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Sitting Down with Archbishop Blair

by Keith Griffin

Just moments into meeting Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, the newly installed head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, you like him. He’s a warm, engaging man along the lines of TV’s late Fred Rogers. Beneath that avuncular exterior, though, lies a strong intellect and deep commitment to his faith.

And it’s all delivered with a twinkle in his eye and a flat Midwestern accent that comes from having grown up in Detroit.

Archbishop Blair, who resides in town, sat down with West Hartford Magazine to talk about his role, the challenges of the Church, Pope Francis, and his limited free time.

In some respects, Archbishop Blair is like Pope Francis in that he was relatively unknown when he came here from the Toledo, Ohio diocese to replace Archbishop Henry Mansell who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.  Local Catholics are still curious about their new spiritual leader.

The Archbishop had this to say about the new Pope and his rock star popularity. “This is a two-edged sword, this popularity. On the one hand, the Pope has put his finger on some neuralgic points about how the Church is perceived, not only the Church, but the teaching of the Church. It’s a two-edged sword because some of his popularity is based on a misperception or false impression that somehow the Pope has any desire to change Church teaching on some very fundamental points that are very difficult for some people in the world today and they don’t accept. I think they’re going to be disappointed. I hope that doesn’t create some further difficulty,” the Archbishop said.

“Pope Benedict [the predecessor to Pope Francis] was a scholar, he was a theologian. He was a humble and rather shy man. Pope Francis is certainly not shy. Priests and bishops are not all cut from the same cloth and neither are Popes. We always pray God will give us the right man to be Pope for the times and each Pope makes his contribution.  Now Pope Francis is making his and it’s very welcome,” Archbishop Blair added.

His humility is apparent when asked about his role as the CEO of the Archdiocese, which comprises Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties and includes approximately 700,000 Catholics out of the three counties’ population of 1.9 million. He’s an influential man yet doesn’t project that image.

“I know I have to be vigilant about the temporal goods of the Church. This means getting the very best people to administer these things. The buck stops with me as far as the ultimate responsibility but it wouldn’t be proper nor am I qualified to actually manage or administer all of these things personally,” said the Archbishop, who turned 65 on April 12.

But then his spiritual side comes to the fore as it does with everything he will discuss during the one-hour interview. “The chief role is to be a pastor of souls and principally as a bishop to be a teacher of the faith. That’s the principal job of the bishop as a successor of the Apostles to hand on with integrity the deposit of the faith, the faith of the Church in Christ. “There are many other things the bishop has to do be a spiritual leader and provide for the Church. But you have to appreciate being a teacher of the faith is the most important.”

archCommunion“As long as I could remember I wanted to be a priest. I suppose as a kid I probably wanted to run off and join Rin Tin Tin on the TV at Fort Apache,” Blair said, “but my most abiding memory is wanting to be a priest, adding that his vocation was inspired not only by his parish priests but the nuns who taught him.

Archbishop Blair also sees as a challenge the “great crisis of faith” facing his Church. “We speak of various programs and methodologies we’re trying,” he said, “to draw people back to church, to try to attract other people to join the Catholic Church.  All these things are well and good as outreach. But ultimately in our society today what we are facing is a great crisis of faith. Many people question the need for religious practice as a member of a believing community that lives by an authoritative creed that includes moral teaching and sacramental worship.    For many, religion is reduced to philanthropy–doing good, trying to be decent people and helping others materially. They think that the practice of faith, attendance at church, is not essential for happiness in this world or the next.

“So when it’s a question of what to do to bring people to church, it’s a combination of many things but mostly it’s a question of asking God to give people the gift of faith. Then, of course, on our part to make that gift of faith credible in their eyes, because we’re practicing what we preach. If we say join us, come to church, go to Mass, and then when we leave church we don’t act in a very edifying way, we contradict the Gospel. Young people in particular are quick to see any hypocrisy. Of course we’re all weak, we’re all sinful, none of us lives the Gospel perfectly, but we try with God’s help,” the Archbishop said. “And just as with the Judas the mystery of iniquity was at work even among the Lord’s own apostles, so now the scandal of iniquity can be found whenever the faith is betrayed, as in the tragedy of clerical sexual abuse.”

A touch of sadness comes to his voice when he posits that the crisis is driven by more than just a loss of faith. “A lot of the traditional ways that brought people together, for example, close family life and the extended family, neighborhoods—for Catholics all of these things revolved around the practice of the faith. Today family life is in crisis for many, and family and neighborhood ties aren’t what they used to be. All of these things make it more difficult to hand down the faith. So we have to work in new ways to create a sense of community,” he said.

