input.”   

In the Town of Mansfield on April 26, 2021, the Town Council “authorized the Mansfield Human Rights Commission to send a letter to Hartford Healthcare’s Jeffry Flaks, HHC president and CEO, addressing the human rights concerns regarding the closure of the Windham Hospital Maternity Ward.” The letter dated April 2, 2021, included the following: “The United States ranks last for maternity mortality among high-resource countries (NICHD); In addition to the already high rate of maternal/child mortality and morbidity in the United States, childbearing women of color suffer disproportionately high rates of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity. Non-Hispanic white women experience 13 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 births compared to 42.8 deaths per 100,000 for Black women (Saluja & Bryant). Racial and ethnic disparities for mothers and newborns have persisted over time (CDC); The decision to close Windham Hospital’s Labor and Delivery services was short-sided and has far-reaching implications for the community; and, we encourage you to convene a committee with the focus of addressing this issue. The committee should include healthcare providers, community leaders, and community members.”  The Mansfield Town Clerk’s Office has no record of a reply from Mr. Flaks nor do current or previous commission members have any recollection of a response. I have also asked a HHC Eastern Region Board member about whether such a group had been convened and was directed to Donna Handley, HHC Eastern Region President for the details. My requests for a conversation with Handley remain unanswered. 


I have made many attempts to have conversations with officials, both employees and board members, at HHC to get their side of the story and have met with little success. Employees and several board members either haven’t responded or told me they have been instructed to direct all questions on the matter to their media relations and content specialists. (One board member, who years ago had been one of my professors, did talk with me and advised me to speak with Donna Handley, (Senior Vice President at HHC & East Region President) for “specific facts” for my story. Believe me when I say, I would love “specific facts” in order to write a fair and balanced story.  I have been directed to three HHC media personalities and they simply referred me to press releases and ignored my questions about who made the decisions, when, how and why. HHC is very good at “circling the wagons”; I guess in order to protect the Hartford Health Care brand. So much for transparency, honesty and truth! 


There can be no doubt that elected and appointed local town officials acted appropriately when it came to trying to protect the health interests of the people they serve. Unfortunately, it is obvious that our elected state officials have been unable to effectively protect our moms and newborns. I’ve spoken with six of them and collectively they have numerous explanations for how and why WCMH/HHC got away with what they have done to our neighbors? Finally, how was one woman in the Office of Health Strategies (OHS) permitted to make the “final decision” on December 1st of last year, three-and-a-half years after the maternity unit was closed. Deidre Gifford is an official who is appointed by and reports directly to the Governor. The interesting explanations from our area state representatives and state senator about what happened at WCMH will have to wait for another episode of this story. It appears that in effect it amounts to our state government’s protection for HHC’s virtual monopoly through their cadre of lawyers buttressed by the powerful Connecticut Hospital Association lobby, thus enabling HHC to do pretty much whatever they like, without particular regard for transparency or fairness for the needs of certain communities they abandon. Community hospitals serve a critical role in providing services. The people they serve deserve government protections from exploitation by larger corporate partners, who can simply skim off the cream and redistribute services in arbitrary ways that may negatively impact the patients they serve. It is in the public interest for our state representatives to protect us from such abuses through public policy initiatives. Our elected state officials from both parties, the Governor, and executive branch agencies need to effectively confront the health care monopolies in our state and make them accountable. You could call this – government working for the people as opposed to working for corporations. Protecting our local basic health care services must be a priority. Assuring transparency, community input, and truth from large health care corporations should be goals, if not, then there is no telling What’s Next?

This episode follows the first episode that appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Neighbors and was titled “Local Moms and Newborns Abandoned.”

Bill Powers is a former teacher, counselor and health care administrator.

