“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” –Robert Frost

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Mary Anne Zak

Mary Anne Zak

Justin Donnelly has a new hat. In addition to his chapeaux as chair of the BOF, as volunteer with the Suffield Ambulance Association, and as backup driver here at Suffield by the River, Justin now sports a train engineer’s cap.

Awarded him in early August by the Valley Railroad Company, the cap caps hours of special training on the Essex Steam Train. Justin’s engineer’s cap is daily work wear. For professional service the trainmen’s dress code prescribes black dress pants, shoes and cap and white shirt.

A “Thomas the Tank” special last spring launched Justin’s volunteer pursuit of railroad crewing. A railroad crew consists of an engineer, fireman, flagman and conductor. At 75, Justin is the senior member of a crew which includes a retired American Airlines pilot. For his lifelong link with trains, Justin credits his father who lifted him high enough years ago to see the fire- burning box of a steam engine.

Applauded for his phenomenal accomplishments following major health challenges, Justin says, “I feel blessed.”

He cites a nonagenarian neighbor, Fred Albrecht, as truly remarkable. Born in Germany nearly a century ago, Fred served as a US Navy pilot in WWI. He holds a significant place in aeronautics history for the development of a plane bearing his name.

Another neighbor nonagenarian was rumored as having been a model. Beautiful, blue- eyed Gertrude demurred. “Oh, that was a long time ago!” But true! She modeled coats for a Manhattan furrier with such clients as Saks Fifth Avenue!

Barbara Judson, once a New York State nutritionist, edited Redbook Magazine’s test food pages. Preparing photogenic culinary displays, she transported them to photographers to capture for the magazine’s pages.

As another neighbor Ron put it, there are interesting people here at Suffield by the River. “They all have disabilities,” he acknowledged. “But they are interesting !”

Ron was born in Celina, Ohio, farmland home of Mersman Tables where he learned woodworking. After graduating from local St. Joseph’s High School, he joined the major seminary. Later on leave of absence, Ron joined VISTA, precursor of the Peace Corps.

Ensuing years harvested graduate degrees from University of Michigan Medical School where Ron acquired a Ph.D. in public health maintenance. He led contract negotiations to fund enabling organizations, working with doctors, nurses, midwives, the UAW and Walter Reuther among others.

Describing his mission, Ron said his goal was to provide good medical care at reasonable cost to ordinary workers. He worked for many years toward his goal, “…getting to like it,” as he put it. Also becoming very good at tennis.

Disabled eight years ago, Ron navigates Suffield by the River expertly, operating his mechanical chariot with controls at his right hand.

Applauded for his accomplishments in the field of public health, Ron grinned and said, “Aw, shucks!”

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