New Senior Center Now Open In Waterbury

   With a quick snip from oversized scissors at 11:35 am today, the new city wide senior center at 1985 East Main Street is officially opened for business. Pictured here holding the scissors is Alexis Rotella, who will run the center, and is in charge of dealing with senior issues for the city. The Waterbury Senior Center is a city-run building for all seniors ages 60 and over, and completely dedicated to the senior population.

National Hispanic Heritage Month 9/15 to 10/15


                                                 By Victor Lopez Jr.

                    President of the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury

    Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Vernon Riddick Scores #1 On Police Chief Test

                                                 By John Murray

   During an interview with Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary yesterday he announced the results of a civil service test for the opening of police chief in the city. Vernon Riddick, pictured here, has been the acting police chief since the sudden retirement of Michael Gugliotti in January, and Riddick is seeking to become the permanent chief.

Legendary Waterbury Police Detective, Jake Griffin, Is Dead At 84. Funeral on 9/13

                                              By John Murray

   An old school detective who served in the Waterbury Police Department for 48 years will be buried Friday with full police honors. Jake Griffin lived his entire life in Waterbury, and passed away September 9th at the Village at East Farms.

   Griffin had a reputation as a tough cop, and Waterbury Neil O'Leary, who worked beneath him for 20 years in the detective bureau, said, "Jake Griffin was tough, but fair, and he was by far one of the best investigators the city has ever seen."

Jim and Cathy Smith Honored With Brass Button Award At Mattatuck Museum, September 20th

   The Mattatuck Museum has announced that Cathy and Jim Smith will be this year’s honorees of the Brass Button Award Celebration on Friday, September 20, 2013. The award ceremony, sponsored by Webster Bank, American Savings Foundation, Warburg Pincus, KPMG LLP and Secor, Cassidy & McPartland, P.C., will be held at the Museum beginning at 6:00 p.m. The event will include a cocktail reception with remarks by Museum Board Members and the presentation of the award by Senator Joan Hartley followed by a seated dinner in the Museum galleries. The Brass Button Award recognizes outstanding contributions of individuals in the greater Waterbury area who are dedicated to the cultural and social enrichment of their community.

Legends Bill Rogers & Rod Dixon Run In The Bob Veillette 5K In Waterbury

   Two running legends cruised around the streets of Waterbury today during the Bob Veillette 5K road race. On the left is American Bill Rodgers who won four Boston Marathons, and four NYC Marathons. On the right is New Zealand's Rod Dixon, a 1972 Olympic medalist in the 1500 meter race, and the winner of the 1983 NYC Marathon. They started at the back of the pack and spent the first half mile chatting. At one point Dixon turned to Rogers and asked him, 'Are we going to start running yet?" When Rogers said no, Dixon said, "If I knew this was how we were going to run I would of had a big lunch first."

Xhevat Limani Delivers An Impassioned Salute To Struga At The Albanian Festival In Waterbury

Xhevat Limani is an Albanian actor born in Struga, Macedonia, who now lives in Waterbury, Connecticut. During a Labor Day Albanian Festival in Waterbury, Limani opened his heart about his love of Struga. The following is a translation of his speech, which was delivered in Albanian. Photograph by John Murray

   Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, fellow countrymen..

   Good evening and welcome to the Annual Albanian Labor Day Festival, this year celebrating 30 years since the formation of the “Hasan Prishtina” cultural center here in Waterbury, Connecticut. A special thank you is in order for the founding members of the cultural center, and all community members present and past, who worked so hard to maintain and manage the cultural center with such great success.

   During my whole career in theatre, film, television, radio, newspapers, and festivals all around the world I have presented myself as an Albanian artist. Tonight, allow me to step aside and present myself at a local level. Given that I was born in Struga, allow me to present myself as a Strugan artist.

Albanian Culture & Food Celebrated In Waterbury

                                Photographs By John Murray

A wide variety of traditional Albanian breads stuffed with cheese and spinach are being baked in ovens and are served hot at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Albanian American Cultural & Islamic Center at 106 Columbia Blvd in the Overlook section of Waterbury. The Albanian Labor Day Festival continues today (Sunday)from 11 am to 11 pm.

Passengers On Metro North Train To Waterbury Encounter Language And Toilet Barriers

   The Observer just received this message from one its readers, Reza Farzan...

   "I was one of the hundreds of passengers on the 8:30 p.m. train to Waterbury [from Bridgeport] last night. The 3-car train arrived a little late, but it left the station rather promptly. I was sitting the car # 6127 where I noticed that the red light showing the “Toilet Out of Order” sign. Soon after our departure, passengers, both young and old, came to use the toilet and after seeing the sign, they all left disappointed. When one of the passengers inquired about the situation, the ticket agent told her that “there is no toilet on this train, and she had to hold it!”