Local Moms and Newborns Abandoned

By Bill Powers
On December 1, 2023, I received an email from the Connecticut State Office of Health Strategy (OHS) that was startling and shocking. It consisted of a December 1st Press Release titled “Office of Health Strategy and Windham Hospital Agree To Study Birthing Center/Enhance Women’s Healthcare As Part Of Agreed Settlement.” In addition to significant contradiction, it also contained important misinformation or possibly disinformation depending upon the intensions of OHS. At face value a birthing center sounds like something that is encouraging and constructive just as nationally and in Windham County there are real concerns about infant mortality rates. Infant mortality is the measure of how many babies die before they reach their first birthday. Nationally, the infant mortality rate rose by 3 % in 2022 based on data released in 2023. It was the largest increase in two decades according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infant health has been a staple of public health from the beginnings of modern medicine. Today infant mortality is a strategic priority of public health.
There continues to be an urgent need to support moms before, during and after birth and there is no question about that. Unfortunately, the OHS Press Release is troublesome in striking ways. It also provides a link to an eight page “Agreed Settlement” revealing that OHS is actually talking about the “Project Titled: Termination of Inpatient Obstetric Services”, which incredibly has nothing to do with birthing centers. Curiously, the Press Release informs that “The Office of Health Strategy has rendered a FINAL DECISION by way of an Agreed Settlement in Hartford Healthcare’s Windham Community Memorial Hospital Certificate of Need application. The settlement approves the request to terminate the hospital’s inpatient obstetric services if Windham studies the need for and feasibility of a birthing center and agrees to operate one if needed.” Those are two “if(s)” worthy of attention. That is because the discussion is for a “final decision” that has been negotiated on Windham Hospital’s application to end inpatient obstetric services. In actuality the services ended three-and-one half years ago, when Windham Hospital/Hartford Health Care (HHC) abandoned our local moms and newborns.
Clearly, the Press Release astonishingly proposes that a birthing center can somehow substitute for Windham Hospital’s inpatient maternity services. A birthing center can be a good idea for women with expected low-risk births. It is not a full-service institution for situations where moms and newborns are at risk, or when complications arise. It has been advised that a hospital inpatient obstetric service be located in its vicinity for required interventions for optimal outcomes for both mom and newborn. (“Healthy Moms. Strong Babies” – March of Dimes)
It is also astonishing that the Office of Health Strategy would allow Windham Hospital to plan a birthing center with no hospital inpatient maternity service in the vicinity of Windham/Willimantic or several other towns. Currently, the one nationally accredited birthing center in Connecticut is located in Danbury, Connecticut Childbirth and Women’s Center, and is located literally across the street from and therefore clearly in the vicinity of Danbury Hospital with inpatient maternity services. It seems the OHS somehow accepts the Windham Hospital/ Hartford Health Care definition of “vicinity” (whatever it is) for transporting maternity patients, not across the street or even across town, but all the way to Norwich. This creates a multiplicity of risks, problems, concerns and issues for women and their newborns, especially women in labor who may develop emergent complications.
What is probably the most astonishing and confusing thing presented in the December 1, 2023, OHS press release is it purported that “OHS has rendered a Final Decision by way of an Agreed Settlement in Hartford Health Care’s Windham Community Memorial Hospital, Inc. Certificate of Need (CON) application.” Recalling that the CON involves the “Termination of Inpatient Obstetric Services” at Windham Community Memorial Hospital”, how on Earth can the settlement “approve the request to terminate the hospital’s inpatient obstetric services if and when Windham studies the need for and feasibility of a birthing center and agrees to operate one if needed,” when in the meantime the Windham Hospital/HHC has already stopped its Labor and Delivery services and did so back in June of 2020? The ifs beg the question that a FINAL DECISION was reached. A final decision should not have been negotiated by OHS with those conditions.
How has Windham Hospital/HHC gotten away with abandoning our moms and their newborns for so long without first obtaining required approvals? Was there illegal or unethical collusion between OHS and Hartford Health Care by some at some level? How powerful have health care monopolies and the Connecticut Hospital Association become in the shortchanging of the heath care needs of certain groups of Connecticut residents? Why haven’t my state senator and the state representatives from our region assured that the diversity, equity, and inclusion of residents in our region are respected and why have they failed to check the health care monopolies who simply acquire more and more power? Is the abandonment of local moms and newborns by my elected officials and the Office of Health Strategy as well as HHC merely the latest example of closing down local health services? Perhaps it represents just the of the tip of the iceberg! I expect my state elected and appointed officials to be a voice for their constituents and those who are voiceless by circumstance. When I asked OHS about “who their negotiators were”- the OHS response was simply: “Various OHS Staff and attorneys were involved in the settlement negotiations.” Also, I asked, “Why work a deal with Hartford Health Care for a birthing center when the pre and postnatal services are already offered at Windham Hospital?” The OHS response was “Although OHS was confident in the PDF’s findings of fact and conclusions of law, Executive Director Deidre S. Gifford retained ultimate decision-making authority and was free to accept or reject the PDF based on her own review of the CON record.” Why weren’t the Commissioner of Public Health, the Commissioner of the Office For Early Childhood as well as the Office of the Child Advocate involved? Sounds to me like Gifford should be held accountable for a terrible decision favoring Hartford Health Care while abandoning our moms and their newborns.
Local moms and infants cannot be abandoned and should not continue to be bullied by Connecticut’s health care hypocrites and thugs.
note: bold and italicized words were mine for emphasis. – BP
a final note: To date trying to obtain answers to my questions for this story from OHS have been difficult and slow to obtain, and mostly incomplete. A freedom of information request has been filed. The spokesman for Windham hospital has not answered any of my questions simply referring me to the original OHS press release, which I already had. He stated, “At this time, all of the information I have is in the (press) release.” I immediately asked if could expect to have my questions answered and there has been no response. He was referred to me by the office of HHC’s Senior Vice President and East Region President, Donna Handley. There is much more to this story and I hope that by the March Issue of Neighbors there will be a second episode worthy of your time.
Bill Powers is a former teacher, counselor and health care administrator