“The personal element, personal contact will always be essential.  It’s not just the Church but also other voluntary groups and organizations that are experiencing real challenges in bringing people together.  Much of today’s society tries to go it alone. People have the mobility and the communications now, and often spend time on their cell phone rather than talking to the person next to them. That kind of thing is a challenge for all of us,” he said.

But then the Archbishop demonstrates he is not a man mired in the past. Technology can and is being embraced to help the Catholic Church in its mission. “We are very blessed to have excellent resources on the web today. All you have to do is Google something about the faith and you will find some very good Catholic resources for answering questions and getting guidance. Not that it’s any replacement for personal contact, but it’s a great resource,” he said.

The Archbishop embraces technology in his daily life – to a degree. “Most 10 year olds are more savvy than I am, but I do use the web, and actually get most of my news off the web– church or secular. I use it a lot for communications. I have my iPhone to communicate. But if there is anything lengthy to read, I find it hard to do so on a computer screen. I still have to print it out and read it.”

Another challenge for the Church is the education of children in the Archdiocesan schools – a challenge many parents find difficult because of the cost. There are 16,000 students attending the Archdiocese’s 53 schools, including nine high schools where 98 percent of graduates attend college. Catholic school students consistently test two grade levels above their public school peers.

“I acknowledge that the costs today are high and not everybody can do it. Catholic schools grew in the United States because immigrant Catholics came who were not well received by their Protestant fellow citizens. The public schools were basically Protestant and not very favorable to Catholicism. In the big cities, at least, the Catholic people made a great financial sacrifice to send their kids there so they’d get a really good education and also preserve their faith.

“I’m not saying our public schools are anti-Catholic today.  Without prejudice to public education, which we all want to succeed, I hope that Catholic people would still be willing to make a sacrifice for the added dimension that the Catholic school can give. It’s always been a sacrifice.

“Ultimately we’ll only have Catholic schools to the extent that the Catholic parents are convinced of the importance of a Catholic education. That necessarily includes the religious dimension. In that sense it’s in their hands how well we will survive and flourish,” he said.

archbishop2 The Archbishop has praise for programs in place to help with tuition. The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal has a tuition assistance program that helped more than 1700 people last year. There is also Matthew 25, which provides aid to Northwest Catholic students from individuals or foundations willing to support four years of education. The program identifies gifted students and monitors their progress throughout their high school experience.

It’s a program run by Catholic Charities, which the Archbishop praised for its scope. “I was very impressed with the Hartford Archdiocese,” he said. “The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, for example, is remarkably generous on the part of Catholic people. That includes a whole array of Catholic Charities outreach services and other charitable activities. Catholic Charities also gets grants and other support to conduct this work. It’s extremely important. Archbishop Mansell was fond of pointing out that after the federal government the Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services in the country.”

Archbishop Blair is a man who knows his limits and realizes the need to step back from the work that can easily swallow up all seven days in the week. “As a bishop or a priest, I always try to take a day off – one of the seven. I don’t have the weekends off so one of the seven. Some weeks it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Being outdoors is very appealing for him whether it’s walking or riding a bike. Those are the kind of things I do to unwind. A while ago the weather warmed up a bit and I took a ride down Route 44 to the reservoir for a long walk. Doing that, I unwind a bit.  I think about the Archdiocese but not in a hectic way, and I don’t just think about work. We all need that.”

“I also love the water. I grew up around the Great Lakes in Michigan. I’m happy that Connecticut is near the Sound and the ocean and there are some nice inland bodies of water. I was attracted to the walk at the reservoir because of the water there. It is very peaceful on or by the water.

“The Lord said to keep holy the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath was meant to show among other things that everything doesn’t depend on us and our work. You have to give a day to God to show that ultimately things are in His hands. I’m not saying my day off is the Sabbath – far from it. But the idea of activism, that one has constantly to be doing things, it not healthy for the body or the soul.

“I realize that many of our fellow citizens are working very hard and don’t get any time off. Some are even pursued by their employers on the cell phone or web after hours and on holidays. I don’t think that’s a healthy thing.”

His humor comes through even when discussing his growing knowledge of the Archdiocese after four months as the archbishop. “When Father Romans, [then his secretary] and I are driving to various events, he often points out churches and some favorite restaurants to me. He claims that I seem to remember the restaurants better than the churches. Maybe that’s not a very edifying thought.”

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.



Home and Garden in West Hartford Magazine.

