NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

Destination: Starbucks in Simsbury, Connecticut

Posted on March 10, 2017

Starbucks in Simsbury, CT.


Write-Up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


With snow falling outside, part of winter 2016/2017’s last stand here in the Northeast, today is ideal to find a cozy spot and partake in a last hot chocolate of the season or another warm beverage. Should you find your way to Connecticut’s Farmington Valley, a perfect place to take shelter from the cold is Starbucks in Simsbury.


At each end of the coffeehouse is a fireplace.


What makes this such a good choice for warming up with a cup of Joe while a chill is still in the air?


The Simsbury Starbucks boasts of not one, but two fireplaces. A fireplace is situated on each side of the restaurant. The space nearby is typically prime seating and almost always full, but occasionally a table or chair opens up. Grab it! It won’t be available for long.


Located in the Simsburytown Shops Plaza, this Starbucks with its rustic ambiance is across the street from the red stone town hall – Simsbury is known for its red stone buildings. The convenient locale has made the Simsbury Starsbucks a popular place for elected officials, town workers and reporters such as myself, when I was covering the town, to enjoy the Seattle-based coffeehouse chain’s signature blends, light bites or pastries. One of my favorite menu items is a slice of Iced Lemon Bar.


Inside is a stand of newspapers. As one who has devoted much of her life to print journalism, it is heartening to know newspaper reading is not a lost art everywhere. Many customers here indulge in their treats with newspaper in hand. Of course, there are also those who occupy themselves with computers and Smart Phones.


(Slightly off subject but nonetheless .. it was at this plaza outside Starbucks that a group of local veterans drove their vintage cars for me to snap some photo ops for the local paper, the cars were to be part of the annual Memorial Day Parade. Ironically, the pics got cropped down and the cars could not be seen. The veterans were good sports about it and their main concern, an appeal for greater participation, did get publicized.)


Back to the topic at hand. If it is not possible to check out the Starbucks in Simsbury today, not to worry. A few patio tables on the front veranda are quite pleasant in warm weather.


Starbucks, 930 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury, CT 860-651-7557

Willow Madness

Posted on March 7, 2017



Write-Up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


In the backdrop an original palette knife painting by my brother FWB II.


The month of March is known for whipping winds, weather that roars in with the last hurrah of winter and gently exits with the nearing of spring, dependent upon how the calendar falls – the holy days of Lent and Easter, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, a lovely aquamarine birthstone (mine) and college basketball tournament play dubbed “March Madness.”


It is also a time of ‘willow madness’ for the enigmatic pussy willow. As puts it, pussy willows offer early buds in late winter “when much of the landscape still sleeps in dormancy.” Quite appropriately, ‘willow madness’ seems to be everywhere as Catkin branches can currently be found at virtually every New England garden, floral and specialty retail shop.


Delightful, yet mysterious looking Catkin branches – long, dark and adorned by fluffy, oval-shaped buds in shades of ivory or pale pinkish, are one of the great joys of this juncture of seasonal change. Among nature’s most beautiful works of art, in my home I have set a vase of pussy willows in front of another enigmatic piece of art, an original palette knife painting done by my brother, FWB II.


Native to the Eastern United States and Canada, pussy willows are found in the cold temperature regions of the Northern Hemisphere, primarily in moist soils, according to online sources. Part of the genus Salix, there are 400 species of trees and shrubs. Pussy willow trees are said to take root quickly and are one of the easiest to grow and maintain. A cautionary word however, they have deep spreading roots so should not be planted near water, septic or sewer lines.


Another mystery of pussy willow branches is that left unwatered on display indoors, they hold the promise of lasting almost indefinitely.

K-9 Iko Fundraiser Draws Large Turnout at Jim’s Pizza in Windsor CT

Posted on March 1, 2017

The folks who made it happen ..Officer Steve Vesco surrounded 2/24/2017 at Jim's Pizza, Windsor, CT by colleagues and friends who spearheaded a gofundme campaign and fundraiser to help K-9 Iko - Wayne and Kimberly Cabral, Debbie Samsom and Mark Rudiweic.

