Thursday, May 31, 2018

Frederic Fayerweather: 
The Man from Tiffany’s
On Oct. 5, 1914, at 6 a.m., a dapper little man with a long waxed moustache and wearing spats entered the Ridgefield Town Hall. Municipal elections back then were in October, and the town had just bought a modern replacement for the paper ballot system that been used for two centuries. It cost $600 — about $15,000 today.
Frederic Fayerweather  became the first person in Ridgefield to cast a ballot using voting machine.
But that was hardly the Ridgefield native’s most notable achievement. A bachelor and lifelong resident who commuted to the city,  Fayerweather was one of the top talents at Tiffany Studios in New York. He oversaw projects throughout the country for Louis Comfort Tiffany and was an expert on the design and use of stained glass windows for churches.
An unusual piece of Fayerweather-designed religious art is viewed by hundreds of Ridgefield church-goers each week.
Frederic Moore Fayerweather was born in the Florida District of Ridgefield in 1860, the only child of John and Catherine Moore Fayerweather. His father, a teacher,  played the organ at the Methodist Church in Georgetown — and, in fact, he helped the Georgetown Methodists acquire the organ, making it one of the few churches in the area at the time with a musical instrument.
His parents died when he was young and Frederic was brought up by two maiden aunts, “the Misses Morris.”
He attended the old red-brick Florida Schoolhouse and in his late teens became a teacher, instructing classes at the Ridgebury and Limestone Schools. 
By his early 20s he was working in New York City and at 22, joined Tiffany Studios, which specialized in art decorations, especially stained glass windows. He became head of the monumental department, and was considered an expert in color harmony and in the design of stained-glass windows.
The New York Times reported that “Mr. Fayerweather was chosen frequently by Mr. Tiffany to go to distant parts of the country to decorate homes and offices with the studios’ products, which included Tiffany Favrile glass, devised by Mr. Tiffany, as well as bronze objects, furniture, clocks and goblets. He was an expert on stained glass windows for churches and often supervised the design of these windows.”
Fayerweather worked for Tiffany for more than 40 years. For all that time, he made his home in Ridgefield and commuted by rail — from the 1880s until his retirement in 1931.
In an obituary, The Ridgefield Press described him late in his life: “Always immaculately dressed, Mr. Fayerweather, until recent weeks, belied his age. His step was brisk and his carriage erect and imposing.”
Like his father Fayerweather was deeply interested in religion and especially its rituals. Unlike his Methodist father, Frederic was an Episcopalian and, in fact, a pillar of St. Stephen’s Church where he was a vestryman for many years. He sang tenor in the choir, then became the choirmaster and choir director.  One of his last duties was to arrange the music for the church service that occurred just before his death.
When he died in 1941 at the age of 80, he left most of his estate to St. Stephen’s, including creating a fund to pay the salaries of a quartet of men and women singers. He also wanted the church to spend at least $1,200 annually for an organist — that’s about $20,000 in today’s money. 
Fayerweather, who was described by The Times as “an Episcopal ritualist,” also left the parish a reredos — a huge ornamental screen designed to be situated behind the altar — that he and W. Kerr Rainsford, architect of St. Stephen’s church, designed together.  However, reported Robert S. Haight in his history of St. Stephen’s, “many felt it detracted from the natural beauty and simplicity of the altar and chancel. The reredos was removed in 1965 and was for some time stored in the basement of the church. Ultimately it was given to the First Congregational Church where it did enhance the beauty of the chancel.”
Rob Kinnaird, a historian of St. Stephen’s, reports that the Rev. Aaron Manderbach, rector of the church, had an expert in Episcopal church architecture look at the reredos. He found it not in keeping with St. Stephen’s Georgian style. That, “along with the church’s program to move the altar forward so the celebrant faced the worshipers, contributed to the eventual dismantling of the reredos,” Kinnaird said.
The Congregationalists apparently also found the Fayerweather reredos too elaborate and perhaps overpowering and it reportedly found a new home in a church in another community.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Robert Ullman: 
Tools for the Trades
“I’m interested in mainly two things,” Robert Ullman told a reporter 50 years ago. “The retarded adolescent, who I feel has been tossed onto the scrap heap of life, and the person over 55 who is forced into mandatory retirement at age 65.”
Ullman, owner of Ridgefield’s oldest industry, did his best to help both groups, hiring many mentally disabled workers and senior citizens. He also provided jobs for numerous students working their way through college.
A part of Ridgefield since 1959, Ullman Devices Corp. is the town’s only true manufacturing
industry. Its modest-sized factory on Route 7 just north of Route 35 turns out thousands of specialized tools used by mechanics, technicians, and others around the world.
Robert James Ullman was born in New York City in 1905. His family of seven was so poor that that he dropped out of school when he was 12 to work in a shoe factory. By the time he was 16, he had started his own company, making artificial flowers and employing 16 people. After two years, the business failed and he was broke — but not for long. By his 20s, Ullman was president of the Mercury Manufacturing Company and a partner in Century Dryer Company, both in New York City.
New York is also where, in 1936, he founded Ullman Devices,  a company now well known in industry for making small tools, many involving moveable mirrors on long telescoping handles that allow the user to see hidden places in machines. 
According to a company history, “In the middle of the Depression, Robert Ullman invented
the first inspection mirror. While taking a tour of an aircraft plant, he got the idea from watching a mechanic using a crude mirror to look into the inner part of the engine.”
Among its other products are flexible claws for grabbing small parts, like screws, that have fallen into hard-to-access places; small lights on flexible mounts; scribers, hooks and picks on handles; screw and nut starters; and magnetic pick-up devices. Most were designed by Ullman himself.
Ullman’s customers have included such corporations as Ford, Xerox, General Motors, and Sears (for which Ullman has manufactured tools for the Craftsman brand).
Ullman moved his operations at first to Norwalk and then, in 1959, he built a plant on Route 7 in Ridgefield that still is its only quarters.
Over the years Ullman became well-known and praised in the region for hiring the elderly
and disabled, especially the mentally handicapped. Quite a few became loyal employees for many years.