Fortune, A Black Slave in 1700 Waterbury, Will Finally Be Laid To Rest On September 12th

   The Mattatuck Museum will host a special evening event on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 from 5:30 to 7: 30 p.m. to discuss the latest scientific research on the bones of “Fortune,” an African-American man who was enslaved by a Waterbury bone surgeon in the 1700s. The discussion will be led by a panel of faculty members from Quinnipiac University and Central Connecticut State University. Professor Gerald Conlogue, co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac University, will introduce the discussion.

Hispanic Coalition Awards & Scholarships, 9/27

The Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury is staging its 12th Annual Coqui Scholarships & Awards Banquet on Friday, September 27, at La Bella Vista, 380 Farmwood Road in Waterbury.

Cocktails and registration begin at 7 pm, and dinner and the program begin at 8 pm. Tickets $50 per person and can only be purchased in advance of the event.

For more information, tickets, or sponsorship opportunities please call Angie Medina or Nancy Gonzalez at 203-754-6172

Problem Solving During First Day At Walsh School in Waterbury's North End

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary inspects the rear entrance to Walsh School yesterday with Prinicpal Gina Calabrese, and they both agreed the fence should be locked, and students should arrive at the front entrance where the area was supervised.

                          Story and Photographs By John Murray

   It was the first day of school in Waterbury, and Mayor Neil O'Leary climbed in his black SUV and drove up to Walsh School to see how Principal Gina Calabrese was faring at her her new assignment on Dikeman Street, in the city's North End.

   Walsh School has done very poorly on standardized testing, and it's previous principal, Eric Brown, was removed from his position last year after an investigation into his management style inside the building. Brown - who is black, had strong support in segments in the black community, but was replaced.

Riding Shotgun With Alfalfa Bill Murray

Alfalfa Bill Murray wrote the constitution for the state of Oklahoma, was elected to Congress, was Governor of Oklahoma, and ran for President of the United States in 1932. He has been described as the most influential politician in Oklahoma history.

                                           Story By John Murray

    On a rolling hill of red dirt, burnt grass and bristles, we arrived at Alfalfa Bill Murray’s grave in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, with a bag of ice, a bottle of blended scotch whiskey, and a sweet potato pie. My daughter and I had sliced our way south from Connecticut through Washington D.C., the Blue Ridge Mountains, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, and into Oklahoma in two days. We set a blistering pace and stopped to eat, refuel, sleep, and occasionally pose for ridiculous photographs with a ten-inch chalk bust of our deceased ancestor that I had purchased on ebay.

O'Leary Would Collect Pension In A Second Term

                               Story and Photographs By John Murray

   If he is re-elected in November, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has decided he will contact the city’s pension and benefits department on December 1st, and reactivate the $90,000 a year pension he earned during his thirty-year career in the Waterbury Police Department.

   “I made a campaign promise in 2011 that I would not collect my pension in my first term,” O’Leary said. “I left $180,000 on the table, and I will not do that again. It was not a wise decision for my family. I could have used that money.”

Waterbury Native Rick Mastracchio Will Orbit Earth For Six Months On Space Station

Waterbury native Rick Mastracchio is a NASA astronaut and is headed back into space in November for a six month stay on the International Space Station. Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency, make up space station Expedition 38.

Gomes' Defense Helps Win Summer League Title

   Waterbury's Ryan Gomes, right, played tenacious defense against former UConn star Jerome Dyson last night during the championship game of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am. Gomes was playing for Harte Nissan which won the title with a thrilling 141-140 overtime victory. Gomes, is 6'7" and weighs 250 pounds, and throughout the game he defended the opponents point guard, shooting guard, wing player and center. His defensive prowess and quick hands created several turnovers, and illustrated to the 1200 fans in the Crosby High School gym why Gomes, 30, was recently signed to a contract by the Oklahoma Thunder of the NBA. Photograph by John Murray

Basketball Stars Compete In City Summer League

Former Waterbury high school star Julian Allen crushed an attempt by former UConn player Doug Wiggins during the semi-finals of the Greater Hartford Pro-Am League last night at Crosby High School in Waterbury, Connecticut. Allen was comfortable playing in the Crosby gym where he earned Connecticut Player of the Year honors in 2005, and led the 27-0 Bulldogs to the state championship, and the top ranking in the state. Despite Allen's stellar play, his team was defeated by a group of former UConn stars who will begin a best of three championship series Wednesday night at Crosby High School. Photograph by John Murray