The Windham Free Library Procures Useful Grants

By Bill Powers
“Changing Children’s Lives one book at a time” is an expression sometimes used by advocates for the improvement of children’s literacy. It is the motto for the Pilcrow Foundation’s Children’s Book Project Grant based in Oregon. The Windham Free Library applied for and received three different grants last year. In December of 2023, several cartons of children’s books selected by the Windham Free Library arrived from the Pilcrow Foundation project. There were 111 high quality hardcover books previously selected by the library to be added to their collection. The books included award-winning and star-reviewed titles from educational and literary organizations. It was the first time the library has received this grant for which the library matched one third of the grant amount with funds they raised themselves. “The grant was an incredible opportunity for Windham’s children” said, Kathy Miller the Library ‘s board president.
In December the library received a grant that focuses on children’s books and next summer’s program for kids. The Leo J. & Rose Pageau Trust benefits local charities, religious, scientific, literary and educational groups or projects in the Windham, Connecticut Community.
Serving the needs of Windham Center’s children by the Windham Free Library is not new. The library had its beginnings in 1896 and it was “organized by a small number of citizens as a non-profit association library.” There are past accounts of elderly residents who recalled walking with their class from their neighborhood school to the library more than 100 years ago. That tradition is practiced on a regular basis today, when students walk with their teachers from the Windham Center School to the Library to check out and return books. While they are there, they assemble in the historic Dr. Chester Hunt Office to hear a grade appropriate story read to them by a library volunteer.
Janice Patry, the library director told me, “As the Windham Free Library is the smallest free standing public library in Connecticut, grants like those offered by The Pilcrow Foundation and The Leo J. and Rose Pageau Trust go a long way in stretching our book budget allowance. Having received these grants, we will be able to expand our offerings, as well as replace some of our well-loved books in need of repair. Our partnership with the Windham Center School provides the opportunity for students in their classrooms to visit the library multiple times throughout the year, and we are excited to be able to add new materials to the collection for them to choose from.”
A third matching grant and the largest obtained by the library last year demonstrates the library board’s responsible stewardship for the Dr. Chester Hunt Office, a true historical gem that stands on the library’s property and was built in 1790. The grant called for the exterior windows to be restored including glazing and painting. Exterior clapboards were repaired as needed and the exterior of the building painted. Preservation Connecticut provided the funding through one of its 1772 Foundation Grants. Preservation Connecticut works to “preserve, protect, and promote the buildings, sites, and landscapes that contribute to the heritage and vitality of Connecticut communities.” The services of Mr. Bill Bender from Windham were procured; he has completed other similar restoration projects in the past. A goal was to preserve as much of original wood as possible.
Many thanks to Ellen Lang who was involved with writing the grant applications for the library and who was helpful with providing much of the information for this story.