“Treat others as you want to be treated yourselves,” Ullman once said of his attitude toward all his employees.
Ullman served as a director of the State National Bank in Ridgefield and had been listed in Who’s Who in the United States. He and his wife, Marie, the company treasurer and secretary, lived in Wilton. 
After he died in 1978 at the age of 73, Marie Michaelson Ullman took over as president of the company. The daughter of Russian immigrants, she was also born in New York City. She held a degree in nursing,  had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and was later in life listed in “Who’s Who of American Women.”
Marie Ullman died in 1999 at the age of 87.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Gildo Joseph Servadio, 
Food and Vodka Scientist
Gildo Joseph Servadio had a fascination with food — not as a chef or a gourmand, but as a scientist who studied the chemistry behind their composition and preparation. The Ridgefield native spent a long career developing and supervising systems that created things we eat and drink — from baby food to vodka.
Dr. Servadio was born in 1929  and graduated from Ridgefield High School in 1946 (where classmates included Judge Romeo Petroni, Librarian Phyllis Paccadolmi, and orchestra leader Lou Girolametti). He spent two years in the U.S. Army in Japan and Guam.
After his discharge Servadio studied chemistry at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., graduating in 1952. He later earned master's and doctoral degrees in food technology from the University of Massachusetts.
He began his career as a project leader for the Pillsbury in 1955, became a senior scientist with Mead Johnson and Company, and then spent several years teaching and studying at UMass.
From 1963 to 1967 he returned to Ridgefield with his family while he served as research manager for Beech-Nut Life Savers in Port Chester, N.Y., where he developed new baby foods and cereals.
In 1967 Servadio joined Heublein Inc., the food and beverage manufacturer in Hartford. There he became vice president of research and development and was responsible for research into new food, wine and liquor products.
His specialty was vodka — Smirnoff vodka. Smirnoff had been founded in Moscow, but the Smirnoff family fled Russia after the Revolution and eventually the brand, under a different owner,
wound up in Bethel, Conn. in 1933. At first American sales were slow for this strange drink. Heublein took over the operation in 1939 and began marketing Smirnoff as “white whiskey,” selling it in corked bottles. Sales picked up considerably and eventually vodka became America’s top selling spirit.
Servadio was a vodka scientist — he had several patents on production and stabilization of the spirit — but he was better known for years as the voice of vodka. As the chairman of the Vodka Information Bureau in New York City, he was frequently called upon for comments or suggestions that wound up in scores of newspaper, magazine, TV and radio stories on the beverage.
“There are as many perceptibly different kinds of vodka as there are methods of production,” he told the Associated Press food writer Tom Hoge in 1983. He pointed out that the better vodkas filter the product after they’re distilled to increase the smoothness, and that the water used in processing can ever-so-slightly vary the flavor.
Because it has a neutral taste — federal regulators describe the beverage as “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color” — vodka can be mixed with almost any “potable liquid,” as Hoge put it.
“Flavoring vodka is the ultimate way to ‘personalize’ one’s favorite drink and create an original at the same time,” Servadio said.
Under his leadership the vodka bureau produced many recipes for drinks, among them the “Moscow Mimosa” (champagne, orange juice and vodka).
Servadio retired from Heublein in 1986, but continued to be active in food science, serving as an adjunct professor of food services at the University of Massachusetts. The university awarded him its Chancellor's Medal in 1986 for “exemplary and extraordinary service” to the university. Among other things, he had established an endowment fund for the food services department.
Servadio was listed in Who's Who in the East and in American Men of Science. 
He died in 2001 in Simsbury at the age of 72.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Robert P. Scripps: 
Powerful Publisher
When he died at 42, Robert Paine Scripps was one of the most powerful men in American journalism. 
His Scripps-Howard Company owned more than 30 daily newspapers in all the leading cities: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver. Most were started from scratch by his father, Edward Willis Scripps, whose career began in 1878 when, at 24, he founded the Cleveland Penny Press. 
Born in 1895, Robert Scripps joined the company when he was 16 and by 1917, was editorial director of the chain and in the 1920s became president and chief stockholder. 
In 1924, he bought an estate on Route 35, South Salem Road, and lived there fairly regularly until around 1933 when he moved back to his native California. His family continued to use the Ridgefield place, opposite Cedar Lane, as a vacation home until the late 1930s. 
Scripps raised some eyebrows in March 1931 at a conference on unemployment headed by U.S. Senator Robert M. La Follette Jr. of Wisconsin — a Republican who championed organized labor. Scripps testified that a solution to unemployment and industrial stability could be “shorter hours of labor than have ever been dreamed of; and wider distribution of wealth — through wages and otherwise — to permit increased luxury consumption and increased luxury employment.”
Scripps was best known in the newspaper industry for beginning the use of joint-operating agreements — in which two competing newspapers use the same offices and printing facilities. “In a period when fierce competition forced many poorly managed newspapers to fold, these agreements helped ensure the survival of the Scripps-Howard chain and numerous other newspapers,” a biographer wrote. The technique has been used into the 21st Century, though few cities remain that can support two newspapers. 
In March 1938,  Scripps died unexpectedly aboard his yacht off Baja California; the cause of death was listed as a “throat hemorrhage.” Ironically, 12 years earlier, E.W. Scripps, his father, had died aboard his own yacht off the coast of Africa. Daddy would have been the candidate for the hemorrhage — he smoked 30 cigars and drank four quarts of whiskey a day; instead, he died of apoplexy.
Among Robert’s children who lived in Ridgefield was Elizabeth A. “Nackey” Scripps, who married William Loeb, publisher of New Hampshire’s largest daily newspaper, The Manchester Union Leader. For many years, the Loebs also owned the Connecticut Sunday Herald, a conservative weekly published in Bridgeport and later Norwalk. 
