February 1, 2023

Community Picnic to Honor Fifth Class of Chester Pillars, Aug. 19

2012 Pillars of Chester Honorees. Front row, Gloria Eustis, Sylvia Miksa, Susan Wright. Second row, Denise Learned and Harvey Redak (photo courtesy of Caryn B. Davis)

Five more Pillars of Chester — residents who have helped improve the quality of life in our town — will be honored at a community picnic on Sunday, August 19, at 5 p.m., on the Meeting House green. So bring dinner (and dancing shoes) and prepare to toast:

Sylvia Miksa, a Chester native, has been a member of the Chester Hose Company for 40 years, and president of its auxiliary for 20 of those.  She was a member of the Chester Garden Club and a Girl Scout leader.  She is proud of her family ties to the town, and her two children, Nicole and Ryan.

Harvey Redak has been on the boards of the Chester Historical Society, Camp Hazen, the Robbie Collomore Music Series and Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek. He has been on the town finance commission, and the Cedar Lake Management Advisory committee. He is the leader of Max’s Birthday Band, that has played at many community functions.

Susan Wright has been a Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader, a longtime member (and president for two years) of Chester Rotary, co-chair of Chester Economic Development, and helps co-ordinate the annual tree lighting and caroling by Chester Elementary School singers. She has been chairman of the Womanless Beauty Pageant, and works on behalf of BRAYCE, a Chester charity devoted to helping American and Brazilian children.

Denise Learned has been executive director of Camp Hazen since 1999, and in that time has overseen the growth of the camp and has forged close connections with the town of Chester, and more opportunities for its children and the community at large. Under her leadership the camp has become international — making our town’s facility a model of diversity. She was previously director of the Shoreline Soup Kitchen.

Gloria Eustis worked for 18 years at the Chester Library, most of that time as chief librarian.  Under her leadership our library became part of the statewide library network, making loans from other libraries much easier. She helped established a book discussion program that has run for 16 years, and still volunteers and at library and offers her lovely gardens for fund raisers.

The picnic, which always has music, too, this year features Max’s Birthday Band, led by Harvey Redak, and featuring Dan Bernier on guitar and vocals, Jon Joslow on drums, Randy Allinson on bass, and Lary Bloom on keyboard. The band plays American standards as well as blues.

I am often asked about the motivation for starting the Chester Pillars program, and was reminded during some of the crazy monsoon weather we had this spring of the first Pillars event five years ago this August. I had only lived in Chester a few years but had been embraced from the start and wanted very much to give something back to the town and people who had welcomed me.

The question of how to bring the long time residents of Chester together with the newer residents such as myself fit naturally into my idea of a town-wide picnic at the Meeting House. That idea then became a platform to recognize people whose impact on the quality of life in Chester deserved recognition by paying tribute and giving thanks to them.

We have taken nominations from all of the town’s institutions, including the Selectman’s Office, Chester Library, Hose Company, Merchants, Historical Society, Land Trust and three religious institutions, Chester Rotary and others.

There are so many to thank, but I’d like to single out for special praise, Jeff Nelson, Sandy Dauer, Lynne Jacques, Linda Fox, Susan Wright and Charles Greeney, ( a former Pillar) Chief of the Chester Hose Company, for always supporting the event by providing a grill for the picnic.

(In case of rain, the event will be held inside the Meeting House.)