Litchfield's Most Influential 2016
The most influential, giving, talented, interesting people in Litchfield
So many terrific people doing terrific things—that’s who lives and works in the Litchfield hills. We asked readers to identify those who may or may not be on everyone’s radar—from the well-known to the unsung heroes, the up-and-comers, the entrepreneurs, artists, students, leaders, and tireless volunteers who deserve a little spotlight. For the sixth year in a row, we offer Litchfield’s Most Influential.
DAN MAGILL has been passionate about the culinary field since his first job as a dishwasher at age 14. A job with Daniel Boulud springboarded him into a stellar career. As chef at Arethusa al Tavolo, he has made it among the most popular restaurants in this area. A proponent of farm to table, he makes use of all the local produce and changes the menu accordingly.
MERLE & BARRY GINSBURG have had extraordinary careers in real estate. She was named a Living Legend by Real Estate Weekly; he was inducted into the Outlet Industry Hall of Fame. He co-founded the Northwest Connecticut Opportunity Group to invest in local businesses, and he was active in leadership at New Milford Hospital. Both are political activists locally and nationally and hosted a major event for Hillary Clinton at their Roxbury home.
DAVID LEITE has a best-selling book, The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors From Europe’s Western Coast, which has popularized the cuisine. It went on to win IACP First Book/Julia Child Award. His Leite’s Culinaria was one of the first food blogs. He has won two James Beard Awards for his food writing. His Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression will be published next year.
CANDACE BUSHNELL created Carrie Bradshaw and made Manolo Blahniks the sexiest shoes ever. She has had her finger on the pulse of the life every young female wants. Through her books and television series, she has influenced and defined two generations of women. She is the winner of the 2006 Matrix Award for books and a recipient of the Albert Einstein Spirit of Achievement Award.
RAFE CHURCHILL is a Sharon resident and third-generation master builder. He is of the rare breed that is able to understand both the aesthetic and the practical sides of a project. He is a great proponent of the “new old house”—offering modern features with the charm of a historic house. He is the recipient of two Bulfinch Awards from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art and was awarded Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s 2016 House of the Year.
PETER VERMILYEA is resident ambassador and expert on this area thanks to his book Hidden History of Litchfield County. He is chairman of the social-studies department at Housatonic Valley Regional High School and a lecturer at Western Connecticut State University. He serves on the board of trustees of the Litchfield Historical Society. His new book Wicked Litchfield County is about to be published.
ALICIA ZALKA is a respected derma-tologist, on staff at Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital, and is a clinical attendant at Yale’s department of dermatology. She was instrumental in the creating and passing of the Tanning Bill that prevents children under 16 from receiving tanning treatments. She has spearheaded campaigns for the Bridgewater Land Trust and has chaired numerous fundraising events for local land preservation.
VICTORIA MAZZARELLI followed her dream and became a prima ballerina, winning a gold medal in an international competition when she was 17. After traveling the world, she came back to Torrington and became the artistic director for Nutmeg Ballet, where she herself trained. She is an inspiration and devoted teacher to all who want to follow in her footsteps.
AMY WYNN is executive director of the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council and has worked diligently to gain support and recognition for the tremendous artistic talent in this area.Since its inception in 2004, the NWCT Arts Council has assisted numerous artists in the area in finding ways to promote and gain exposure for their work, from finding sponsorships to promoting exhibitions. The success of its efforts are due to Wynn’s energy, enthusiasm, and expertise.
BRIAN ROSS is an award-winning investigative journalist, who has been at ABC News since 1994 and has written provocative pieces for “World News Tonight,” “Nightline,” “Good Morning, America,” and “20/20.” He is author of The Madoff Chronicles: Inside the World of Bernie and Ruth, which was the basis for the two-part ABC-TV miniseries “Madoff” that starred Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner.
BRIAN McCORMICK is a well-respected attorney and poster boy for volunteerism. He is president of the board of the Litchfield Community Center, and director and funding member of KidsPlay Museum in Torrington. He has served on many other boards including the Litchfield Historical Society and the Oliver Wolcott library. He is an ardent supporter of programs for local youths and coaches soccer and baseball.
BRUCE GLICKMAN & WILSON HENLEY have a New York shop, Duane, which champions the merits and importance of mid-century design. Locally, they have restored several houses and are ardent preservationists. Henley sits on the board of the Gunn Memorial Library and co-chairs the Washington Antique Show. Glickman is a trustee at the Washington Art Association and has chaired many of its fundraising events.
BARBARA LEAMING is a Kent resident, and has written best-selling biographies of everyone from Jackie Kennedy to Winston Churchill to Orson Welles and Marilyn Monroe, among many others. Her most recent book, Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter, has just been published to stellar reviews.
MARGARET FIELD has spent her career in education at some of the finest schools in the area and is passionate about teaching children. She has served on the board of Forman School and CT Community Foundation. She was on the founding board of directors for Brass City Charter School.