After William Loeb died in 1981, Nackey Loeb continued to publish the Union Leader until she retired in 1999. She died in 2000, leaving the paper to the new Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester.—J.S.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

 John Walter Scott Jr.: 
Artist of the West
John Walter Scott Jr. had a varied and successful career as an illustrator and an artist whose works were enjoyed by millions of people, most of whom did not know his name.
Born in 1907 in New Jersey, Scott was attending art school at the age of 16, and by the time he was in his 20s, was freelancing covers for some of the leading pulp fiction magazines of the 1930s, including All Star Fiction, Best Western, Detective Short Stories, Future Fiction,  Marvel Science Stories, Mystery Tales, Quick-Trigger Western, Real Sports, Two-Gun Western,  Uncanny Tales, and Western Novel and Short Stories.
By the late 1930s, he was moving to slick magazines like Coronet, Woman’s Day and This Week, doing covers and story illustrations.
During the war, he joined the staff of Yank, an Army magazine covering events on the European battle front. His war drawings are now part of the Army’s historical archives.
After the war, he began to focus his illustrations on the outdoors, doing hunting and fishing pictures for Sports Afield, True, and Argosy, all men’s magazines.  He eventually got commissions
for large-scale murals in major buildings; some of his best-known were for the Mormon temples at Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.
John Scott spent his last years as an artist of the Old West — perhaps he was influenced by the pulp western covers he did in the 1930s as well as by the work of Frederic Remington — who died in Ridgefield two years after Scott was born. In the 1970s and 80s, he was being referred to as the “dean of the Remington Traditionalists.” His western works show up on the art market today; one recently sold at auction for $22,500. (Originals of his 1930s pulp fiction cover art fetch as much as $12,000.)
Even as an illustrator, Scott painted what he liked to paint, but in his final years, he seemed to enjoy himself most as an artist of the West. “I paint the pictures I am interested in painting,” he once
told an interviewer. “Much of contemporary art is about people who think they are ‘in.’ The quickest way to lose yourself is to lose your individuality. The important thing is to be yourself and forget about being ‘in.’ ”
Mr. Scott died in 1987 at the age of 79. He was married to Flavia “Punky” Scott, also an artist, who died in 2011; her father was prolific magazine artist, Frank Bensing. 
The Scotts, who came here in 1948, owned an 1860s house on North Salem Road that is now on the National Register of Historic Places; it was once the home of early circus manager Lewis June. 

Patricia Schuster, 
Dancer, Teacher, Founder
More than 5,000 children learned dance from Patricia Schuster, a professional ballet dancer who brought the art of fine dance to Ridgefield in 1965 and whose legacy is alive — and dancing — today.
Born in 1937, the Ohio native grew up in New York City, Schuster studied at the American Ballet Theater School and with teachers from the Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet. She danced professionally with the Brooklyn Opera Company, the Boris Goldovsky New England Opera Theater, and other companies. 
In 1964 she moved to Ridgefield and a year later opened the Patricia Schuster School of Dance in the Community Center. Later, she renamed the school the Ridgefield Studio of Classical Ballet. In 1978 she also founded the Ridgefield Civic Ballet, which staged many productions with local students and international stars. 
A number of her students have gone on to professional ballet, including James Fayette, who was a leading dancer with the New York City Ballet and is now a director, with his wife, of a school in Los Angeles. 
Many who did not become dancers also benefited from the experience. “My daughter took ballet lessons from Pat for years and the poise and self-confidence she gained was immeasurable,” said Nancy Pinkerton. “She later became Connecticut Junior Miss using ballet dancing as her talent. The scholarship money was a big aid in college expenses.” 
Schuster died in 1999 and in May 2000, it was revealed that she had bequeathed her Ridgefield Studio of Classical Ballet to the Friends of the Ridgefield Playhouse, the organization that was renovating the old high school auditorium into a performing arts center. In its early years the Ridgefield Playhouse provided a venue for both classes and performances, and still is a stage for performances under its new management, the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance. 
“The Playhouse embraced the school as its dance school in residence and, recognizing that the school needed and deserved its own management structure, acted as a bridge to its new life as a non-profit with its own board and management,” said the Conservatory, which now has its school at 440 Main Street. Schuster’s bequest included funds to support the project.
“Miss Schuster never had any biological children of her own, but in reality, and far better, she actually had thousands of adoring ‘children,’ ” Susan Consentino, who’d studied under her for 17 years, said at her Schuster’s memorial service in 1999. “She helped shape and influence every one of us, and not just while we were her students. She gave each of us skills to carry with us in life that consciously or unconsciously are part of us to this day.” 

Captain Meinhard Scherf: 
Irony and Tragedy at Sea
Captain Meinhard Scherf’s life and death were full of ironies. 
The first of some 20 Ridgefielders to die in World War II, he was killed by his native country serving his adopted land and doing what he loved best: sailing the seas he was literally born on. 
The son of a German Merchant Marine captain, Meinhard Scherf was born in 1893 on a ship during a cruise his parents were taking in the Canary Islands.  At 13 he ran away from home in Germany to sign on as a cabin boy aboard a freighter.  Just before World War I, his ship docked in Portland, Ore., and he went ashore to visit a friend. When he returned, the ship was gone. 
The abandoned young man decided to become an American citizen and he soon joined the Merchant Marine. He moved to Ridgefield and Barry Avenue in the 1930s.
In all, Captain Scherf had spent 37 years at sea when, in February 1943, he took command of the William P. Frye, a brand-new Liberty ship.  In a speech at the launching Feb. 11, Captain Scherf said, “As our ships sail all the oceans, bringing supplies and help to our men and to our allies, every American realizes the great value of our Merchant Marine in this war. The Merchant Marine brings weapons to war to those who fight that democracy may live. It brings food to those who fight for us and to the innocent sufferers in a world at war. 
“The world in which we shall live after the war will be a better place for our children and for ourselves because we in America consider our way of life the only way, and our fight a fight for the ideals which all true-thinking people hold right.”
On its maiden voyage a month later, The Frye was loaded with wheat, 750 tons of explosives, and, on deck, five landing craft, being shipped from Nova Scotia to England. It had 40 crew and 24 Navy guards.
