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Second Annual

March 28, 2009
Cornucopia in Torrington

The Second Annual Images of Heroes Gala was held on March 28, 2009 at Cornucopia in Torrington. Here are some photos of the event

2009 Hero Awards

Lifetime Community Impact

Sponsored by

Leo Martigneni
O&G Industries, Torrington
Mr. Leo A. Martigneni is a Senior Systems Analyst/Programmer for O&G Industries. Leo volunteers annually for the annual St. Jude’s Telethon, the Torrington Road Race, the Harwinton Fair, the Relay for Life and the Friendly Hands Food Bank.

Leo is Chairman of the Torrington Veterans Support Committee, a city chartered committee responsible for honoring and supporting our veterans, past and present.  He organizes the annual Memorial Day Parade and ceremonies for Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Gulf War Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.  For these, he arranges all of the activities, lines up participates and honorees, acts as Emcee, and gives speeches and presents awards.  Leo also produces the weekly cable television program, Veteran’s View.

He was instrumental in the clean-up of several unsightly traffic islands and intersections in Torrington, working with the Mayor’s office, City Council, and DOT.  He participated on the committee to establish a dog park in Torrington, and is the organizer and captain of his neighborhood Block Watch program, including the Annual Night Out program. 

Leo  is the Financial Secretary and member of the board of the Torrington chapter of UNICO National and Past President and, member of the Oliver Wolcott Technical High School Alumni Association.

Animal Rescue
Sarah, Thomas and Anna Kwashnak
Middlebury residents Sarah (8 years old), Thomas (6 years old), and Anna (3-years old) Kwashnak rescued a badly hurt chipmunk from their family cats.   The children put their sibling rivalry aside and teamed to nurse the chipmunk (named Chippie) to health, providing clean shelter, water and food. Over the following weeks Sarah, Thomas and Anna cleaned the animal, made sure the shelter was dry, and continued to provide food and water until Chippy was fully recovered.  After three weeks the chipmunk was able to eat nuts and showed awareness of its surroundings, and the whole family brought Chippie to the woods to set him free.

Sarah, Thomas and Anna put aside their sibling rivalry when it mattered.  They worked as a team, showed compassion, and understood their priorities, while showing the solid core values their parents instill in them. Last year Sarah and Anna they were the subjects for the Good Samaritan award won by their neighbor, Kendrick Lechner, a student at Middlebury’s Memorial Middle School. 

Community Impact - Individual

Sponsored by

Angel Ortiz
(Lydia Street Neighborhood Watch)
As the son of missionary parents of Puerto Rican descent, Angel learned the value of service to others at an early age.  In the early 1990’s, he was a leader for the Royal Rangers, a church sponsored youth group in Waterbury.  It was this involvement that led to his becoming the first bi-lingual CPR instructor in the Waterbury area.

More recently, Angel set out to change the quality of life in his neighborhood on Lydia Street in the East end of Waterbury, where he had resided since 2005.  Prior to October, 2008, Lydia Street faced difficulties common, unfortunately, to so many neighborhoods in Waterbury.  Break-ins, vandalism, and speeding cars were not uncommon.  Unfortunately, a “mind your own business” mindset had set in. 

Angel researched and implemented a Neighborhood Watch program.  First, he communicated with the neighborhood’s families by letter, and then in person, as he recruited all 22 households into the program.  Further, he was the catalyst for a true neighborhood spirit taking hold, in spite of the diverse cultural and age backgrounds that exist.  The neighbors now hold regular meetings and have a newsletter.  They are well known to their Waterbury Police Community Relations Officer.  They have taken back control of their neighborhood and their lives.

Community Impact - Group
Alcoa Howmet

Sponsored by

During 2008, 42% of Alcoa Howmet’s 180 employees volunteered hundreds of hours supporting over 15 non-profits in northwest Connecticut Alcoa Howmet sponsored a blood drive, and employees organized 5 internal fund raising events, engaging the entire work force, which raised over $1000 for the non-profits.  This was embellished by Alcoa Inc. and the Alcoa Foundation, resulting in over $100,000 to worthy organizations in surrounding towns. 

Further, the Alcoa Foundation sponsored 4 middle school and high school teachers to attend the City of Neighborhoods Program (helping towns rebuild) in New Orleans and the Keystone Institute, an environmental program in Colorado.  Lessons learned wee brought back to the classroom. They sponsor employees to participate in the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce Leadership program which focuses on community improvement.

Isabel Nunes
Wilby High School, Waterbury
Isabel Nunes was born in Lyon, France to Portuguese immigrants, who came to America in 1980. She graduated from Waterbury’s Crosby High School, the ConnCAP Program, and the Upward Bound Math/Science Program in Maine, all in 1993.

