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Howard Tuttle will do just about anything for the library, including opening his home for the Friends of the Essex Library’s Festival of Dinners on Saturday, Nov. 2. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Howard Tuttle doesn’t know the menu yet but he does know he and his wife Peggy will be having a dinner party on Saturday, Nov. 2. The Tuttle’s home in Essex is one of the 15 private residences that will host the Festival of Dinners, a fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of the Essex Library. The evening starts with a cocktail party at the library.
“Peg is the one in charge of the menu,” Howard says. “We’ve hosted these dinners before and always met nice people and had a good time.”
The Friends of the Essex Library, he points out, is a critical component not only for the volunteer work its members do but also for the funds they raise through events like the upcoming dinner parties on Nov. 2. Half the library’s budget is financed by the town; the library itself is responsible annually for raising the rest of the money needed for ongoing operations and the financial contributions of the friends help fill that gap.
Last year, with book sales and the library miniature golf event, the friends raised some $30,000 for the library.
“They are a very dedicated and hard-working group and we couldn’t do without the funds they raise,’ Howard says.
This is an important time of year for the library. Not only is the Festival of Dinners coming up on Nov. 2, but also the annual meeting of the Essex Library Association on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. at the library. The meeting will be a chance for all residents to meet new Essex library Executive Director Deb Smith, and to hear a talk by Courier Living Editor Pem McNerney, a former politics editor at The Hartford Courant, on covering news on the shoreline and the how social media has changed reporting.
Howard is involved with the Essex Library on an ongoing basis, not just as a dinner party host. He is the treasurer of the board and the chair of the finance committee.
“I keep track of the numbers,” he says.
To be sure, keeping track of the numbers in nothing new for Howard. Now retired, he spent most of his career as the chief financial officer of the Lee Company in Westbrook.
After his graduation from Hobart College and then a master’s degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Howard returned to the New Haven area where he had grown up.
“I had friends who wanted to go to the excitement of New York, but I skipped that step. I was more interested in setting up a lifestyle,” he says.
His family history goes back nearly 400 years in this area to William Tuttle, who came to New Haven with John Davenport, the founder of the New Haven Colony in 1636. William Tuttle had a grant of land in what is now East Haven.
“He didn’t necessarily get it because he deserved it; he got it because the king owed him money,” Howard explains.
Guilford still has reminders of the early days of the Tuttle family with the area known as Tuttles Point. Howard himself grew up in a home that had been his grandfather’s, an oysterman in New Haven. Howard adds that he likes oysters, but Peggy does not, though she makes scalloped oysters for him every year for Christmas dinner.
For some 45 years, Howard was a sailor and a racer but gave it up in the mid-l990s.
“It was a question of agility and safety, and I thought it was a risk to the crew and, then, Peg got tired of it. I left home every Saturday. I knew it was time to stop,” he says.
He also used to row regularly on the Connecticut River. He hadn’t rowed in college but, in his 50s, when he saw his son on a crew team in college, he thought he would try it.
“I thought that I looked like fun and I needed something. I couldn’t play tennis anymore, and it seemed to me that biking was risky,” he recalls.
With a group of like-minded scullers, he rowed up from Essex to Deep River and back weekdays mornings.
“Not really a club. Just a couple of friends,” he says.
Now, his game is golf.
“My father told me to take it up. He said there was going to be a time when it was all you can do and that is true. It is good for old guys like me; you can ride in a cart,” Howard says.
Howard says as he looks forward he doesn’t have a bucket list of things that remain undone in his life.
“Not much really. I’m not missing much,” he says.
As the Festival of Dinners and the Annual Meeting approach, Howard wants people to appreciate the resources that the library offers. It is, he notes, far more than these days than a place to take out books, and speak in hushed whispers.
“It’s a place of cultural enrichment, a place for personal development. It has many aspects of a community center, with great resources and needed services and programs,” he says. ‘We are very lucky to have it.”
Festival of Dinners
The Friends of the Essex Library Festival of Dinners in on Saturday, Nov. 2, starting with a reception at the library at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinners in private homes. Tickets are on sale at the library, 33 West Avenue.
Annual Meeting of the Essex Library
The Annual Meeting of the Essex Library is on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. at the library, 33 West Avenue.
The speaker is Courier Living Editor Pem McNerney, who will discuss Covering the Shoreline; the public is invited to attend.
Get ready to celebrate the holidays with our helpful guide