50 Most Influential People of Litchfield County 2013
We have among us a great diversity of talented and dedicated people. They contribute their time, skills, and resources to improve this corner of paradise. For the fourth year, with the help of a panel of advisors, we present Litchfield County’s Most Influential People.
Linda Allard (Pictured above)
For 40 years, she was the force behind the Ellen Tracy clothing label. She opens her home and gardens for many groups, including Housatonic Valley Association, Washington Art Association, and Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust.
Judy & John Acerbi
Family owned and operated, Litchfield Hills Nursery has been the destination of choice for gardeners of all levels since 1948. The Acerbis, along with son John, provide exceptional service and knowledge of plants and flowers. Judy has been a mainstay of the Historic District Commission for many years.
As owner of Bantam Fuel Company, he carries on the tradition his father began in 1979. His was the first company to develop a new, more environmentally friendly home-heating fuel—Bantam BioHeat. He has a long history of community service.
For 30 years, he has been program director for the acclaimed International Center of Photography (ICP) and has helped to make it both a prestigious school and a museum.
A Litchfield County writer, she began her career as a broadcast journalist at PBS producing for such luminaries as Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers. She is the author of Stars of David and One and the Same, and a contributor to the Daily Beast and the Huffington Post. She and her husband, David Shapiro, are generous supporters of the Steep Rock Association.
He is medical director of Charlotte Hungerford’s Diabetes Center and Endocrinologist at the Hungerford Center. A diabetic himself, he has created the Diabetes Boot Camp, with the goal of educating and motivating those with Type 1 diabetes about their medical condition.
A devoted supporter of the Kent Memorial Library, she is the creator of City Pets, a veterinary house-call service for dog and cat owners in Manhattan. Her goal is to provide quality veterinary care to dogs and cats in the comfort of their own homes.
As owner of the eponymous woodworking company, he produces the highest-quality work. As chair of the Milton Historic District Commission he has worked diligently to retain the charm and historical significance of that unique village.
For over four decades, he has created eye-catching canvases. His work is in public collections at the Met, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, MoMA, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and the British Museum in the London. He is the former dean of Hartford Art School and helped create a studio facility for teaching art and technology.
He has illustrated over 70 New Yorker covers—the one of Michelle and Barack Obama is now legendary—with a flair that is sometimes irreverent but always ingenious.
Daniel Day-Lewis & Rebecca Miller
He made Oscar history by being the first actor to win three Academy Awards, most recently for Lincoln. She has written two novels, a book of short stories, and four film scripts. Although they spend part of their time in Ireland, they maintain her late parents’ home in Roxbury and are supporters of their local land trust.
He paints the most ordinary objects and turns them into pieces of art. His now-famous paintings of Walmart stores have become collectors’ items. His vision continues to enrich Litchfield County’s art legacy.
David & Deborah Brenner
They have made the Northville Market a must-stop for both full-time residents and weekenders. Now they have transformed the Bantam Market into another mecca for food lovers. The couple pays attention to what people want and need—and deliver it.
One of the foremost landscape painters in the region, he has been portraying the iconic imagery of Northwest Connecticut since 1979. Whether he is painting in his studio in Cornwall Hollow or in Asia, where he spends a good deal of time, he captures the essence of each place.
He is the author of three books and a regular contributor to the Hartford Courant. His in-depth stories have covered everything from pharmaceutical companies, and the need to monitor what they do, to the effects of war on veterans of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
The Venetian has been a mainstay of Torrington for over 40 years, thanks to the efforts and talents of DiLullo and his family. To enter the restaurant is to be transported to an Italian trattoria.
Lane Smith & Mollie Leach
He is an award-winning, children’s-book author and illustrator. She is a renowned book designer. In addition to creating his own books, he has done illustrations for many famous writers, including Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss. Together, these two talents have produced some of the most treasured books for youngsters.
Catherine Tatge & Dominique Lasseur
This award-winning couple has produced and directed some of the most important and thought-provoking documentaries. Their films have been included in PBS’s American Masters series. Tatge is working with Lawrence University to build a film- and media-studies program. Lasseur is managing director and officer of newly formed Global Village Media.