Prime Time Gardening
Tips and Tricks for planting in Prime Season!
This is the time of year that gardeners live for…even those who just purchase a few packs of annuals or a hanging basket or two!  Everywhere you go, the world is a riot of flowers, plants, flowering trees, fruit and berry bushes, herbs, vegetables plants, some with full grown fruit already on them. The bounty is overwhelming!…read more

Nurturing Gardening Relationships
Let’s face it,it’s been a long, hard winter.  And, for those of us who love gardening, it’s probably been even harder!  There are only so many times we can find beauty in snow on tree branches or nicely pruned hedges before we get anxious to be back into the garden. As the weather begins to warm up, let’s remember not to rush out into the garden too soon.  As excited as we are to get back to our gardens and plants, there’s nothing more harmful than working in wet soil.  And many of us in this area have clay or compacted soils already so we need to take extra care not to work in those wet soils or we will have a much worse problem…read more


The Classic Man.

The world of Men’s Fashion is on fire this year and thanks to Dressed To The Nines, of West Hartford…the bar has been raised! Coupled with a few hot cars, the message is clear: Classic never goes out of style!

Stroll the Center or take a weekend get-away in this custom sport coat in tan plaid with jewel tone highlights, in silk and wool by Dormeiul/England. It’s a classic two-button style with side vents and is pic stitched. His shirt is 100% 2-ply 120s cotton, in a light blue end-on-end by Thomas Mason/England. Ed completes his look with a pocket square in 100% silk, hand rolled print, made in Italy.

Ed MacDonald, of West Hartford, can be spotted strolling the Center with his family on weekends.



Classic doesn’t go out of style… this custom-made business suit with a two button style jacket, notch lapels, side-vented with pic stitching and a ticket pocket is always in style. Sam is wearing super 1205 worsted wool in marine blue sharkskin with an overplaid by Vitale Barberis/Italy.  The trousers have a plain front and are cuffed. Sam’s shirt is 100% 2-ply 120s cotton, in summer white by Stoffa of Italy. His tie, in powder blue print on silk, is hand made in Ireland by Atkinson. The pocket square is 100% cotton, made in Italy.

Sam Fulginiti is a funeral director from Essex who travels to West Hartford Center for his custom business suits.


The trend now is to invest in a custom made tux for your wedding so you have it for black tie functions in the future! Tuxedos can be made-to-order so they fit like a glove with total comfort, whereby the suit simply moves with your body!

Brandon Dufour, of Watertown, wanted an unforgettable wedding when he recently tied the knot with his wife, Theresa Labarbera Dufour (New 8’s Good Morning Connecticut traffic reporter, and host of Connecticut Style). So, he decided on classic tails in Loro Piana Super 130s wool worsted with an all cotton pique vest and matching tie. His shirt is a classic formal shirt by Thomas Mason/England in 2-ply 100s cotton.

menone menfour

Men who are looking for a classic new look will love Dressed to The Nines. During your initial consultation, Bob will focus on creating your personal style by selecting clothing that best flatters your features and enhances your appearance. For example, you’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the various coat options, whether you prefer single or double breasted, center or side vents, two or three buttons, and trousers that are pleated, flat front and plain or cuffed bottoms.


Bob DeGemmis, owner of Dressed to The Nines, has been helping gentlemen look their absolute best for generations! He works out of his  West Hartford Center headquarters. Bob grew up in the business and is the third generation of the DeGemmis family to offer custom tailored suits, shirts, sport coats, pants, topcoats, and formalwear.  While Bob has made a few ties in the past, he doesn’t want to compete with an expanded tie market globally. He stocks a large assortment of ties. Bob’s grandfather, Alfredo, a custom tailor in Italy, immigrated to Connecticut in 1916, bringing his bespoke tailoring skills with him. Since then, the DeGemmis family has been providing  wardrobes to gentlemen in Connecticut and New York.

Suits $895-$4,000, Shirts $150-$500, Trousers $345-$750


Casual and Business Photography by
Cheyney Barrieau Photography

 Formal photography by Brian Ambrose Photography

 Styling by Bob DeGemmis
Men’s Clothing from Dressed To The Nines. Custom clothing price ranges: Suits $895-$4,000, Shirts $150-$500, Trousers $345-$750. 