The vessel had been built in just three months in Portland, Maine. Like many quickly built Liberty ships, it had problems. A mechanical failure during a hurricane-force gale caused the Frye to stop her engines March 28. As engineers worked on repairs, the ship was a sitting target for U-boats in the area. Seven hours after the Frye stopped, two torpedoes fired from a U-boat in a wolf pack just missed the ship in the heavy seas.
Capt. Scherf quickly restarted the engines and  zigzaged the Frye to avoid being hit while trying to rejoin his convoy. Unfortunately, on the night of March 29, the ship sailed within view of U-610, sitting on the surface in the darkness. The sub fired two torpedoes, both hitting the Frye, which quickly sank. Captain Scherf and most of the crew and guards were lost. He left a wife, Elsa, and two daughters.
Two officers, three crewmen, and two Navy guards survived by climbing into one of the landing craft that had broken free. They spent five days and six nights with only seven carrots for food and no fresh water before being picked up by a British destroyer.  
Seven months later, U-610 was bombed and sunk in the North Atlantic; all aboard died.
In another bit of irony, the William P. Frye was named for the first American vessel sunk by the Germans in World War I.
More than a year after the sinking, Captain Scherf’s widow was presented with the Mariner’s Medal, the Merchant Marine’s equivalent of the Purple Heart. The head of the War Shipping Administration wrote Mrs. Scherf that her husband “was one of those men who today are so gallantly upholding the traditions of those hearty mariners who defied anyone to stop the American flag from sailing the seas in the early days of this republic. He was one of those men upon whom the nation now depends to keep our ships afloat upon the perilous seas — to transport our troops across those seas and to carry to them the vitally-needed materials to keep them fighting until victory is certain and liberty is secure.”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Richard Scarry:  
The Father of Busytown
The man who created Bananas Gorilla with his armload of watches, Sergeant Murphy blowing his whistle, and Mr. Fixit with his chest of tools, was — in his early years — a Ridgefielder.
Many kids who grew up from the 1960s onward knew the creations of Richard Scarry. Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, and many other characters from his pen have been friends to tens of millions of children. 
“Scarry revealed to kids that the everyday world was a place that could be understood — and that learning was fun,” said one biography of the author and illustrator. 
Born in 1919 in Boston, Richard Scarry dropped out of business school and then studied at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. After serving as an Army lieutenant during World War II, he became a freelance artist in New York City. 
In 1950, he illustrated Katherine Jackson’s “The Animals Merry Christmas” for Simon and Schuster, and a career was born; first editions of this 19-cent book can fetch hundreds of dollars today. 
In February 1951, he and his wife Patsy moved to Ridgefield from New York City, leasing a place on the Conklin farm on North Street — a locale that inspired many of his later farm illustrations. In 1953, the couple bought their first home, also on North Street. The Scarrys could often be seen driving around town in their MG sports car. 
Throughout the 50s he illustrated books for Golden Press. In 1955, he did Jane Werner’s “Smokey the Bear,” a Golden Book. Many of today’s images of Smoky the Bear are based on Scarry’s imagining of him. 
In 1953, their son was born;  though they named him Richard Jr., he was always called Huck — like the Busytown cat who would follow — and today Huck Scarry produces children’s books himself. 
In 1959, the Scarrys moved to Westport, and 10 years later, to Switzerland. 
Scarry’s first major success as an author illustrator was “The Best Word Book Ever,” published in 1963, which introduced Busytown; it sold more than seven million copies in its first 12 years. Over his 26-year career, he did more than 300 books that have sold more than 100 million copies in 30 languages; scores are still in print. 
“I’m not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten,” he once said. “I am very happy when people write that they have worn out my books, or that they are held together by Scotch tape. I consider that the ultimate compliment.” 
He died in 1994 in Switzerland at the age of 75. His papers and much of his art are now in the University of Connecticut archives. Huck lives in Vienna.

George Scalise: 
The Swaggering Gangster
An old Ridgefield mansion that’s now home to Catholic priests was once the country house of a noted racketeer who stole huge amounts of money from the people he was supposed to serve.
George Scalise was one of New York City’s top mobsters when he had the misfortune to run up against a soon-to-be Ridgefielder, who exposed his misdeeds, and a soon-to-be U.S. presidential candidate, who successfully prosecuted him. 
Scalise wound up in jail and columnist Westbrook Pegler wound up with a Pulitzer Prize.
George “Poker Face” Scalise was born in Italy in 1896,  grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and became a U.S. citizen in 1911. When he was 21 and registering for the draft in World War I, he filled out his form and claimed an exemption from the draft on the grounds he was an “ex convict.”
According to one historian, Scalise began his criminal career as a pimp, but soon moved into the lucrative field of union management. By 1933, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office was investigating Scalise for threatening businessmen; by then he was the president of Local 1 of the Car Washers and Polishers Union. 
He soon became closely associated with mobsters Dutch Schultz and Al Capone and moved on to larger jobs. By the late 1930s, Scalise was the “swaggering president of the Building Service Employees’ International Union,” as one New York newspaper put it. 
He was arrested in 1940 by the crusading district attorney Thomas E. Dewey, later governor of New York and the 1944 and 1948 GOP presidential candidate. He was charged with extorting $100,000 from hotels and contracting firms his union members worked for. ($100,000 then would be about $1.6 million today.) But the arrest came only after Pegler had exposed Scalise in a series of anti-racketeering newspaper columns that won him the Pulitzer. 
In the 1930s, Scalise bought an estate on Tackora Trail overlooking Lake Mamanasco as a weekend retreat, calling it Villa Scalise.  In a 1940 column, Pegler described how Scalise had acquired the 27-room mansion, apparently with union funds. He added, “A remarkable proportion of Mr. Scalise’s fellow officers of the union have criminal records, and he reached the presidency by
private arrangement with the officers and without any vote, direct or indirect, of the rank and file chambermaids, charwomen, window cleaners, janitors and other toilers.”  The columnist also noted that just across North Salem Road from his Ridgefield mansion was the town poorhouse.
