It isn’t unheard of, but it isn’t that common either, to have six Milford mayors in one place, signing the same document.
That’s what happened yesterday at Carriage Green in Milford when Mayor Ben Blake and five former mayors heeded a request by Jerry Patton, a former state representative, to put their John Hancocks on a letter requesting funds for the Milford Hall of Fame.
“We were joking that the mayors are only in one place at the same time at a funeral,” said Former Mayor James Richetelli Jr. “This, though, is a happy occasion.”
Patton and members of the Milford Hall of Fame Committee decided to send letters to about 125 residents and businesses asking for donations to support the Hall of Fame, a collection of plaques and biographies that details some of Milford’s standout residents since its founding.
Patton said when he asked the mayors to sign the letter, he thought the committee would just stamp their six names on the paper. “But they insisted they had to sign them personally,” Patton said, adding that he saw the gathering as unique.
“Today we have five mayors here representing half a century, and today’s mayor,” Patton said.
The mayors, who sat at a long table at Carriage Green, a senior living community, each grabbed a pen donated by Bic, and started signing the 125 letters. Present were Alan Jepson, mayor from 1963 to 1969; Edward Kozlowski, mayor form 1969 to 1971; Joel Baldwin, mayor from 1973 to 1977; Alberta Jagoe, who served from 1981 to 1989; James Richetelli Jr., 2001 to 2011, and current Mayor Ben Blake.
Jagoe lamented that the late Fred Lisman, who led the city from 1989 to 2001, was no longer with the group. The other mayors who have held office since the city moved to a mayoral form of government, and who have died, are Charles Iovino, who served from 1959 to 1963; Clifton Moore, mayor from 1971 to 1973; and Henry Povinelli, from 1977 to 1981.
In addition to commenting on the mayors who preceded them, the six letter signers chatted a bit about their time in office.
Baldwin pointed out that he was single when he was mayor. When he was running for office, Jepson cautioned him that being single might be a negative. But Baldwin said he doesn’t know how the others did it, and how Blake does it — balancing family with all the job responsibilities.
Jagoe interjected, saying, “I think I deserve a star because I had five teenagers.”
She said having help at home from her husband, and good children, made it possible.
Jagoe recalled the Flood of 1982, when she was in office, that sent tax bills floating from City Hall down the road.
Baldwin remembered the yellow slicker Jagoe wore as she hurried from place to place after the storm. Jagoe added that she also had to contend with Hurricane Gloria in 1985.
Tropical Storm Irene hit when Richetelli was in office and it left work for Blake to do when he took office.
The city had a drill recently to prepare for future storms, Blake said, and much of the plan was based on lessons learned from Irene.
As they chatted, they passed around and signed the letters that will now be mailed to residents and businesses likely to donate. Organizers said they hope to get $2,000 to $4,000 in donations to support the Hall of Fame.
Baldwin, treasurer of the organization, said the annual budget is about $2,500, and there is enough money for this year and next year, thanks to Milford Bank.
Jerry Patton started the Hall of Fame in 2008, and each year five former residents are inducted and honored as hall-of-famers. A plaque is stamped with their name and hung at the Parsons Government Complex, and biographies and a sketch, done by Dotty Kozlowski, are compiled into a booklet.
Inductees to date include people like the Rev. Peter Prudden (1601 to 1656), Milford’s first colonial era pastor; Sylvester Z. Poli (1858 to 1937), a theater visionary; Simon Lake, (1866 to 1945), contributor to development of the modern day submarine; and Ansantawae, the Wepawaug Chief who controlled Milford and Orange in the 1600s.
Patton, who previously worked on a project called Milford Memories with the Rotary Club, said he believes it is important to record stories about Milford’s past and its people.