Isabel received her college degree from Assumption College in Worcester, MA with a double major in Biology and English in 1997, but didn’t have any intention of being a teacher.  However, after substitute teaching experiences and work at the Upward Bound Math/Science Program at the University or Maine, she had found her calling.  She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT with a Master's degree in English and a teaching certificate in 1998.

In 1999, she began teaching English at Wilby High in Waterbury and has been there ever since.  Besides her classroom responsibilities, she has been the Student Council advisor at Wilby running 2 blood drives a year, annual Thanksgiving food drives, Anti-drug campaigns, pep rallies, and serving as faculty member of the National Honor Society.  She is the class advisor to this year’s senior class, and has a new role on the “Positive Behavior Support” team.

She is most proud of her role as the school's organizer and team captain for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.  Graduates who participated with her in this event have created their own team and are continuing the tradition of bringing awareness to cancer and raising money for cancer research and patients. Her parents (Maria and Antonio Nunes), husband (Mark Siraco), and sister (Micaela Nunes) inspire her daily and provide the love and support to keep her going.

Emergency Medical Services
Laurence "Skip" Gelati
Thomaston Volunteer Ambulance Corps
Skip got his start in emergency response while a student at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, VT in 1973, where he rode the ambulance, supporting the school and nearby communities. He is a former teacher at Hamden Junior High, and his career has taken him on an alternating path between teaching and engineering.  For 10 years, he has been  an EMS instructor and part-time faculty member at NVCC.

After moving to Thomaston in 1985, he again volunteered for the local EMS group.  He continues to work with Thomaston Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TVAC) in a teaching capacity, where he is the Training Officer and Infectious Disease Officer.  He has also been an instructor for Campion Ambulance Service for the past 6 years.  He is on call approximately 1,300 hours per year.

Skip is also the Chairman of the Northwest Connecticut Emergency Medical Services Council, a volunteer position.  He represents TVAC on the State of Connecticut Volunteer Committee of the Dept. of Public Health, the Regional EMS Council, and sub-region, also volunteer positions.  He is certified to teach at the State Police Academy in Meriden.  He is on the regional faculty for the American Heart Association, holds an instructorship in Emergency Vehicle Operations, and routinely conducts first aid and CPR training for Thomaston’s Emergency Response Team.  He has worked with dozens of organizations and instructed thousands of EMS students within the state.

Skip was the recipient of the Rotary Club of Thomaston’s “Distinguished Citizen Award” in 2008 and the State of Connecticut EMS Award for distinguished service in 2007.

Firefighter (Career)
Gary Mancuso
Waterbury Fire Department
Gary Mancuso has been employed by the Waterbury Fire Department as a Fire Driver for 23 years. His normal responsibilities include driving to the scene of the event and operating the 100 foot aerial ladder.

On January 22, 2008, conditions were extremely unfavorable - below 0 degrees!  At 1:56 AM, Waterbury FD received a call for a building on fire at 22 Pearl Street, a three story (three family) wood frame structure that housed 15 occupants.

While the other members of the FD were trying to bring the "fully involved" fire under control, Gary noticed that there was an individual on the third floor porch that was getting ready to jump. Gary made the quick decision to maneuver the ladder between a set of primary and secondary high tension power lines to reach the porch

Gary rushed up the unmanned ladder without any fire protection gear (helmet, protective clothing, etc.) amid heavy fire and smoke.  In addition to the power lines, weight on the unmanned ladder was a concern. The ladder could move, or even collapse, depending on the load, further thwarting rescue attempts. However, he was able to safely remove the person preparing to jump.

After saving the first person, Gary helped three additional individuals climb over the porch railing. He used a "bear hug" to safely evacuate them from the raging fire. Gary's quick thinking enabled him to single-handedly rescue two men and two women!  
Waterbury Fire Chief Mike Maglione nominated Gary for this Heroes award.

Good Samaritan
Charlie and Nathan Beardsley
Charlie Beardsley, owner of Beardsley Excavating, Inc., and son Nathan, of Southbury, rescued a man who had tumbled down a deep ravine in Southford Falls State Park.

After arriving to do some hiking and fishing, they heard a woman frantically yelling for help.  Responding to the woman’s distress calls, Charlie and son quickly reached the location where her husband had fallen 50 – 60 feet. Following his Dad’s instructions, Nathan went back to the park entrance to direct emergency responders to the location where the man fell.   This allowed Charlie to focus on helping the distressed man.  Disregarding his own safety, Charlie climbed down the unstable rock and crossed a 10 foot wide brook to reach the fallen victim.  He propped the man up, and applied pressure to a gash on his head, and worked to maintain the victim’s consciousness.