(Pegler moved to Ridgefield a year later, buying a 100-acre estate on Old Stagecoach Road. The often-caustic columnist lived here until 1948.)
Scalise was convicted of stealing union funds and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in Sing Sing. He got out long before the maximum time, however, and by the early 1950s was back in trouble as secretary-treasurer of Distillery Rectifying and Wine Workers Union. He pleaded guilty in 1955 to accepting insurance contract bribes and kickbacks amounting to a half million dollars.  
He was in prison in 1958 when he was on a list of the top mobsters in New York City.
During his “career,” Scalise was suspected in the threatening and killing of various underworld characters, including a New Jersey cohort who had testified against him and was later fed a fatal dose of arsenic with lunch.
Over the years, he was also convicted on various extortion and tax evasion charges.
Under fire in 1940, Scalise sold “Villa Scalise.” It soon became the Mamanasco Lodge, a resort operated by the Hilsenrad family, and by the 1960s, it was owned by the Jesuits, who set up a retreat house there and called it Manresa. Today it’s still a retreat house as well as a Catholic school, operated by the Society of St. Pius X.
George Scalise died quietly on July 25, 1989, in Brooklyn. He was 93. Although The New York Times ran more than 100 stories over the years about his criminal activities, and newspapers nationally had literally thousands of accounts of his crimes, none reported his death. 
By then, the swaggering gangster was a forgotten old man.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Adam Salvo: 
A Huge Inspiration
Teachers are among the most memorable people we meet in life. And a Ridgefield teacher who produced many great memories — and great students — was Adam Salvo, who taught art at RHS for nearly 40 years.
“He was one of my all time favorite teachers in high school,” said alumnus David C. Selwitz, Class of 1973. “Such an inspiration to so many young adults. I loved him.”
Michael Adam Salvo was born in New Haven in 1935 and graduated from what is now Southern Connecticut State University. He went on to earn a master’s degree at Columbia University,  received a degree in art from the Ecole des Beaux-arts at the Palais de Fontainebleau in France, and studied at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
He began teaching at Southern Connecticut State in 1957, but two years later came to Ridgefield High School where he soon created and taught the school’s first art history course. He also taught painting and other fine arts, became chairman of the Art Department, and over the years he fostered many young artists. 
When news of his death in 2012 was posted on Old Ridgefield, there was an outpouring of praise, including:
“He was a huge inspiration and just the encouraging voice I always needed at the time,” said Terry L. Britton. “He sure went to bat for me on several occasions — I'm grateful that I had someone like him in my life.”
“He truly made me believe I could enjoy and participate in art,” said Cynthia Glasbrenner. “I was never talented, but he told me no one could match my enthusiasm.”
“He was a patient man; I gave him a little bit of holy hell in my senior year,” recalled Tom Bennett.  “I had scored straight A's in art class for 3 1/2 straight years and in the last term of my final year, he gave me a B. It was like receiving an F in anything else for me. I discovered it as a good kick in the pants and I went on to become a painter and illustrator.”
Rob Kinnaird called him “a great man who saw my potential and changed my life.”
“His class opened many doors,” wrote Maren Sirine. “He opened his heart and home to many. A favorite teacher who inspired and encouraged me to go to art school, too. I survived high school with his help!”
Salvo was active in the Aldrich Museum, and was a founder in 1993 of the museum’s Student Docent Program, which began with just two schools in Ridgefield and 10 years later involved 45 schools in 16 towns. The program trains and provides students to serve as docents at the museum.
In 2006, the Aldrich staged a show, called “Homecoming.” Exhibiting artists Damian Loeb, Sarah Bostwick and Doug Wada, all with studios in New York, shared what The New York Times called “a seminal experience”: They each had studied art under Salvo at Ridgefield High School.  
“The artists remember him as the rare teacher who treated them as adults and complained about the school administration,” The Times said. “The instructor remembers his former students, too, and regularly treks to their shows.”
Salvo was a longtime Ridgefield resident, living first on Rockwell Road and then on Oscaleta Road. He retired from teaching in 1996.
He was a member of the National Committee on Art Education of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the American Association of University Professors, and many arts-oriented organizations. He was listed in “Who’s Who in American Education.”
Over the years he had many shows of his own works, including at Silvermine Guild of Artists, Yale University,  and, of course, the Ridgefield Library.
Salvo was 77 years old and living in Guilford when he died.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dr. Theodore Safford: 
Dedicated Family Physician
When Dr. Theodore Safford was named Connecticut Family Doctor of the Year in 1985, the president of the state Academy of Family Physicians called him “a dedicated family physician, an outstanding family man, and an involved community resident. Family practice in the United States
has scaled virtually unattainable heights as a result of 30 years of extraordinary effort expended by Dr. Safford.” 
Dr. Safford went on to become the sole runner-up for Family Doctor of the Year for the whole nation. 
A native of Ohio who was born in 1923, he graduated from Dartmouth and Long Island College of Medicine. He came to Ridgefield in 1951 after service in the Navy, and practiced  for 42 years. 
The national academy praised his work in training doctors through Norwalk Hospital, noting in 1985 that he was the only family physician in the state to be a director of continuing medical education at a major teaching hospital. He’d also been a member of the Board of  Editors of Patient Care magazine. 
First appointed a medical examiner in 1961, he served in that capacity more than 40 years. 
Locally, he was better known as the family doctor. As the late John Tower expressed it in 1987 when Dr. Safford was named Rotary Citizen of the Year, “Ted’s career has always been marked by the caring and compassion with which he served those of us who depended on him. No matter how busy or tired or otherwise engaged he was, his patients came first.” 
Dr. Safford has worked closely with the Visiting Nurse Association in improving and expanding its services. He is, said Mr. Tower, “a man of stature in his own community with a reach far beyond the borders of our town.” 