The folks who made it happen! Officer Steve Vesco surrounded 2/24/2017 at Jim’s Pizza in Windsor, CT by colleagues and friends who spearheaded a gofundme campaign and fundraiser to help K-9 Iko – Wayne and Kimberly Cabral, Debbie Samson and Mark Rudewicz.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


A large turnout for the K-9 Iko fundraiser Friday night, February 24, kept Jim’s Pizza in Windsor, Connecticut bustling with a line at the door and filled booths and tables. So busy was the restaurant that a delivery person helped to seat patrons during the event that ran from 5-9 p.m.


“I didn’t think there would be this many people,” said K-9 Iko’s partner and handler, Officer Steve Vesco of the Windsor Police Department.


K-9 Iko

Collage by the Vesco family showing K-9 Iko in action.

Meanwhile, the reason for the evening, K-9 Iko, sent his regrets – “woof, woof” –  understandably detained while recovering from surgery. It is the cost of that surgery plus rehabilitation and medicine which drew an outpouring of support from the Windsor community and beyond, when it was learned that due to budgetary concerns the WPD would only pay $1,000 towards the expenses that are much higher.


WPD Capt. Tom LePore was quoted in the Hartford Courant, “Obviously we want to do everything we can do …To do more we would have to sacrifice in other areas of the budget, possibly including training for other K-9 dogs.”


After eight years of serving the public, Iko, 9, was set to retire on February 16. Just two days before however, while still on the job, the canine had an injury manifest – a herniated disc that resulted in paralysis of his rear quarter. Iko’s prognosis for recovery from needed surgery was good but given the bill, more than $7,000, Vesco was forced to consider euthanazia.


It was an end for Iko that Vesco could not bear and did not feel the canine deserved. His colleagues and friends, Wayne and Kimberly Cabral, Mark Rudewicz – animal control officer in Simbury, and Debbie Samsom of “Friends of Windsor Animal Care & Control” were determined that Vesco should not have to carry the brunt of the costs of Iko’s recovery alone. A gofundme page was set up and so was the fundraiser. Vesco expressed his deep and sincere appreciation.


He spent Friday evening going from table to table to thank supporters such as Ann Walsh, Janet Griffin, Joyce Phillips and Peggy Eberle. Phillips has been such a fan of the Vesco-K9 Iko team that she carries with her a photo card of the two.


Steve Vesco thanks supporters Ann Walsh, Janet Griffin, Joyce Phillips (showing her IKO photocard) and Peggy Eberle.

Steve Vesco thanks supporters Ann Walsh, Janet Griffin, Joyce Phillips (showing her Iko photo card) and Peggy Eberle.

“That photo was taken in Merrimack, New Hampshire,” Vesco told the women when he stopped by their table.


Vesco's family turned out also - his wife Heidi, daughter sadie, brother Mark, cousin Roy McNally and Tonya.

Vesco’s family turned out also – his wife Heidi, daughter Sadie, brother Mark, cousin Roy McNally with his wife Tonya.













Sgt. Bernie Petkis, his son Evan and wife Lisa.

Sgt. Bernie Petkis, his son Evan and wife Lisa.










WPD Sgt. Bernie Petkis brought his wife Lisa and their son Evan.


“Steve and I attended the Municipal Police Academy together – 1995 – we were roommates,” noted Sgt. Petkis.



Samson could not say enough good things about the owners of Jim’s Pizza. Initially when Samson called about holding the fundraiser she said owner Pam Nikolis explained the restaurant was booked for fundraisers through May. However, after Samsom pled her case for K-9 Iko and the financial burden Vesco faced, Nikolis agreed to host the event.


“It was last minute, they just took us in,” said Samson.


Said Nikolis, “We wanted to give back to our police officers.”


