A guest post from CHC’s President and CEO, Mark Masselli:
While we are just a few months out from celebrating our 40th anniversary, we received sad news about the passing of two people who were very close to the Health Center. The first was Steve Buttner, Dean at Wesleyan University for the Class of 1974 and one of our earliest members of the initial Board of Directors. I attended a memorial service for Steve at the 92 theater at Wesleyan University on August 11th . The service was rich in music and captured so poignantly the impact Steve had on the lives of so many in all of the circles that he traveled. Steve had a larger than life persona and I remember him bouncing into our College Street offices back in our early days. He really loved the San Francisco feel of the space and was invigorated by the energy of the young staff and our all-out commitment to change the world. He was a generous soul with his time and counsel – both which we needed as we tilted at a number of windmills back then. But he always steered us back to the essence of what we were doing and the best way to use the resources we had at hand. Steve was the Dean for the first incoming class of women at Wesleyan University and many of that class came to volunteer at the Health Center. He was supportive of those who took a semester off to help get the Health Center underway or those that just came down to lend a hand. We remember those warm bear-like hugs that he gave – Steve’s energy and warmth still courses through our DNA.
Vinny Amato, for whom the iconic Amato Toy Store is named, also passed away in August. Vinny was one of the many Main Street merchants who watched over CHC during the past 40 years – while his political leanings were conservative he became a strong convert to our work as he watched us grow the Health Center in the place he loved so much : Main Street. Whether it was having lunch at Ford News, attending a chamber meeting or simply catching up on the progress of Middletown, Vinny was an engaging conversationalist – he also listened and heaped praise onto the work we had undertaken. My wife nicely tells the tale, in a local blog, of how we came to name the Health Center’s dance hall after him. “Many years ago, after a night of swing dancing up at Wesleyan, my spouse and I walked a darkened Main Street, taking advantage of the last hour of babysitting before we headed home. We stopped in front of the old vacant storefront where the original Amato’s toy store had been before it moved across to the JC Penney building. Wouldn’t it be the perfect place to hold dances right on Main Street? Could it be a place where people would come to socialize in a healthy way and learn a new skill? The next day, Mark called Vinny and asked if we could use the old store to create a community dance hall – and without hesitation, Vinny said yes, saying that he remembered how much fun it had been to go dancing when he was younger. I’m not entirely sure that we really got his permission on the name, but that’s how Vinnie’s Jump & Jive came about.” Vinny loved life, his family and businesses that cared about making a difference – and that he did.