Bob DeGemmis Dressed to the Nines,
998 Farmington Ave., West Hartford Center. bobdegemmis.com

 Watches Shinola – The Runwell, Made in America; Rolex – Oyster Perpetual Yachtmaster, and Patek Philippe – Calatrava
Lux Bond & Green
46 LaSalle Road, West Hartford Center

 Sunglasses Robert Marc Plastic, and Oliver Peoples Shaefer
Central Optica, 33 LaSalle Road, West Hartford Center

 Shoes All by Carlo Pazolini, including a casual brown driving loafer, a versatile oxford, and a black tuxedo oxford.
Carlo Pazolini, 500 Westfarms Mall, Farmington, CT  shopwestfarms.com

Luggage Bosca Tribeca Stringer Bag and Tumi
Tegri-Lite Continental Carry-On
991 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford Center

 Cars: 2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Executive Edition Color: Basalt Black on full black leather.  2013 Porsche 911 S Cabriolet.  Color: Anthracite Brown on full espresso leather.
Hoffman Porsche
630 Connecticut Blvd, East Hartford

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.

Jim Chapdelaine

Musician. Husband. Father. Cancer Survivor.

Jim Chapdelaine is  a 13-Time Emmy Winner and Cancer Survivor

by Lisa Lelas

Who says only cats have nine lives? Nationally known West Hartford musician, Jim Chapdelaine, is a human example of perseverance, vitality, and positive attitude stronger than the Energizer Bunny! Okay, so enough with the animal metaphors. Through re-inventing himself with numerous layers of musical collaborations over the years to beating the odds with a rare form of liver cancer, Jim is surprisingly humble and lives each day without labeling himself a survivor. He is a musician. Period. Albeit a very successful musician, it is his positive spirit and generosity that has caught the attention of renowned medical centers as a symbol of hope.

Even if his name doesn’t ring a bell immediately, chances are you already know Jim’s music. He has traveled the country over the years to sold out venues with The Pousette-Dart band, playing their classic American folk-rock hits in the 1970’s and 80’s (one song fairly recently featured on an episode of ‘Lost’) and still tours with Jon Pousette-Dart today. But his guitar strumming fingers don’t stop there. Jim is a much sought after talent. Together with his band, The Shinolas, they are the rhythm section for many other well-known performers. Currently, he is touring with the legendary jazz performer, Big Al Anderson (formerly with ‘NRBQ’, the rock band ‘Yes’ and songwriter for many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt). Jim was a producer and provided the music for Phoebe Snow (her early hit song “Poetry Man” will ring bells for many), worked with Carol King…and the list goes on!

In addition to a successful career with musical bands and notable performers, Jim’s musical talent has been woven into many interesting television and film projects over the years, winning him 13 Emmy Awards. His first Emmy Award nomination came 15 years ago for the music he provided for a TV documentary on the making of the Amistad ship. He provided all the sound tracks for the PBS-TV series, “Infinity Hall Live” for which he won an Emmy for best audio for a public TV show. Another Emmy was won for the music for a 5-part energy conservation TV series narrated by Ed Asner. Teens will hear his music in ‘Kids in Cars’, a program that is shown in every drivers education class in the country and Jim also provided theme songs for many notable commercials, including Jiffy Lube, the Army National Guard, Bull Frog Sunscreen, and St. Francis Hospital.
You may wonder why a musician of his caliber chooses not to live in New York City or Los Angeles. Quite simply, Jim loves West Hartford. He is also in close proximity to Hartt School of Music, where he teaches music production and technology.

“I live in a small market which forced me to wear many hats as a musician,” says Jim, “I have always had the gift of intellectual curiosity. I like living here.”

“I already knew at just 2 or 3 years old what I was going to be!” he explains, “I remember strumming my first plastic ukulele wearing a cowboy hat as a toddler. In second grade I got my first guitar.” With no exaggeration, Jim can now play 70 different string instruments. He also plays keyboard and is a singer “of sorts” he adds.

Pousette Dart BandHealing Power of Music
Growing up as a musician, Jim had no idea how his music would one day serve him with the power of healing. With on-going health issues throughout his adult life, his guitar would serve as the one thing to get him through his darkest days.

“My last surgeries were tough,” he says referring to recent hand surgeries, “because I had to put down my guitar.”

“I’m left handed but play right handed. I’ve had four medical reconstructions on my hands, leaving my left hand partially numb. My thumb joint has actually been removed!” When doctors told him he couldn’t play guitar while his hand was in a cast, he begged them to ‘leave one finger out’ so that he could still play with Big Al at a concert. And he did. Apparently nothing stops this man from his music!

Doctors are still unsure of the exact causes of his deteriorating hands…possibly a natural pre-disposed degeneration of bones…or perhaps a condition caused from all the chemotherapy he had in his lifetime. And Jim had his share of chemo.