After retiring Dr. Safford and his wife, Jean, moved to Massachusetts to be closer to family. He died there in 2015 at the age of 91 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cornelius Ryan:
Cornelius J. Ryan died in 1974 just months after completing “A Bridge Too Far,” the third of his meticulously researched books on World War II. 
“He had struggled valiantly against the cancer that finally claimed his life, almost forcing himself to stay alive until his book that chronicled the battles and the men who fought them was completed,” Linette Burton wrote later in The Ridgefield Press. 
Mr. Ryan’s trilogy, which included “The Longest Day” and “The Last Battle,” is famous throughout the world, and his abilities as a historian of World War II were legendary. For “The Longest Day” alone, he interviewed more than 1,000 Americans, Frenchmen, Germans, and others who took part in the battles.  
Born in 1920 in Dublin, Ireland,  Ryan as a young man studied the violin at the Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. However, he soon switched his interest to writing, becoming a reporter covering the war in Europe for Reuters and the London Daily Telegraph. 
He flew on 14 bombing missions with U.S. Army Air Force and was embedded in General
George S. Patton's Third Army, covering its actions until the end of the European war. He then went to the Pacific, covering the final months of war there.
In 1947 Ryan moved to the United States, writing for Time, Newsweek and Collier’s magazines. He married writer Kathryn Morgan in 1950 and became a U.S. citizen.
It is Ryan’s coverage of Operation Overlord, the Battle of Normandy, for which he is best known. It is the subject of “The Longest Day,” which he spent 10 years researching. The book has sold well over 25 million copies and has appeared in 18 languages. It was also made into a movie that featured dozens of Hollywood stars. 
Ryan was at Normandy twice on D-Day — aboard a bomber that flew over the beaches, and then, after he landed in England, on a patrol boat that took him back. He had just turned 24. 
The book appeared in 1959 and he devoted the remainder of his life to the rest of the trilogy. 
He was a master of research. “I have no less than 7,000 books on every aspect of World War II,” he once wrote a friend. “My files contain some 16,000 different interviews with Germans, British, French, etc. 
“Then there is the chronology of each battle, 5x7 cards, detailing each movement by hour for the particular work I’m engaged in. You may think this is all a kind of madness, an obsession. I suppose it is.”
The work was not only painstaking but also grueling. Ryan told The New York Times in 1966 that “the actual writing of ‘The Last Battle,’ quite apart from its research preparations, took me 29 months. At one point I destroyed 35,000 words and started over.  When I handed in the manuscript last December, I was exhausted. In fact, I was limp.” 
A few days later he became ill and spent nearly a month in bed. When he recovered, he said, he began spending more time “with the people I real enjoy working for — my family.”
While he completed three books on the war, Ryan had said he had planned five.
Among the many commendations he received was the French Legion of Honor. In 1973, at
his home on Old Branchville Road and amid much security, a French delegation of more than 30 people, including the French ambassador to the United States, presented him with the award for his work chronicling the Battle of Normandy. 
“I was not telling a lie in my little speech to the ambassador when I said that I did not think that there had been this many French in Ridgefield since de Rochambeau,” he later told Press publisher Karl S. Nash.
Much of the work on his second two books was done at his Old Branchville Road home with the research help of his wife, Kathryn. 
Four years after his death, his struggle with cancer was detailed in “A Private Battle,” written by Kathryn Morgan Ryan from notes he had secretly left behind for that purpose.
Ryan was only 54 when he died. Many dignitaries and soldiers from around the world attended his funeral in St. Mary’s Church; a eulogy was delivered by Walter Cronkite, the CBS news anchorman.
Ryan is buried at Ridgebury Cemetery, beneath a gravestone that says simply, “Cornelius Ryan, 1920 - 1974, Reporter.”
“In a sense, Cornelius Ryan started reporting ‘The Longest Day’ on June 6, 1944, and never really stopped,” said Columbia Journalism School professor Michael Shapiro. “That day, that war, was his story.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

John Rowley: 
Murderer on A Monument
If you visit Ridgefield’s War Memorial on Main Street at the head of Branchville Road, you can find the name of John Rowley embossed in bronze.
He’s one of many veterans of the Civil War listed on the monument. But John Rowley is different from the others: He was a murderer and a traitor, who was hanged by the Union Army.
“Private Rowley has been convicted of the most heinous offense known in the annals of crime,” wrote Major R.S. Davis, assistant adjutant general, after his 1864 trial. 
Rowley was executed for deliberately killing a comrade during a battle. He at first claimed innocence, but later confessed after reporting seeing the ghost of the man he had shot in the back of the head.
“He had a comrade, Jerome Dupay, in the same company with him, with whom he had some weeks previously a foolish quarrel,” Major Davis wrote. “Because of this he had threatened revenge, and this revenge he took when Dupay, deployed in a skirmish line of his regiment, was bravely fighting the enemies of his country at Olustee, Fla., by deliberately shooting him from behind through the brain…”
The Veterans Monument, erected in 1925, bears the names of soldiers from the Revolution through World War I, including 188 veterans of the Civil War who enlisted from Ridgefield. Twenty of our Union soldiers died in action, on duty, or in Confederate prison camps. Only John Rowley was executed.
But who was Rowley and how did did a murderer manage to be listed among Ridgefield’s honored and heroic soldiers?
Various military records say he enlisted from Ridgefield. However, Ridgefield town hall records mention no John Rowley — or any Rowley — as having lived here in the 19th Century.
Smithsonian Institution historian Silvio A. Bedini, a Ridgefield native, collaborated with this writer in researching Rowley’s background. In the National Archives in Washington, Bedini found that Rowley was an English-born sailor who was hired as a substitute to serve in the place of Charles B. Woodhouse for three years, and he was mustered in at Bridgeport on Nov. 2, 1863. 
No Charles Woodhouse has been found in Ridgefield records, but  Thomas Woodhouse, a chair-maker, died here in 1898 at the age of 60. Like Rowley, he had been born in England.
John Rowley, 22 at the time, had enlisted in the 7th Connecticut Volunteers, a regiment that included many Ridgefielders. He and Private Jerome Dupay of Redding were among 112 substitutes and draftees in the Regiment. 