Following in the footsteps of Marcel Breuer, who brought the modernist movement to Litchfield, Dalton-Morris has designed several modern houses. From an oasis of tranquility on Maple Ridge, to an impressive pool house, to a glass-filled house in the middle of town, his work reflects the immense talent of this longtime Litchfield resident.
Jo Ann Ryan
A lifelong Torrington resident, she was chosen Woman of the Year for 2013 by the United Way of Northwest Connecticut Women’s Leadership Initiative. She has been the president of the Chamber of Commerce for 11 years and dedicates her time to volunteering for the community. She is a tireless supporter of many boards, including the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital Board of Corporators, the Warner Theatre, the United Way of Northwest CT, the Northwest CT Arts Council, and the Torrington Downtown Partners.
Edwin G. Booth, Jr.
A Torrington native, “Chip” is chairman of Torrington Savings Bank and has made a career of working to help his hometown. He is vice president of Torrington Casting Company, Inc., a family-owned and -operated business founded in 1920.
As owner of County Wines & Spirits in New Preston, he has educated customers on choosing and enjoying wines at every price. As a Washington resident, he has served on local boards and committees for many years and has made a name for himself as the premier auctioneer at many charity events, including the Gunn Library’s Library Luminaries, the ASAP Literary Event, and St. John’s Bazaar.
His French upbringing instilled in him a sense of style, grace, and a discerning eye. He is included in Architectural Digest’s prestigious annual list of the best decorators and architects. His house in Kent, with its spectacular gardens, is a testament to his talent and observation.
It would be impossible to list all the contributions to Broadway, musical theater, film, and TV of this gifted composer and lyricist. From West Side Story to Sweeney Todd to Passion to Company, he has touched the hearts of theatergoers.
He serves as the director of education at White Memorial Conservation Center and is one of Connecticut’s finest naturalists. His association with WMCC has lasted 35 years, and he has been visiting with the Torrington pre-schoolers for 25 years, teaching the fundamentals and importance of conservation and preservation.
Wolfgang, Betsy &Wilma Joas
From a simple bakery in Litchfield, the Joas family created The Dutch Epicure, one of the premier shops in this county. Since 1967, Wolfgang, his wife Betsy, and daughter Wilma have been offering the finest and most unique food items. They have raised the bar on takeout food.
As manager and buyer for R. Derwin Men’s Clothier, he has brought taste and style to a new level. He is involved in a number of local organizations, committees, and civic issues. Most recently he has taken on a role as one of the town burgesses. He has successfully encouraged many new, young residents to be responsible for what happens in their community.
Ella Crampton Knox
For 30 years, she has provided the finest in archival-framing services to decorators, designers, and anyone desiring a creative and unique custom look for their artwork. In addition, she has championed local artists with exhibitions in her gallery, where she displays her own original art as well.
Sheryl Leach & Howard Rosenfeld
Leach, a children’s TV-show producer and creator of “Barney & Friends,” and her husband own The Smithy in New Preston, purveyor of fresh produce. They have spearheaded the farm-to-table movement here and are dedicated to promoting healthy sustainable produce, grown by local farmers.
He has spent years as an agricultural educator with the Department of Plant Science at UConn, coordinating a wide variety of sustainable agriculture programs. He has written the definitive book on alternative-health practices for livestock, and his commitment to sustainable farming is unwavering. He and his knowledge are revered by veterinarians, agriculture-extension educators, and livestock producers.
An award-winning producer and director, she is responsible for creating many memorable films and documentaries, including The Lemon Sisters, made in conjunction with star and producer Diane Keaton. She is also part of BYKids, which mentors young children and produces films about globally relevant problems. She is a member of the Roxbury Scholarship Foundation Board.
William & Wendy Luers
She was a Reagan appointee to the National Council of the Arts, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. He is the former president of the UN’s Association of the U.S., former president of the Met, and former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic and Venezuela. Locally, the couple are supporters of Steep Rock Association.
For over 20 years, he has operated the Morrison Gallery in Kent and created a wonderful venue for artists and viewers. He was hailed by the New York Times as “a linchpin of Litchfield County’s art scene.”