Bill Powers is a retired Hartford and Windham Public Schools teacher.

Locals Reflect on Christmas Customs and Traditions

By Bill Powers

    The customs and traditions of the Christmas time holidays are an integral part of our culture and collective psyche. Many of the customs and traditions celebrated by families today are pretty common, such as the belief that Christmas time is a special time when families come together to celebrate in a festive atmosphere and to enjoy delicious food. It is a time for love and joy and a time of religious significance for Christians throughout the world. Many of the customs and traditions around Christmas are conventional, such as the belief that it is a time for family, while at the same time the practices by individuals and many families are characterized by degrees of diversity. 

      The cherished annual Christmas traditions in our family include those stemming from the families of origin for my wife and me. They embrace the family gatherings for a Christmas feast, and that it is customary to exchange gifts and expressions of good will. The traditions go back for generations and involve long accepted beliefs and customs. At the same time, our family now includes new practices or customs that are now common to our family’s annual celebration of Christmas.

      During November of this year, I casually interviewed a total of 30 local residents at the Windham Senior Center, Blondie’s Country Diner in Chaplin, the Bidwell Tavern in Coventry, and Bob’s Windham IGA store. Each volunteer was asked to respond to two questions: 1) What is my favorite Family Holiday tradition or custom at Christmas time? 2) What is another Christmas tradition or custom that I enjoy practicing separate from my family? Here are the results of their reflections:

Angela, age 47. “Getting together with family for presents, stockings and a meal. With my own children opening one gift on Christmas Eve.”

David, who is an “ageless” senior. “Going to Hartford for the Wadsworth Athenium’s annual festival of trees and traditions.”  

Casey, age 51. “Time with the family especially since the interruptions caused by COVID.” 

Bill, age 77. In addition to getting together for a wonderful meal, we love listening to Christmas music and singing Christmas Carols.” Individually, I especially look forward to listening to Gene Autry singing ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and to versions of ‘O Holy Night’ and selecting and individualizing Christmas cards. “

Jack, age 80. With family – “A lobster dinner on Chrisman Eve.” Not with family – “Listening to carols.”

Robin, age 46. With family- “Decorating the tree.” Not with family – “Wrapping Christmas presents.”

Lori, age 62. With family – “Getting together with family”. Not with family – “Decorating” 

Gail, age 72. With family – “Spending time with my family.” Not with family – “Volunteering”

Gary, age 82. With family – “Family Dinner.” Not with family – “Making Christmas cookies and stollen.”

Jim, age 74. With family –  “When I was young, going to my grandparent’s house. Now we go to my sister’s and do a Yankee Swap, which is a hoot.”

Joan, age 79. With family – “In our family of two adults and eight children, we’d sit around the Christmas tree, each taking turns opening presents.” Not with family – “Secret Santa gift exchange.” 

