Aging With Grace
Three Senior Citizens Enriching Our Community
Perched in the gazebo at the Bigelow Senior Center, Janice Shannon, Fred Frillici, and Kyle Ralston fill their retirement time with all types of activities.
Photo by Stan Godlewski
Fairfield is full of interesting people who have added color to our community, and our senior citizens are no different. Here are a few noteworthy neighbors you may know, and if not—we think you’ll enjoy hearing about.
If you ask Fred Frillici about his favorite memories he’ll smile and say “pick a category.” His years—all 89 of them—are a rich tapestry that describe a man’s love of life, adventure, and the water. Frillici weaves his tales like an old sailor; they go wherever the wind takes them, from his days as an Army Decoder in WWII to his biology studies at Fairfield University (the second class to graduate), and then on to his volunteerism that helped inner city and special needs children develop a love of fishing and nature. His accomplishments also include 2000 CT Sportsman of the Year, award-winning Westminster show dogs, and a patent for a chemical coating on bowling pins that eliminated carcinogenic chemicals. The town of Fairfield—especially Ye Yacht Club in Southport—provided him with the old-world community feel he’d craved since his parents’ emigration from Italy, and a deep connection with special friends like Howard Burr, Ye Yacht Club Harbor Master.
What is Frillici most proud of? “I would have to say it’s the work I did to protect the fishing and clamming rights for all the citizens of Connecticut, making it affordable for people to enjoy fishing. Before that, many towns were restricting access to their waters.” Compassion and advocacy are the ingredients that have seasoned the life of this remarkable man who, to this day, is happy as a clam.
Ms. Senior Connecticut
Kyle Sherwood Ralston is no stranger to the stage; she has been acting, dancing, and singing since she was very young. Her talents and vibrant lifestyle won her the Miss Senior Connecticut crown in 2011 as well as a finalist position in the Ms. Senior America pageant, which honors women who have reached the “Age of Elegance.” Regarding the competition, Ralston says “I threw everything I could at the judges: tap dancing, singing, and a percussion show.” As a devoted artist, she also included her reproduction of a three by four foot oil painting of Southport Harbor.
As a descendant of Thaddeus Burr—who rebuilt the Burr mansion in 1790 after it burned down during the revolutionary war—Ralston takes her roots and her role in Fairfield’s community seriously. At age 66 she sings and dances in senior centers and convalescent homes throughout the state and still sings with Charlie Salerno’s Clam Diggers Dixie Band in the Fairfield Summer Concert series. Ralston is also thankful for the past opportunity to work with children in the Fairfield public schools, where she hosts ballroom dancing lessons.
“I’m not ready for a rocking chair,” she says. “My wish is to live every day to the fullest, inspiring young people, and finishing with grace and dignity,” She is, no doubt, inspiring more than just young people.
Every year in May, Janice Shannon leads a group of three-year-olds out of an Unquowa School classroom to Nancy Winsted’s house, a beautiful Tudor complete with a river and a Japanese style mossy stone bridge. The children carry baguettes, grapes, cheese, and plastic champagne glasses for juice. Shannon brings the easels and the paints. Once settled, she turns up the French music and starts talking about the life of Claude Monet as the children listen, entranced. And minutes later they start painting their own masterpieces. This is Monet Day.
Shannon’s lifelong love of art found this perfect outlet 20 years ago, when at age 51, when she asked The Unquowa School if she could expand the preschoolers’ appreciation for art and do something completely different. “When kids are three they are very visual, so they love art. They love to look at pictures, like Monet’s horizons and red poppies.” Shannon explains that her goal is to incorporate art at this age into as much teaching as possible. For instance, she explains, “We use Andy Warhol’s soup can art to learn how to count—cutting and pasting one can at a time until we get to 100. They learn their numbers and about art at the same time.” She is grateful to Unquowa for allowing her to be creative. And because of Shannon, Monet Day will live on as part of Fairfield’s and The Unquowa School legacy.