Over 100 people attended a reception recently in Woodbridge for Sarita and Gonzalo Docal to honor and thank them for their service to the community.

The Docals are familiar fixtures at Our Lady of Assumption parish activities. Both have been involved in most aspects of church life and regularly give back to the community. The Docals were both eucharistic ministers. Sarita was the treasurer of the Social Action Committee and a CCD teacher. She helped start the food pantry and food basket programs. Gonzalo was past president of the pastoral council and member of the finance council. Gonzalo was instrumental in the adoption of the Sacred Heart St. Peter School program. When asked how he was elected president of the pastoral council, Gonazlo chuckled and said, "I was elected after only one meeting. When I objected and I stated that I had no experience, everyone told me to leave it in the hands of the Holy Spirit."

Today, Gonzalo holds the title of Trustee Emeritus. He also received the prestigious St. Joseph Award for service from Father Gianelli, pastor of Our Lady of Assumption. The award is one of the highest honors bestowed on a layperson.

A happily married couple of 52 years, the Docals and their five children were born in Cuba. In 1960, not wanting to live under Castro's Communist regime, the Docal family came to the United States on tourist visas and never returned. According to Sarita, the couple brought only the suitcases they carried and left everything else behind.

At the time, Gonzalo was general manager of Uniroyal in Cuba. In the United States he continued to work in that position for Uniroyal's Colombian and Mexican operations until his retirement in 1986. The Docals settled in Woodbridge when Uniroyal relocated to Middlebury, but no sooner was their house constructed, Gonzalo and his family were transferred to Cali, Colombia and then Mexico City. In the last transfer, the family was able to move back to Woodbridge. Gonzalo quipped, "It seemed that every time we moved, we had another child." One child was born in Colombia and the last one in Greenwich. Today Sarita and Gonzalo are the proud parents of seven children and grandparents of 22 children.

At the reception, one of the first comments made by Sarita in her humble manner was "This tribute should not be just for us, we could not have done it by ourselves. Some of the people who have helped us along the way have now become our dearest friends." One of the speakers at the reception, Jane Trevett stated, "There is no question that the world is in turmoil today and that we need good role models in all institutions and at every level. The Docals are an example of good role models to their family, their church and their community. Their devotion to each other is most admirable. Their dedication to helping others is exemplary. Their strong faith is enviable."

Sam Velleca, another speaker, commented that without the Docals the church's association with the Sacred Heart St. Peter School would not have happened.

Donations collected from the event will be sent to the Food for the Poor in Deerfield Beach, Fla., an organization affiliated with one of the Docal's daughters, Cristina.