Joyce, age 79.  With family- “Family getting together.”  Not with family – “Church”

Vibian, age 43. With family – “Cooking and baking.” Not with family – “Decorating”

Ismael, age 75. (With the help from an interpreter) With family – “Family Christmas party, eating, drinking and having a good time.” Not with family – “Celebrating with my friends and co-workers.“

Amanda, age 38. With family – “Making molasses cookies with my 3 kids and decorating gingerbread houses with our family and friends.” Not with family – “Setting the Christmas dinner table with the special Christmas China.”

Marisol, age 61. With Family – “Decorating the tree together and spending time with family.” Not with family – “Cooking.” 

Teresita, age 67. With family – “Cooking, eating, and time with my family.” Not with family – “Church.”

Jean, age 85. With family – “Christmas caroling.” Not with family – “During the Christmas season coming to the Senior Center to work on Christmas jigsaw puzzles.”

Kate, age 55. With family – “Our giant Christmas Eve gathering.” Not with family – “Going ice skating in NYC.”

Hermelinda, age 43. With family – “Singing carols.” Not with family – “Make pumpkin flan.”

Gaetane, age 68. With family – “Get the family together.”  Not with family – Flying to Florida.”

Jack, age 48. With family – “My family is extremely large and we love to eat and watch football.”   Not with family – “I put up the Christmas tree.”

Carmen, age 60. With family – “Opening presents on Three Kings Day.” Not with family – “I make potato salad for the celebration.”

Luquitas, age 71. (With the help of an interpreter)” Having fun with the children and opening presents.” Not with family – “Visiting with my friends during Christmas time.”

Rosa, age 60. With family – “A meal with my family, 8 members.” Not with family – “Cooking all kinds of things.”

Michelle, age 49. With family – “Celebrating on Christmas Eve.” 

Muriel, age 98. “As a child waking up on Christmas morning to the wonder of a trimmed Christmas tree that wasn’t there on Christmas Eve. My children and grandchildren experienced the same excitement.” Not with family – “During World War II years, when my husband was serving in the Navy, attending church on Christmas Eve with my friends.”

Rob, age 57. With family – “Family Christmas feast.” Not with family – Shopping for the perfect Christmas gifts.”

Michele, age 55. With Family – “Getting together with family.” Not with family – Listening to Christmas music and baking my apple cake for everyone to enjoy.”

Candace, age 78.  With family – “Spending time with family on a very special day.” Not with the family – “Listening to my favorite Christmas music.” 

‘Out of Bounds’ and Unethical Behavior

By Bill Powers

   Most of us have a pretty good understanding of the concept we call “out of bounds”. It is a term we often connect with sports, when operating within the predetermined field of play. Being out of bounds can refer to something that is forbidden, off-limits, barred, illegal, prohibited, or banned. In a close game of football, when the wide receiver inadvertently steps out of bounds just short of the goal line as time has just expired, it can be a tragic event. The team has lost on the very last play. There are times in government when employees, or elected and appointed officials step out of bounds.

  Designed to provide guidance for those serving in government about right and wrong behaviors, ethics codes are established, and rules of conduct are officially recognized. Some examples of ethical issues in government are: corruption, use of authority for private gain; the withholding of information from the public; the disclosure of confidential information; and, nepotism. Regardless of the level of government: federal, state or local, a code of ethics set in law is important so that the public’s trust can be maintained.  Mechanisms for enforcement will help to assure ethical conduct, transparency and accountability if government employees, and elected or appointed officials are found to be ethically out of bounds.

   In my town the “CODE OF ETHICS” is in the form of an “ORDINANCE”. It’s “goal is to establish clear standards of ethical conduct for all those who serve the Town of Windham, whether in a paid or unpaid capacity, without discouraging participation in Town government by talented and committed individuals on whose service the town relies.”  The ordinance consists of the following sections: “A) Preamble; B) Standards of Conduct (including definitions); C) Organization and Administration; D) Procedure for Advisory Opinions; E) Whistle Blower Protection; F) Procedure for Complaints; and, G) Determinations (following the hearing).”