When police and fire personnel arrived, Nathan directed them to the scene of the fall.  Emergency personnel lifted him out of the ravine and transported him to Waterbury Hospital. It was determined that the man had a severe head laceration, fractured skull, and broken collarbone. Charlie downplayed his actions, saying that any other Good Samaritan would have done the same and praising his 11 year old son for following his instructions.

Dr. Stanley J. Foster
As a result of Dr. Stanley J. Foster’s compassion and generous financial donations, dozens of infants and children have been given a chance to succeed.

In particular, he has been the most generous benefactor for the Crosby High School Young Parents Program, The program provides a developmentally appropriate, nurturing, and caring environment for the infants of Waterbury Public School students.  The program encourages teen parents to stay in school after the birth of their child, assists them in graduating from high school and, in some cases, to continue their education.  It provides these young women with guidance and social services to help them cope with the responsibilities of their education and family life.

He donates funds directly to the program, has provided for college scholarships for needy students, and stops by frequently to see what else is needed.  More importantly, Dr. Foster gives his time to kids…listening, caring, loving.

Law  Enforcement

Officer Christopher Zentek
Waterbury Police Department
Officer Christopher Zentek is a four-year veteran of the Waterbury Police Department. On January 20, 2008 he was dispatched to a structure fire at 15 Bishop Street, a large multi-family apartment complex.  Officer Zentek arrived before the Fire Department and saw heavy smoke coming from the building and occupants fleeing through the front door.  He entered into the smoke filled building, without regard for his own safety, to assist in the evacuation and to render aid to injured persons. 

As he entered the main hallway, he saw smoke and water coming from apartment 102. From past experience, Officer Zentek knew that  the occupant of this apartment was wheelchair-bound.  He immediately recognized the seriousness of the situation and tried to enter the apartment, but found the door locked..  Kicking the door open, he found the apartment filled with smoke and the occupant crawling toward the door.  Officer Zentek then dragged the occupant from the apartment to safety.  The occupant had fallen out of her wheelchair and would not have been able to get out of the apartment without Officer Zentek's assistance. 

He is currently on assignment in his second tour with the U.S. Army in Iraq, where he is a Staff Sergeant serving in the Military Police.  He has been in the Army Reserves since September 2002 and served an earlier tour in Iraq from 2004-2005.  We pray for his safe return home next month.

Priscilla Clark - City Hill Middle School Naugatuck
Priscilla Clark has an impressive career in nursing spanning 36 years.  For 17 years, she was a critical care nurse at Waterbury’s St. Mary’s Hospital.  Then, after 5 years at  Maple Hill School in Naugatuck, she moved to  City Hill Middle School, where she has dispensed care and caring for 14 years.

Last fall, she coordinated the Mobile Dentist visit, allowing many children to receive dental evaluations and care.  She is a frequent guest speaker in the school’s Science classes on topics including nutrition, high blood pressure, and the value of regular exercise.  She enriches the lives of special education students as they deal with occupational therapy, chair-bound issues, or other emotional and physical challenges.  Nearly one hundred children per day visit Nurse Clark for cases such as asthma, diabetes, allergies, skinned knees, and even heart monitoring devices.  Through it all, Priscilla Clark maintains a sense of duty and humility. Priscilla advises that , “ A positive comment can do wonders.”


Sponsored by

LTC Sherman McGrew, USAR
Waterbury Police Department Waterbury
Lt. Col. Sherman R. McGrew of the United States Army Reserve is also a captain in the Waterbury Police Department. Lt. Col McGrew joined the Army as a private in 1979.  He graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1982 and became an infantry lieutenant.  He was promoted to Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve in 2002. 

In 1987, he joined the Waterbury Police Department as a patrolman.  He completed his BS in General Studies at UConn in 1992; a Masters in Forensic Science at Univ. of New Haven in 1994; and a JD from UConn Law School in 1997.  He was promoted to Sergeant in 2000, Lieutenant in 2004, and to Captain in December, 2007.

He started the Waterbury Police Academy in 2004 and ran the academy for four years.  The evolution of the academy was based heavily on his prior military experience.  Currently, he is the evening shift commander, supervising approximately 70 personnel.  He is the SWAT team deputy commander.  He was named Waterbury Police Officer of the Year in 2004 by the Exchange Club and in 2008 by the Elks Club. He has recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, for which he detailed his experiences in a 19 article series for the Waterbury Republican-American.


Also meet our 2008 Heroes