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About Ridgefield Old Timers Organization -- ROTA

In 1990, a group of friends got together with the idea of forming an old timers group for Ridgefield. Paul Baker, Julie Petrini, John Tulipani, and Joe Brunetti met at a dinner. They decided to model the new organization after old timers groups in Danbury and Norwalk, which had already honored several Ridgefield athletes.

The original purpose of the new organization was to honor great athletes who were unable to continue their education beyond their school days, and set up a scholarship to assist current athletes. The organizers held several meetings and drew in 18 other supporters. They elected a board of officers with Paul Baker as the first chairman; Walt Evans was elected treasurer, a position he held for many years; and Julie Petrini was the first secretary.

The Ridgefield Old Timers Association began to have awards banquets in October 1992. Seven Ridgefielders were selected to be the honorees and the first Special Award went to Richard E. Venus. The first scholarship recipient was Thomas B. Gareau. He had been accepted at the University of Virginia. The guest speaker at the first banquet was Spec Shea, a pitcher for the New York Yankees.

The program for that first gathering was only 20 pages, cover to cover. The event was a success and money was put into a scholarship fund. The award of the scholarship to a female Ridgefield High School graduate first occurred in 1996. Janine Murphy played three sports and was involved in many civic endeavors. A year later, it was decided to annually award scholarships to both male and female recipients, and the winners in 1997 were Charles Bliss and Kerry Bennett. The amount of the scholarships has grown over the years, as a result of the advertising placed in this book, as well as other fundraising efforts — the annual golf outing and pig roast, which took place at the Ridgefield Golf Course but has since been discontinued.

In the association’s second year, it introduced the Civic Award, and the first recipient was Bob Tulipani, who is a very active club member to this day. The next year, Beth Yanity became the first female recipient of the Civic Award. In 1999, Sandy Pierandri Warner became the first female member of the board of directors; she was also the association’s third secretary.

The motivational guest speakers, once thought necessary for a good event, began to make the banquets stretch late into the evening. Members and guests wished to hear more from the award winners. After the event ran until 11:10 p.m. in 1999, the association decided to drop the guest speakers and to feature the honorees, as well as the emcee, often founder Paul Baker, who had a long career as a radio and television broadcaster. The Ridgefield Old Timers Association has continued to meet annually in October to honor athletes and others, and to award scholarship.

In 2006, the bylaws were updated to allow Ridgefield residents who have lived here at least 25 years to become members. Before this, members had to be natives and/or graduates of Ridgefield High School.

In 2013 the Awards Dinner was moved from Stony Hill in Bethel back to Ridgefield. Now the Awards Dinner is held at St. Mary School and has made attending considerably easier for many local persons. Also in 2013, the bylaws were amended to include a new category: the Educators Award. This award is specifically designed to honor the educators at Ridgefield High School that work so hard and give so much to the students and community. In 2015, the bylaws were amended to include 1 new scholarship and 1 new award. The new scholarship is the ‘Tom Belote Memorial Scholarship’ for RHS graduates that while possibly not the single most deserving candidate based upon the established R.O.T.A. Scholarship application scoring metric; nonetheless they embody the mission and purpose of R.O.T.A.

Join Rota

To paraphrase the United States Marine Corps, “we are always looking for a few, very good, hard-working new members.” We meet the first Monday of every month at the American Legion Post of Rt. 116 at 7:00 pm. If you want to join or just want to find out more send an email to Gregg.a.hutchings@gmail.com