Owner of Jim's Pizza and Debbie Samson "They just took us in."

Owner of Jim’s Pizza Pam Nikolis with Debbie Samson, “They just took us in.”



Opened in 1966 by Nikolis’ parents Eleni and James, for years “Jim’s Pizza” was a go-to spot for community events. Following her father’s death the family retired from the business but three years ago they “came out of retirement” and bought back the restaurant. Now it is run by Nikolis, her mother and sister-in-law Denise.


This type of cohesive, cooperative spirit is indicative of the Windsor community, said Samson. Another example of the character of the town, she added, was the presence at the fundraiser of Darlene Miller and her daughter Melissa Rothhammer, who work at Dom’s Eatery and who helped sell raffle tickets for donated items. As well, a silent auction was held.


“They are here from a competing restaurant,” said Samson.



Shown with Steve Vesco, Darlene Miller and her daughter Melissa Rothammer who work at a Dom's Eatery sold raffle tickets at the fundraiser.

With Steve Vesco, Darlene Miller and Melissa Rothammer work at Dom’s Eatery and sold raffle tickets at the fundraiser.

Enjoying the food at Jim's Pizza and signing up for raffle tickets.

Enjoying the food at Jim’s Pizza and signing up for raffle tickets.


Who will the mystery judges be at the Somers Chili Fest?

Who will the mystery judges be at the Somers Chili Cook-Off?













Vesco said March 1 by phone that the fundraiser netted some $3,000. The gofundme campaign stopped accepting donations at $13,035. The money will be deposited into an account for Iko’s recovery at Webster Bank.


“Iko is back home. He has a long way to go but he’s doing great,” said Vesco.



Now retired, Iko will live out the rest of his life as a pet with the Vesco family. Samson, who noted she is very familiar with the cost associated with veterinary care, said Vesco could be looking at additional expenses for Iko’s recovery.


“If we have to, we’ll do this all over again, ” said Samson.

Herald the Reggie Pinto Exhibit! Forty Years of Manchester Photos

Posted on February 25, 2017


Reggie Pinto Exhibit at Manchester Historical Society.


Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Reggie Pinto’s grandson, David Wolfgang, and his wife Sara attended the exhibit.


For forty years, Reginald “Reggie” Pinto recorded the history of Manchester, Connecticut as chief photographer for the former Manchester Evening Herald. His unassuming, pleasant manner gained him access while his keen eye for telling a story with a camera produced photos that were informative and entertaining.


“He was charming,” Sara Wolfgang, Pinto’s granddaughter-in-law said during an interview at the Pinto exhibit held at the Manchester Historical Society February 19. She attended with her husband, David Wolfgang, Pinto’s grandson.


Photo from ....

Photo from Reggie Pinto 1925-2011.


Born in Portugal in 1925, Pinto passed away in Manchester at age 86 in 2011. He had lived in Manchester 60 years. David and Sara Wolfgang shared Pinto’s story of an immigrant who lived the American Dream. His love of America was so strong that at age 17, he enlisted in the United States Navy, serving during World War II on the destroyer escort USS Schmitt. After the war, he married his wife Alice Ferreina Pinto. They raised their family in Manchester, where Pinto went on to document part of American history through photos of a small American city.



Pinto’s father had sent to Portugal for his son. At age 12, speaking just Portuguese at the time, Pinto traveled aboard a ship alone to America arriving at Ellis Island.


“Only one of the workers on the ship spoke Portuguese,” said David Wolfgang.



Pinto’s photography for the Manchester Evening Herald, later renamed the Manchester Herald, was the subject of the exhibit. Fondly, David Wolfgang recalled the times he joined his grandfather in looking through Pinto’s personal collection of photos he took for “The  Herald and listening to his grandfather recount the circumstances surrounding the pictures. Once a prominent local daily, the Manchester Herald closed in 1991.


The couple drove up from Meriden to view the exhibit which they noted took them by surprise. The exhibit at the MHS building ran from 9 a.m. to noon. Other family members planned to be there later in the morning, noted the Wolfgangs.