   Our Ethics Commission believes that the education of the public as well as for town employees and officials about ethical behavior is crucial to its role. By Ordinance, there are five commissioners. At this time, we have an opening for someone who is interested in serving as an appointed volunteer member. If you are Windham resident, who is interested in and dedicated to assuring ethical conduct, transparency, and accountability, while helping to preserve the public trust in our local government, please contact the Windham Town Manager’s office for an application. However, if you are a registered Democrat, you need NOT apply at this time. It’s not that we dislike Democrats; the Code of Ethics specifies that “No more than three shall be registered in the same political party” and we already have three. You also may NOT be a town employee or serve concurrently on another town board.  

Bill Powers is the chairman for the Town of Windham Ethics Commission

Our Veterans Have Given the Gift of Freedom

By Bill Powers

               “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution,

               are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them

               against all attacks… It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the             

               present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be  

               wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of 

                            them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

                                                                                                          –  Samuel Adams 

   Over the centuries our veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices in the name of preserving the freedoms of Americans while defending their Republic from those who would denounce democracy as a way of governing. On Veterans Day, we thank and remember our veterans for their unselfish service. Here are the stories of three of our local veterans who ought not be forgotten and who have not always been given the recognition that they deserve.

  Colonel James Clark hailed from Lebanon, Adjutant-General Jesse Root was from Coventry and James Haggerty called Willimantic his home. The manner in which they supported themselves and their families was quite different. Clarke was a farmer, Root was a minister who became a lawyer, and James Haggerty was a businessman. One thing that they had in common was that they were all veterans and Patriots. Clarke and Root served during the Revolutionary War and Haggerty answered the call during the Civil War. After their military service, they all returned to their farm, village, or city with their memories of war and resumed life in the Republic they loved so much and for which they had made so many sacrifices.  


   A 19th century journalist called Colonel James Clark “the noblest of them all.” Grace Greenwood, the colonel’s great-niece and a well-known and highly respected journalist, wrote “Reminiscences of Lebanon” and various versions appeared in a popular national weekly magazine and the Hartford Daily Courant in 1869. She believed that Clark’s gallant contributions during the American Revolution had not received due recognition and that “his story was overshadowed by the fame of other notable patriots from Lebanon”, so she wrote: “Another revolutionary worthy of Lebanon was Colonel James Clark, in some respects, the ‘noblest Roman of them all’, though he never attained to great honor or high position…” 

   In 1902, Mary Clarke Huntington, another descendent of James Clark, presented a paper to the New London County Historical Society entitled “Colonel Clark of Lebanon.” She published a touching and tragic story about Clark as he returned home from a military campaign. She wrote: “As he rode into Lebanon on his white warhorse that he retained for so many years afterward, he saw a funeral procession winding into the Old Cemetery, and while he was so glad in his return, anticipating the welcome of wife and children at the old homestead, his heart went out the more readily to such townsfolk as has met with loss. It was long since he had heard from home – for the usual slow methods of communication were often interrupted in those times of war – and wondering whom death had taken, he turned his horse and rode after the procession. He heard the ‘dust to dust and ashes to ashes!’ Then as he saw that it was his wife who knelt weeping beside the grave of their little daughters. Other tragedies beset Clark and his wife during the war including the drowning in a well of their two-year old son. Yet he still fought on.” 

    He fought at the battles of Bunker Hill, Harlem Heights and White Plains. Huntington continued: “At the time of the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument, the year before his death, when he was ninety-five, a special escort was sent from Boston to accompany him, as one of the survivors of the battle, to the spot where he had helped to hold the British in abeyance.” He had led the 6th Company from Lebanon in the Battle of Bunker Hill. 