Jan & Faith Ohms
When this couple purchased three direct-mail-order gardening companies—Van Engelen, John Scheepers, and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds—they created one of the largest importers of Dutch flower bulbs in the U.S. Today, daughters JoAnne, Wendy, and Kristin continue their late father’s legacy.
As medical director of radiation oncology at the Diebold Family Cancer Center, he was named 2012 New Milford Hospital Physician of the Year. He has been instrumental in ensuring that the hospital possessed the advanced Varian Trilogy linear accelerator for faster, more precise treatment and greater patient comfort.
She brought us many laughs in her Emmy award–winning role in “Third Rock From the Sun,” and revealed the other side of her life in Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster, a no-holds-barred memoir about her struggles with addictions. A Sharon resident, she teaches acting at NYU and mentors local girls on overcoming teenage obstacles.
Following in the footsteps of his parents, George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, this seasoned actor has forged a successful career on stage and screen. A member of the Litchfield Hills Film Festival’s Advisory Board, he has been instrumental in raising its profile.
An accomplished cellist, she made her concert debut at age 17 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She is currently associate principal cellist of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and Greenwich Symphony orchestras. She is also a member of the music faculty of the Hotchkiss School and The Gunnery.
He serves on the board of the Western CT Health Network, which represents the Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital foundations. He is a trustee of the Gunn Memorial Library & Museum and has been involved in the Washington, Connecticut, Antiques Show and was last year’s honorary chair. He and partner Steve Godwin own McIver Morgan Interior Design and Architecture, specializing in high-end interior design and architectural services.
Peter Stiglin & David Whitman
The creators of Pergola in New Preston find unusual, surprising, and beautiful objects related to nature and the home. They are quick to support local artisans and premier growers of orchids, ferns, and seasonal plants.
We have loved her as Mama Rose, Eva Peron, Norma Desmond, and in other Broadway roles. We love that she makes her home in Northwest Connecticut and that she is eager to support local charities.
Peter T. Rich
Daytime TV would not be the same without this man. The Emmy–winning writer has penned some of soap opera’s most memorable lines. From “Passions” to “The Guiding Light” to “All My Children,” he has created unforgettable characters. From his home in Falls Village, he is busily at work on new projects.
James B. Rokos
For 45 years, he has been director of health at the Torrington Area Health District. TAHD was the second health district formed in Connecticut. The agency deals with a wide range of traditional public-health responsibilities, including septic systems, wells, food inspections, and other environmental health concerns.
Darin Ronning & Travis Messinger
A visit to the Metropolitan Museum inspired the concept for Bantam Tileworks. Working out of their newly renovated space, the duo create handcrafted, specially colored tiles, glazed with a finish that is unique to their work. In addition, they are staunch supporters of local artisans.
One cannot think of antiques and fine taste without conjuring his name. Over the years, he has had various shops where he has collected and sold some of the finest antique furniture and art in this part of the country.
Michael Maren & Dani Shapiro
They are at the center of Litchfield’s literary colony. She is the author of two memoirs and several novels, and a new book of essays will be published this fall. He is a screenwriter and film director and recently completed his first feature film starring Linda Lavin and Harris Yulin.
She co-founded the Northwestern Connecticut Regional Planning Collaborative, which provides cost-effective professional assistance to towns for a range of issues. The organization’s programs identify opportunities for job development, educate the public about affordable housing, and increase tourism.
As an interior designer, he gives new meaning to the word classic. With just a single paint color or one perfectly placed object, he can create a room that truly suits the owner. He and his family make their home in Litchfield County, where he contributes to many events and writes about design.
Charles Van Doren
He is the author of some 25 books and an adjunct professor of English at UConn, Torrington. As the son of Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Mark Van Doren and writer Dorothy Van Doren, he has devoted his life to his love of literature and writing. For many years, he and wife Gerry have made Cornwall their home.
In addition to her involvement in organizing Tea for 200, she and her therapy dog visited oncology patients at New Milford Hospital. She also created College Pro Waitstaff to train high-school and college students to serve as staff for caterers and restaurants. Sadly she lost her battle with cancer in May.