“I knew my grandfather had taken a lot of photos but I didn’t realize there would be an exhibit,” said David Wolfgang, “He always had his camera with him.”


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Pinto’s favorites photos, noted Wolfgang, were ones he had snapped of the Kennedy brothers while they were campaigning in Hartford. Meanwhile, in addition to many photos taken by Pinto that are favorites of Wolfgang’s, there is a special, elusive photo taken of Pinto that Wolfgang hoped to locate in the MHS archives. It shows his grandfather crouched down to get a photo of Richard Nixon visiting Hartford, when Nixon unexpectedly reached out to shake Pinto’s hand and someone captured the moment on film.



Sara Wolfgang, who got to know Pinto later in his life, added she feels fortunate for those few years. Sara Wolfgang spoke of Pinto’s warmth, and she and her husband agreed he had a way with people. The two even told of family conversations about Pinto having been approached to run for mayor of Manchester.


“People trusted him,” they said.


That seemingly enabled Pinto to gain access to spots where other photojournalists might not have been welcome, they added.

 Mark F. Abraitis, former business manager for the Manchester Herald.

Mark F. Abraitis, former business manager for the Manchester Herald, turned out for the exhibit.




Also in attendance at the Pinto exhibit was Mark F. Abraitis, a former business manager for the Manchester Herald. Abraitis and Pinto were colleagues and friends.


“Reggie was instrumental in getting me into photography,” said Abraitis.



Can you identify these photos?

Can you identify these photos?






It is not too late to take a walk down Manchester’s ‘Memory Lane’. On March 12, the Manchester Historical Society will hold another Open House featuring the Pinto exhibit. (Donations from visitors are appreciated). As well as stopping by to enjoy the photos, the hope is that visitors might be able to shed some light on dates, locations and events depicted in stacks of Pinto’s photos yet to be identified.



Manchester Historical Society , 175 Pine Street, Manchester, CT. 06040 860-647-9983






(Writer’s note: I began my career in journalism as a correspondent for the Manchester Herald. Two years ago I came across this Manchester Herald box at the Manchester Museum.)





Saving K-9 Iko

Posted on February 20, 2017


Photos courtesy of Officer Steven Vesco,
















By Jacqueline Bennett


Doing what is right matters to Officer Steven Vesco.


After eight years of patrolling Windsor, Connecticut with K-9 Iko at his side, on February 14 Vesco faced a moral and personal dilemma. Iko was slated to retire on February 16 but two days before, while still on the job, the canine manifested a serious injury, a herniated disc resulting in paralysis of his rear quarter.


“Immediately I called the New England Veterinary Center in Windsor,” Vesco said during a February 17 phone interview.


Medication to try and relieve compression of Iko’s spinal cord did not work. Iko was brought to Middletown for a MRI which showed surgery was necessary. Soon Vesco learned the medical care for Iko could amount to thousands of dollars.


“We, the doctor and I, discussed euthanasia. But Iko is only 9-years-old. It would have broken my heart,” said Vesco, “The surgeon said Iko’s prognosis was good and I believe he deserves a peaceful retirement.”


According to Vesco, due to budgetary concerns the Windsor Police Department can only put $1,000 towards the cost of Iko’s care. When news got out about that, some residents were not pleased given how much they say the dog has done for the town and the immeasurable sense of added security police K-9s can bring to a community. In addition to the cost of the MRI and surgery, Iko will need rehabilitation, medicine, and Vesco will need to build a ramp at the family home.


For Debbie Samson of the non -profit, “Friends of Windsor Animal Care and Control”, the situation with Iko goes beyond caring about animals. It is a matter of right and wrong, she said.


“This isn’t Steve’s ‘pet’. He has pets at home. Iko is a police K-9 that has put his life on the line for the community for 8 years,” said Samson.