MARY GRAHAM DAVIS is a former chair of the board of trustees of Mount Holyoke College and has traveled to several continents on behalf of Women’s Education Worldwide, a support structure for emerging women’s colleges. Locally, she is co-chair of the St. John’s Episcopal Church Restoration Campaign. She counsels several nonprofit organizations and provides guidance to Zaanha, a Litchfield County foundation supporting the education of children in Afghanistan.
DARREN WINSTON began selling rare books out of his apartment in 1995 and eventually opened Darren Winston, Bookseller, in Sharon. He has curated a treasure-trove of vintage volumes. The shop also functions as an art gallery for local artists. Winston has served as president of the Sharon Historical Society and as trustee at Indian Mountain School.
ABDO BALLESTER is a native of Cuba and known to many as the Mojito King and the star of the Washington Art Association’s Summer Solstice party, where his drinks are legendary. He is also the genius behind the boutique at the Mayflower Grace.
BENJAMIN PALETSKY is the driving force behind South Farms, a leading agricultural and cultural revitalization endeavor. He serves as chairman of Morris’ Economic Development Commission and is a member of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the Connecticut Farm Bureau.
EVAN ABRAMSON & CARMEN LOPEZ-ABRAMSON are two young documentary filmmakers who opened Harts Gallery less than a year ago. They have a great passion for discovering and nurturing new artists. With plans to add shops for artisans, classes, lectures, and workshops the gallery will help revitalize New Milford.
DOLPH TRAYMON and his wife opened the now legendary landmark Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant on Main Street in Kent. A renowned pianist, Traymon has been a mainstay in the Kent community, and the Traymon family continues their commitment to good food, good music, and comfortable atmosphere. The restaurant recently received an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.
MARK SNOW has been making music since the 1950s as a popular recording artist and then as composer for television and film. He is best known for his scores for such series as “The X-Files,” “The Ghost Whisperer,”
“Smallville,” “One Tree Hill, Kojak,” “Millennium,” “Pasadena,” “Dynasty,” “Falcon Crest,” “T. J. Hooker,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Family,” and “Hart to Hart.” He is the only ASCAP composer to receive the Most Performed Background Music award every year consecutively since its inception in 1985.
MICHAEL HIGGINS, since opening Litchfield Hills Wine Market in 2010, has become an essential part of the Litchfield community. He and his wife Jacqueline Decker sponsor an annual event benefiting Friendly Hands Food Bank. Additionally, he has supported events for Litchfield Montessori School, Washington Montessori School, Litchfield Community Center, Oliver Wolcott Library, the Connecticut Ballet, Warner Theatre, and Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, to name but a few.
PETER STEINER is a true Renaissance man. He was a college professor, and then turned to art and writing. As a prolific cartoonist for The New Yorker, he created the most reproduced cartoon in the magazine’s history. He is now an accomplished painter, as well as a writer of successful thriller novels, the most recent being The Capitalist, published this spring.
SUSI STONE & RUSSELL BARTON is a former chef and was director of marketing for the National Equestrian Federation. He is a real-estate investor who has bought and preserved properties in the Northwest Corner, including most recently the Litchfield jail. Together they purchased and restored White Bridge Farm and created a complete equestrian center.
BRADLEY STEPHENS has a country home, Rockwater, in New Preston, which is a testament to his extraordinary talent. Since establishing his own interior-design firm in 2003, he has created many high-profile interiors and has become one of the most sought-after designers in the business. He is the sole designer of every project and is able to combine artisan finishes and high-end craftsmanship with a sense of tasteful lived-in luxury.
JAMES BARRON & JEANETTE MONTGOMERY BARRON: Trained as an art historian, he established James Barron Art in South Kent in 2010, where he specializes in modern and contemporary American and European art. She is an accomplished photographer who became known for her portraits of the New York art world in the 1980s. Her works are in numerous collections worldwide.
ROLAND LEAL is a former women’s fashion designer. During his 20 years in Litchfield, he has focused his formidable creativity on developing highly successful fundraising extravaganzas for various non-profit organizations: The Litchfield Historical Society, The Oliver Wolcott Library, and The Litchfield Community Center. That creativity, those extravaganzas, and the funds they’ve provided are a gift to us all.
DR. THOMAS KOOBATIAN is executive director of New Milford Hospital and has been at the forefront of elevating the facility and increasing its importance to the community. He was instrumental in creating a new ER and has championed many new programs such as Plow to Plate that promotes locally grown foods.
TOM YOST is a well-respected painter and art conservator. A Roxbury resident since 1999, he has found his surroundings the perfect subject for his work. The depth of realism and his innate sense of color and light enable the viewer to enter the work and experience a sense of being in another environment.
MARCELL DAVIDSEN took over as chef at Community Table a little more than a year ago, and he has enhanced the already popular restaurant. A native of Denmark, he brings his Nordic sensibility and unique, artistic approach to create modern dishes that celebrate our local and natural ingredients in their purest form, exploring the New England landscape and culture.