Sometime in late 1863, Rowley and Dupay quarreled — about what is not known. But Rowley swore revenge, and he took it in the heat of a Florida battle on Feb. 20, 1864, shooting DuPay while Dupay was shooting Confederates.
Rowley was not immediately a suspect, however. It was only after he began reporting he could not sleep because Dupay’s ghost was appearing to him at night that Union army officers began to become suspicious.
“He gave a good deal of trouble, could not sleep, saw ghosts, and at last confessed,” said an account in the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society. “He stated that he had shot Dupay purposely in revenge.”
But when it came to his court martial near Petersburg, Va., in April 1864, he pleaded not guilty. His defense was that there were no witnesses to his having shot Dupay; that if he were going to kill Dupay because of a quarrel, why did he wait so long?; and that, although he confessed, his confession could not be believed because he was an ex-sailor addicted to telling tall tales. 
He himself testified it was “the sort of confession made by myself, a sailor by occupation, full of love for the marvelous and having a strong desire for telling extravagant stories to intimates…”
The court didn’t buy it and, by a two-thirds margin, convicted him of both murder and treason —  killing a fellow soldier, especially in wartime, was a treasonous act. He was sentenced to hanging. 
Before a soldier could be executed, the president had to sign a warrant. Rowley begged for mercy. And while Abraham Lincoln was often lenient with lesser crimes, he signed Rowley’s warrant in August.
Described as having black eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion, Rowley must have had his charms because in his last days, he had an unusual relationship with an unlikely person. She was Harriet Hawley, who sent her love and a Bible to Rowley in prison. She was also the wife of General Joseph R. Hawley of Hartford,  commander of Rowley’s regiment.
Mrs. Hawley was a nurse who’d met Rowley the previous year in South Carolina. When she heard that he had been sentenced to death, she urged a chaplain to bring Rowley a Bible “with her love, and to assure him of her daily thought and prayers….”
In prison, Rowley was suffering from remorse, reported historian Doris Cook in an account of Harriet Hawley’s connection with Rowley. Mrs. Hawley said that Rowley had told her that “he was a bad man.” She gathered that he had never had any good training or teaching and had, in fact, had nothing but the worst influences. “She could not find it in her heart to condemn a man like him, even for the most unrestrained conduct, as she would others who had had the advantage of instruction,” Mrs. Cook wrote.
Rowley was hanged Sept. 3, 1864, at Petersburg. Five days later, Mrs. Hawley, then in Washington, took a leave of absence from nursing duties, for a “needed rest.” She returned to duty in late November.
How did a traitor’s name get on Ridgefield’s veterans monument? Thomas La Lancette, author of “Let We Forget: A Guide to the Civil War Monuments, Memorials and Markers of Connecticut,” said that sometimes the Army did not widely publicize the misdeeds of soldiers so as not to embarrass families back home. However, all indications are that Rowley never lived in Ridgefield, had no family here, and may never have even set foot in the town.
The war records of all the Civil War soldiers whose names are on the monument were readily available by the 1880s, years before the monument was erected in 1925. Rowley’s end could   have been discovered by anyone researching the names of Ridgefield Civil War veterans. Apparently, the names were not closely checked, if at all.
“This is the only instance in Connecticut that I have found where a man executed by the Union Army appears on a Civil War monument,”  La Lancette said. “It does baffle me.”
It also baffled Bob Tulipani of the American Legion, the organization that worked hard and raised money to erect the monument. He pointed out in 1997 that there’s no one alive who was involved in the planning of the monument 90 years ago to explain how it might have happened.
And it’s unlikely Rowley’s name will be removed; shaving it off would mar the handsome bronze plaque — the monument was sculpted by Raffaelo E. Menconi, a native of Italy (whose son became a noted sculptor of medals, especially of U.S. presidents). Gorham, one of the nation's top foundries, cast the plaques and built the monument in Providence, R.I.  

Alice V. Rowland: 
Leader on Many Fronts
In an era when women in politics were uncommon, Alice V. Rowland stood out as a leader on many fronts. 
In 1931, she was the second woman elected a state representative from Ridgefield. Twelve years later, she became the first woman state senator from Ridgefield, was elected to three more terms, and, according to The Press, “wielded considerable influence in the Capitol … As a legislator she promoted the development of Sherwood Island State Park, larger state aid grants for schools, and the construction of state-owned technical schools.” 
Around 1950, Mrs. Rowland also became Connecticut’s first woman deputy sheriff, a job she held four years. 
A native of New York City, Alice V. MacSherry was born in 1894. While still a child, both her parents died within a few months of each other, and she was taken in by an aunt who lived in Easton.
In 1910, when she was only 16, she began teaching school in Easton, and education became a lifelong interest. 
She came to Ridgefield with her carpenter husband, Joseph, in the 1920s, immediately became immersed in the civic, political and social life of the community, and remained a major figure in many organizations over more than 40 years. 
She was active in the PTA (there was only one for all the schools), the Grange, the League of Women Voters, Republican Women’s Club, Red Cross, 4-H, American Legion Auxiliary, and many World War II home-front efforts. 
She was also active at St. Mary’s where she was a member of the Rosary Society for 40 years, many as its president, and was active in the National Council of Catholic Women.
In 1943, Gov. Raymond E. Baldwin appointed her to a six-year term on the state Board of Education. She was also a vice president of the Connecticut PTA.
She served a term on the Republican State Central Committee and, in 1954, party leaders asked her to run for secretary of the state; after eight ballots at the convention, she lost to another woman whom party leaders decided had a better chance of winning. 
Mrs. Rowland retired from politics in 1964 and eventually moved to Florida where she died in 1971 at the age of 75. 
Rowland Lane, off East Ridge, was named for her and her husband.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Kathryn Venus Rosa: 
Pioneering Preservationist
“I have a fierce sense of protection for our historic past,” said Kathryn Venus Rosa in a 1996 Press interview. “I’d like to be remembered as someone who committed herself to the preservation of our past for future generations, someone who felt it was a privilege to live in a town as beautiful as Ridgefield.”