As well, she said stepping up to help is about showing respect and appreciation for one of Windsor’s finest officers; showing support for someone who has given so much of himself to the Windsor community as a K-9 handler, and who generously shares his knowledge of dog training.


“Steve is a phenomenal police officer and has a talent for training dogs like I’ve never seen,” noted Samson, during an interview February 20.


According to Vesco, during Iko’s 8 years of service he has assisted in arrests and drug seizures. In addition, Iko has been part of skills demonstrations for the community such as demonstrations popular at the Annual Northwest Park Country Fair. This is not the first time Vesco and a K-9 partner have “honorably” served the Windsor community together. K-9 Jagger who has since passed away, came first.


The circumstances with Iko left Vesco torn between doing what he feels is right – saving Iko, the special relationship between a police K-9 and its handler, and Vesco’s devotion to the WPD K-9 unit. Upon retirement, technically Iko became Vesco’s pet. Despite no longer officially being part of the K-9 unit effective with the retirement of Iko, Vesco was concerned that an uproar from the community for the department to fully pay Iko’s medical bills could adversely impact the K-9 unit, a unit re-established thanks to Vesco some 20 years ago.


Once a two K-9 unit now headed by Sgt. John Simon, Vesco noted the hope is to maintain three K-9 teams for the WPD and the cost of training must also be budgeted by the department. After two K-9 partners, Vesco said he does not plan to sign on for a third, but knows the department budget will need also to pay to purchase a canine for that third team.


Three years ago while in their cruiser, said Vesco, he and Iko were hit by a drunk driver – an incident which Vesco said compounded the wear and tear on Iko as a working police dog. Vesco is quick to say he understands it is not that the WPD does not want to contribute more than the $1,000, but that the department faces tough budgetary contraints.


Chief Donald Melanson could not be reached by publication time.


Enter Vesco’s colleague Wayne Cabral, a paramedic, and his wife Kimberly Cabral, a critical care nurse. They spearheaded a gofundme effort. Wayne Cabral said he knows Vesco and Iko, and their good work. Within 24 hours the donations started coming in.


“I wanted to help,” Cabral added, “The outpouring of support for Iko and Steve has been amazing.”


When Simsbury Animal Control Officer Mark Rudewicz heard about Iko, he too wanted to help. Rudewicz has organized a fundraiser for Iko slated to be held at Jim’s Pizza in Windsor this Friday night.


“It pulls at your heart strings,” Rudewicz said by phone Friday, “Though I live in another town and work in Simsbury, I have longstanding ties to the Windsor community.”


Rudewicz’s parents, who passed away separately about a year and a half ago, lived in Windsor. Due to their ailing health the WPD was called to assist each at different times, and Rudewicz said the responding officers showed the utmost professionalism and compassion.


“I have nothing but respect for the men and women of the Windsor Police Department,” said Rudewicz.


Having previously headed the Hartford Police Department K-9 unit, Rudewicz is aware of the extraordinary camaraderie between a police K-9 and its handler. Like Vesco, Rudewicz served in the United States Marines. He also has such tremendous appreciation for the service provided by military working dogs and their handlers, that for several years Rudewicz has been organizing and collecting donations for the Heroes & Hounds project.


The response from what Vesco describes as his “knight in shining armor” colleagues, from residents appreciative of Vesco’s years of service with Iko and Jag, and from those who have been donating, he said is both a humbling and emotional experience. He plans to set up an account at Webster Bank in Windsor for the donations.


“I stopped in at Dom’s Eatery and one of the waitresses, Darlene, came over with an envelope with $100. I said ‘no’ but she wanted me to take it,” Vesco said.


“I’m overwhelmed,” said Vesco.


As of Monday morning, February 20, 2017 the IKO gofundme effort had raised $10,800 towards a $10,000 goal. According to the site, that money was raised within three days by 243 people. The link is


The February 24 fundraiser at Jim’s Pizza, 124 Poquonock Ave., Windsor, CT (860-688-5442) starts at 5 p.m. and is expected to run until 9 p.m. Samson noted that Pam, the owner of Jim’s Pizza, has gone out of her way to be accommodating.


