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Members of Branford's Recreation Commission discuss the motion to name the building at their May 8 meeting. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Listening in as the commission deliberates on May 8 are Joe Trapasso family friend Greg Robinson (foreground, right), daughter Meg Trapasso, grandchildren Issy and Willy Mannle, daughter Maggy Trapasso; and Mike Tamsin, who spoke on behalf of WWII veterans. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Branford Recreation commission chairman Paul Criscuolo addresses the audience on May 8. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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By unanimous vote of the Branford Recreation Commission on May 8, the town's combined community/senior center will now be named the "Joe Trapasso Community House Honoring Branford World War II Veterans."
The commission's naming decision arrives as the town's two-year expansion and renovation of the former Community House nears completion. The original building at 46 Church Street, completed in 1963, came about largely due to Trapasso's vision, motivation and inspiration which generated a wave of community support and fundraising to complete the project. Trapasso, who went on to gain national recognition in his field and was also known for his groundbreaking work in developing community senior programming, served as Branford's recreation director for 43 years. Trapasso passed away in 2003.
Members of the Trapasso family initially brought the naming request to the commission in March 2019 and returned to hear the vote on May 8. At the meeting, family friend Greg Robinson shared that an online petition initiated April 29 seeking community support of the idea (see the story here) had collected 750 signatures, and "...not one negative comment" by May 8.
"This has actually united people," said Robinson.
The family proposed incorporating the phrase, "Honoring Branford WWII Veterans" in the building's new name, together with their father's name, due to the fact that, about 40 years ago, the Community House was dedicated to WWII veterans; but the building was not named for the group.
Prior to their vote on May 8, the commission also heard from a citizen, Mike Tamsin, who asked that the town's veterans' organizations first be polled about the Trapasso family's request for the new building name; especially as the building includes a memorial honoring the names of 36 Branford soldiers who gave their lives during World War II. Tamsin said he felt the building should remain unnamed.
"In my opinion, how could you pick one of those 36? Joe [Trapasso] was a great guy – you're not going to find anyone that's going to speak against him [but] I don't know if they should name it for anyone," said Tamsin. "That generation, they never wanted recognition."
Maggy Trapasso, one of Joe Trapasso's six children, told the commission the family had hesitated to seek the building naming for their dad in the past, due to the fact that the building is dedicated to WWII veterans.
"The last thing we ever wanted to do in any way was to dishonor them; and also we knew how strongly our dad would feel about that," said Trapasso.
Joe Trapasso was also a WWII veteran.
First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove said, from his discussions with the Trapasso family, he felt their intent was to continue to honor the veterans with a building name which also served to recognize the contributions of Joe Trapasso to the community and beyond; but certainly not to put Trapasso, as a veteran, above any other WWII veteran.
Maggy Trapasso said she felt having the town finally include the WWII veterans within the new building name helps to "amplify" the fact that the building continues to be dedicated to WWII veterans.
Robinson agreed, saying, "I think I'm hearing a little bit from Mike [Tamsin] that veterans have been forgotten. In that name, we're celebrating both. In that name, you're remembering the best. And they both can be celebrated."
Cosgrove also noted that the WWII veterans memorial items, plaques and wall monuments which had been installed in the original Community House have been refurbished and restored and will be re-installed at the new building.
Recreation commission chair Paul Criscuolo said the commission has had several suggestions for naming the building. He reiterated ahead of the May 8 vote that the naming decision is the sole decision of the commission, as part of its charter. He also thanked all citizens for their comments and input on the matter of naming the building.
"We really appreciate all the input from everyone, from every point of view," said Criscuolo. "A number of people who have offered suggestions are not here this evening, but we took them all into consideration."
After the unanimous vote, current Recreation Director Alex Palluzzi, who was mentored by Trapasso before becoming his successor over 26 years ago, told Zip06/The Sound it's been his dream, for many years, to have the building named in honor of Trapasso.
"That was his legacy. He led the charge to bring the community together, no doubt about it," said Palluzzi. "And this will honor the World War II veterans, too. The Trapasso family really came forward and got this done. I'm so happy for his kids and his grandchildren. Joe always said you should give people their roses while you can. Tonight, Joe got his rose."
Trapasso's son, Jody Trapasso, stated on behalf of the entire family,"This is the greatest honor my father could ever receive. His dream was to build a community center where everybody felt welcome and valued, and where everyone counted. Honoring my father memorializes an important chapter in our town's history when people came together to construct, not just a building, but a sense of inclusiveness that makes Branford a special place to live. The renamed recreation/senior center will serve as a constant reminder of the power of community."
"My family is grateful for the support received from so many whose lives were touched by 'Joe T.' Your memories and comments deeply moved us," he continued. "We'd also like to thank the Recreation Board and First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove for this honor. We deeply appreciate how Alex Palluzzi and the entire recreation department team have kept Joe T's spirit alive in the wonderful work they do each day for our town. My father would be thrilled that the community house remains the town's center of activity and a place where there is something for everybody."
The family is keeping the petition open at https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/655/029/698/ for all of those who would like to sign and comment.
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