A founder of the Keeler Tavern Museum and longtime chairman of the Historic District Commission, Kitty Rosa lived not only for history, but in history: Her house was built in the 1700s by the Olmsted family, among the founders of the town.
She was born in Ridgefield in 1921, daughter of Jack and Marion Travis Venus. Her dad, one of nine children born to Mary and Charles Venus, owned Venus Oil Company and Limestone Service Station on Danbury Road. As a child, she loved walking along the Main Street and she especially enjoyed going to antiques auctions with her mother.
She graduated from Ridgefield High School on East Ridge and was voted “best socializer” in her class. After graduating from Merrill Business School, she worked in finance. Her interest in business and antiques merged when she started the Village Trader in a 3,000-square-foot building on Prospect Street, across from what’s now the Prospector. Her husband, Paul, attended auctions on weekends to ensure the shop had a wide variety of antiques and collectibles.
Mrs. Rosa soon became a leading voice for the cause of historic preservation. In 1965, when the private home once known as the Keeler Tavern came on the market, she helped form a small group that eventually included her two mentors, Francis Martin and Preston Bassett, with the goal of purchasing the home for $85,000, then a considerable sum. The result is the Keeler Tavern Museum, for which Mrs. Rosa worked tirelessly, serving many years as president.
“Kitty’s love of history was in full bloom at this incredible pre-Revolutionary home and she donned her period costume regularly as a tour guide for visitors who shared her enthusiasm for its history,” said her daughter, Elizabeth Beresford.
In 1970 she was appointed to the Historic District Commission, the agency that oversees the preservation of properties on southern Main Street, eastern West Lane, and southern High Ridge. She spent 40 years on the commission and was its chair from 1973 to 1999.
Mrs. Rosa was among the team that saved the Scott House on Catoonah Street by raising over half a million dollars to dismantle the historic building board by board and reconstruct it on Sunset Lane. It  opened there in 2002 as the Ridgefield Historical Society.
“Through many conversations with Kitty, her love of Ridgefield, and the work she did to preserve its history and beauty, was always foremost in her mind,” said Town Historian Kay Ables. “Kitty gave so much of herself in every job she undertook.
“In the early days of the historical society, when money was being raised to reconstruct the building, Kitty worked tirelessly with Jeanne Timpanelli and Dave Scott to choose the furniture, select the proper lighting, the paint, which has become Kitty’s green, and so many other details. Kitty was on our original board,” Ms. Ables said.  
She also helped in the project to launch Ridgefield’s performing arts center, The Ridgefield Playhouse, to host concerts, plays, dance recitals, and movies in the old RHS auditorium, which had been designed by Cass Gilbert Jr.
“Kitty was extremely proud of this living legacy, the culmination of all her efforts to make Ridgefield one of the finest communities in the land,” her daughter said.
She and her husband Paul — a former Ridgefield selectman — were honored as the Kiwanis Club’s Citizens of the Year in 1997. 
In 2000, Mrs. Rosa received the Harlan H. Griswold Award, the state’s highest award for historic preservation. At the presentation, John W. Shannahan, director of the Connecticut Historical Commission, said Mrs. Rosa is “the woman who, perhaps more than any other individual, has been directly responsible for protecting the historical and architectural integrity of this extraordinary, yet most livable, community.”
She died in 2014 in California, where she was living with her daughter. She was 92.   

Harold Rome: 
Maker of Musicals
Harold J. Rome was a songwriter who penned not only the lyrics but the music for most of his work. When he moved to Ridgefield in 1944, he was already well known for writing the Broadway musicals “Pins and Needles” and, with Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, “Sing Out the News.” 
He was also known for his song “Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones,” sung by Ella Fitzgerald in 1938 and Judy Garland in the 1941 movie “Babes on Broadway.”
In December 1944, The Ridgefield Press reported that “Corp. Harold J. Rome, the Army’s songwriter, and Mrs. Rome, paid their first visit over the weekend to their newly acquired Ridgefield home … in the Limestone District.”
While living in Ridgefield, he was officially stationed at Fort Hamilton, Long Island. The 1944 Press article said, “Rome now turns out tunes tailor-made for scripts written by the orientation department. According to an article in Sunday’s ‘Times’ magazine section, ‘Rome has already written four such tunes with sophisticated lyrics that might easily be removed — sometimes after only a bit of scouring — to a Broadway musical show.
“He produced ‘The Gripers’ for a script on soldier gripes; ‘It’s a Small World’ for a dramatic interpretation of geopolitics; ‘All GI’s Got Rights’ for a show on the GI Bill of Rights; and ‘Do a Favor for Adolph, Please,’ to explain to the soldiers why they are given orientation instruction.”
After the war, Rome gained greater fame, writing such musicals as “Wish You Were Here” in 1952, “Fanny” in 1954, “Destry Rides Again” in 1959, and the show in which Barbra Streisand made her Broadway debut, “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” in 1962.  A less-known show, “The Zulu and the Zayda” in 1965, dealt with racial and religious intolerance.
Rome was probably drawn to Ridgefield by his friend James Waterman Wise of Pumping Station Road. Wise was an author who was writing books exposing Nazism before Hitler even came to power. He was also a biographer of Vice President Henry Wallace, who lived in South Salem and was active in St. Stephen’s Church. 
Mr. and Mrs. Wise often got together with the Romes and with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Draper — Paul Draper was a then-famous tap dancer and choreographer. All were involved in liberal causes, and Draper was once accused of being a communist.
Florence Rome, Harold’s wife, bought the 21-acre spread on the west side of lower Great Hill Road, but the couple apparently didn’t find country life to their liking. She sold the place a couple of years later. 
Harold Rome, who was also a painter and art collector, died in 1993 in New York City at the age of 85. Florence died four years later.  

  The Jeremiah Bennett Clan: T he Days of the Desperados One morning in 1876, a Ridgefield man was sitting in a dining room of a Philadelphi...