“Please, please come out. Show your support for Iko. Show your support for Steve,” said Samson.

Amazing 100th Straight Wins! How About UConn Women’s Basketball on the $100 Dollar Bill?

Posted on February 14, 2017

004By Jacqueline Bennett


From UConn website

From UConn website

One hundred straight wins – how about putting the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team on the U.S. $100 dollar bill?


Admittedly, this suggestion comes from a proud University of Connecticut alumna. Nonetheless, it is an idea deserving of consideration.


After all, the amazing 100th victory run is simply the latest of years of remarkable accomplishments by strong, young women in the UConn basketball program. Last night, before a home crowd at packed Gampel Pavilon on the Storrs campus, top- ranked UConn delivered that 100th win milestone by defeating no. 6 South Carolina, 66-55. 

A full house at Gampel 2/13/2017 when for UConn Women's Basketball.

From UConn website – A full house at Gampel 2/13/2017.



A great article on the UConn website listed “100 Things To Know About the 100th Win.” Here’s a few interesting points listed in that article : the game was covered by the New York Times, Newsday, SNY, CBS News, NBC News and more; former UConn standout Kara Wolters just a day before was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame; and Head Coach Geno Auriemma made yet another national appearance, this one on “Good Morning America”, to speak about yet another outstanding accomplishment by the UConn women.



Not only have the UConn women brought home multiple national titles but they have taken fans on thrilling rides catapulting women’s college basketball – really women’s college sports – into the national spotlight. Perhaps most importantly, concurrently with their basketball achievements the UConn women have been role models for little girls, helping them to believe they are worthy of an equal chance in the athletic arena and beyond. 


Could there be a better time to recognize these women as representative of some of the best of our nation? We stand at a juncture when women’s voices are joining together to speak out about women’s value – accompanied by voices of intelligent, supportive men. 


Yes, we have come a long way baby!  Surely, one of our most accomplished forefathers – Ben Franklin – would not mind sharing a spot on the $100 bill with the UConn women, symbolizing excellence in the nation and our country’s commitment to the continued forward movement of women.   


Ah yes, a girl, that is – a woman– can dream.

Scenes From Winter Storm Diana

Posted on February 13, 2017

Union Park Pond Manchester CT

Union Park Pond Manchester CT during Winter Storm Diana.

Write-Up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


What had been a mild winter for most of Connecticut has given way to the roar of two major snowstorms just days apart. On February 9, Winter Storm Chris, which was upgraded to blizzard status, blanketed the state with more than a foot of snow.


In central Connecticut, in the suburbs known as Greater Hartford, an old-fashioned yard stick measure showed a 12 and half inch accumulation from Chris; other parts of the state saw upwards of 18 inches.



By Sunday, February 12, a new snowstorm resulted in a nod to the powerful University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team. Winter Storm Diana was named for UConn Women’s Basketball legend Diana Taurasi and added several more inches.


(By the way, the UConn women are not only multiple national title holders but are on a 99 game win streak – Congrats UConn!)

View of Hale Road in Manchester, CT around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Hilltop view of Hale Road  around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday 2/12/2017.


Let it be known that navigating the roads during Diana did not keep hardy New Englanders from venturing out. Some folks had begun clearing sidewalks and driveways, meanwhile others simply wanted to enjoy the scenic fresh snowfalls.


More snow is headed this way later in the week. Stay tuned …


Hockanum River

Hockanum River had been running low due to below normal rainfall this past spring and summer.

Brown's Florists North Main Street

Brown’s Flowers on Main Street.

Clearing the snow.

Clearing the snow.











Blizzard Chris left 12 and a half inches of snow.

Blizzard Chris had already left more than a foot of snow.

Navigating local roads.

Navigating local roads.

Navigating driveways.

Navigating driveways.