    Jesse Root was from Coventry and in a manner similar to Lebanon’s James Clark, “His story is overshadowed by the fame of other notable patriots”, in this case Coventry’s famous Nathan Hale. Root graduated from Princeton in 1756. He returned to Coventry to farm and preach. Later influenced by three lawyers, Jonathan Trumbull from Lebanon, and also Jedidiah Elderkin and Eliphalet Dyer from Windham, he decided to study to become a lawyer. After he began to practice law, Jesse moved with his family from Coventry to Hartford for better opportunities. In Hartford Jesse became involved in the Revolutionary movement where his law practice began to thrive and he taught law. He never gave up his farm in Coventry where he eventually returned. “The family maintained a household in Coventry while apparently renting in Hartford. They had slaves, who probably cultivated the land in Coventry.” The 1790 Federal Census records that he owned three enslaved persons.

   With respect to the Revolution, no job was too big or too small for Jesse. There was plenty to do as the British colonies in America were transformed into a new nation. Early on, as Americans protested British tyranny, Jesse won the trust and admiration of American leaders including George Washington.

    As a soldier Jesse served in 1775 with troops fighting in upper New York State.  He helped to plan and finance the Battle of Ticonderoga. After the Battle, he was assigned chairmanship of the prisoner committee overseeing British officers captured during the battle, when they were confined in Hartford. In December of 1776 Captain Jesse Root “raised and commanded a company of able-bodied men” to fight in the upper Hudson Valley. Soon after, he was named Lieutenant Colonel and second in command of a regiment. “When General Israel Putnam assumed command of the Hudson Highlands at Washington’s order, he assigned Root as Adjutant-General. In the late winter of 1778, he returned home to Hartford and Coventry.”  He then served on the Council of Safety that often met in the War Office in Lebanon. He was a member of the Second Continental Congress until the Peace of 1783, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and a member of the Governor’s Foot Guard and served as its commandant from 1798 to 1802. In 1819 he served as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention. (Quotations from “The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut”, 1987, by Messier B.B. & Aronson J.S.)  


     James Haggerty was underage, only 13 when he enlisted in the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry to fight in the Civil War. His obituary appeared in the Willimantic Chronicle in November of 1934, along with a front- page headline that read “JAMES HAGGERTY DIES ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY: Last Member of Francis S. Long Post No. 30, G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).

 “Although under age, Haggerty was desirous of serving the nation in its time of need. He ran away from home to Norwich for the purpose of enlisting but was rejected because of his youthful appearance. Hiking back home to Willimantic, he discarded the short pants he was wearing and donning a pair of long trousers belonging to a brother, returned to the same recruiting station to pass the required examination. The officer in charge failed to recognize him as the lad who appeared before him a short time previously attired in different garb.  

   “After enlisting, he was assigned to Company H of the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteers. He had the distinction of being the youngest soldier to enlist in the state. Joining his regiment in Virginia, he took part in all of the engagements in which it figured until the Battle of New Market, near Richmond, where he was captured by the Confederates and imprisoned at Andersonville, GA. and Charlestown, S.C. In the latter place, he fell ill of yellow fever and was sent to Florence in the same state shortly before he was released. After going to Annapolis, MD. to recuperate, he rejoined his regiment until the surrender of Lee.

    “After the war, James Haggerty returned home and continued his education for a year. “The lure of the army life proved too strong and he enlisted in the regular army”, where he participated in the reconstruction of the South and then went to the western plains to fight Indians until 1869. At that point he returned to Willimantic and learned to be a blacksmith. He also worked with the Willimantic Linen Company before operating a tobacco and periodical store.  He served as a deputy sheriff and a burgess in the borough government and after the incorporation of the city government 1893, represented the third ward on the board of aldermen for six years. He also served for twelve years as a member of board of registrars. Haggerty continued to serve in the National Guard for many years. 

    Our veterans have given us the gift of freedom. All have made extraordinary sacrifices in order to serve while swearing an oath to support and defend our Constitution. Thankyou.

Bill Powers is a retired Hartford and Windham Public Schools teacher.

photo of the sign is mine and is from the Veteran’s Center in WILLIMANTIC

                                                               Professional Firefighters

By Bill Powers

     You never know when or where a prompt to write a story will come from. In this case it unexpectedly came from a political candidate at a campaign gathering, who is a local elected public official and a candidate in the upcoming election. The conversation among a small group quickly and inevitably shifted to important issues currently confronting our town. They included safety concerns such as the maternity care desert debacle and loss of critical care services at our local hospital, the police civilian review board discussion that had somehow evaporated without a public hearing, and the need to consolidate the four fire departments in our town. With respect to the fire department consolidation issue, for the elected official it was an obvious no brainer. All of the fire departments in town should be staffed only by “PROFESSIONALS” and NOT “VOLUNTEERS”.  I was immediately curious, uneasy and a little resentful, and for good reason. I asked, “Do you need to be career, paid firefighter in order to be a “professional” firefighter?” The answer came back, “Of course.”

  The term “professional” can have many meanings for just as many folks. We want to witness professional behavior by our police officers, attorneys, business men and women, teachers, elected officials, and supreme court justices. We know it when we see it, and when don’t. We can debate the exact meaning in different situations until the cows come home. However, setting guidelines for minimum standards can be helpful. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the “Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications identifying the minimum Job Performance for career and volunteer firefighters whose duties are primarily structural in nature.” The standards are the same. 

    My father was a “career firefighter” in a large city department. He had plenty of training and worked many hours each week for years until he retired. In those days all the firefighters rotated shifts on a regular basis. I now realize how disruptive that must have been considering the disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. The job was physically demanding and could be dangerous. In 1956 I vividly remember watching a live TV program with a local news crew, who was broadcasting at the scene of the large and devastating fire to the Cathedral where my family regularly worshiped. It was early in the morning during the New Year’s holiday., when I turned on the television and saw our beloved cathedral as it was being consumed by a inferno of flames. I quickly called out to my mother and sister. As we watched in horror, it was like being struck by a bolt of lightning when we heard on the TV the names of two firefighters who been injured. The ceiling collapsed on them. We heard my father’s name! He was being rushed to the hospital. To this day I vividly recall everything about that moment – how I felt and hearing my mom scream and my younger sister as she began to cry. 

    My father presented an imposing figure in his fire department dress uniform. His being a firefighter was a source of admiration not only for me, but also my friends. I remember attending a party for Jack, a team member on my school basketball team, at his home on Prospect Avenue in Hartford.  When Jack introduced me to his dad, the Governor, he said: “Dad this is Billy, he’s our other guard and his dad is a firefighter. The governor shaking my hand welcomed me and asked where my dad worked. I’m sure I beamed as I replied, “Pearl Street Fire Headquarters on Truck 1.”  The governor smiled and said: “That’s near where I work at the Capitol. Please thank him for me for doing his very important work.”

     I did my best to convince the candidate who was running for office that the minimum professional standards were no different for paid and volunteer firefighters. This too is the case for firefighters who are also certified to provide emergency medical services (EMS). Whether fighting fire in a large city or with a small town’s fire department, he or she must be prepared to save lives and protect property in numerous scenarios under a variety of difficult conditions. It is important to note that according to the NFPA two-thirds of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers.  

    In my late 30’s I made one of the best decisions of my life. I became a volunteer firefighter in Mansfield. I was able to learn new skills, serve my community and make new friends. I only wish that I had joined many years earlier. Mansfield had a hybrid system that combined both paid and volunteer firefighters. When an emergency call came in, it was possible to get the apparatus out the door to the scene right away. In my mind reducing response time is critical in order to save lives and property. 

    Fortunately, we have “professional” career and volunteer firefighters who not only meet professional qualifications, but who also have the ever-important professional attitudes about their service. We owe these men and women a great deal as they are willing to risk their lives to save ours. 

   Bill Powers resides in Windham Center where the Windham Center Fire Department has a rich volunteer tradition going all the way back to 1825 and will soon be celebrating their 200th anniversary.