The world seemed open to Jim as the young musical genius he was. He took some time off from college at the age of 18 to tour with a country band. Then, after attending Berkeley School of Music for a couple of years his world started turning upside down. He got sick. He had symptoms nobody seemed to have a diagnosis for.  “It all started with a weird cold-sore inside my lower lip. It grew rapidly. Became hard and irregular.” As it started popping up elsewhere on his body, including the interior of his nose, doctors seemed baffled. It took over three months and 12 doctors until he had his first diagnosis. He remembers vividly that doctor telling him outright at just 22 years old, he only had a year to live. “My initial reaction to that doctor was to ask him if he would prescribe Valium! I left the room. I needed to somehow digest the information.”

Jim turned to his music again, sometimes playing guitar for 8 hours straight in order to cope with the pain and side effects of the treatments.

That marked the trail of a long line of doctors he would eventually see. He learned he had an extremely rare form of liver cancer, called angiosarcoma (AS). This cancer affects only 30-60 people in America each year. In Jim’s words, ‘It’s as mean as a hungry bear and far more dangerous. It hides better than any other cancer and can stay dormant for fifteen years and then can rage suddenly.”

Jim found an excellent oncologist. The doctor had to actually remove Jim’s nose and graph a new nose using parts of his ear. While, he will be always under doctors’ observation, Jim’s positive attitude and love for music carries him through his life today.

“As far as my experience with cancer, I’ve learned to ‘put it away’. I don’t unpack the experience very often; I don’t live my life as a slave to it. I’m a survivor, but I’m a musician, a father and a husband first.”

Jim and Kate CallahanRepresenting Hope
Until very recently, Jim had never even met another human who had experienced AS cancer. Because it is fatal, there were not many survivors he could talk to.

“Lately, I’ve unpacked some of this after connecting with others going through it.” Thanks to the power of social media and a website for AS www.cureasc.org, Jim has been able to speak with ‘fellow warriors’ who are fighting this disease. Money has been raised by these very people to finally fund studies at Sloane Kettering Hospital and Jim urges everyone to make a tax deductible donation if they can.

Another layer to Jim’s life now has opened as a mentor to AS patients. He realizes that to doctors his mere presence represents hope, being that he has beaten the odds and is now a long time survivor. “I’m actually on my way to Sloane Kettering to meet a young man from Texas afflicted with this cancer,” he said, “I even wrote a song for him for his recovery.”

Despite all Jim has gone through physically and all he has achieved musically, his life still revolves around his wife, Janine and their 15 year old daughter, Annie, a freshman at Hall High School. He hopes one day to record a collection of all his songs while his band, The Shinolas, are now working on their first record and continue playing at various local venues throughout southern New England.

Regarding his most recent hand surgery, Jim says, “I’m playing at 50% with a 100% attitude,” realizing there may be neck surgery still in store for him.

To most of us, surviving cancer is a feat in itself, let alone vanquishing 13 Emmy Awards (and 2 Grammy nominations), despite major health issues, but there is something else Jim is most proud of.  “Last year, I got elected to my high school’s Hall of Fame! That was an honor better than all my Emmys!”


Radiant Recognition

Local jeweler, John Green appointed to International Position

By Lisa Lelas

Photography by Jane and Michael Shauck, Iris Photography


John Green, of Lux, Bond & Green, appears to have gemstones in his DNA. He is a certified gemologist appraiser and now embraces yet another prestigious title, as he is named the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Gemological Institute of

America. As one of the country’s leading experts in the field of diamonds and colored stones, his selection really comes as no surprise.

The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is a non-profit worldwide organization, known as the leading source for education, research and laboratory services for gemstones. Established in 1931, the GIA is considered the authority on diamonds, colored stones and pearls.

“It’s the number one source in the world for rating a gemstone,” John explains, “Any gem you see auctioned at Christies or Sotheby’s is usually accompanied by an official GIA report.”

World headquartered in Carlsbad, California, the GIA has other offices throughout the world, including New York City and Hong Kong.

“Not all jewelers are gemologists, although many of the better ones are,” he says, “Like in any profession, the more knowledge you have the better you can help clients. Most of us in the jewelry profession understand the need and took correspondence or residency programs offered through the GIA to become a gemologist.”

The GIA offers Graduate Gemologists degrees, as well as individual courses of study, such as learning about diamonds or colored stones. After college, John went to California to take classes, full time at GIA. Even today, as a certified gemologist, he is required to take annual exams to keep up with changes, since there are always new discoveries and new gemstone treatments.

John has been a member of the GIA board since 2008. There are 16 board members, from all over the world, such as Hong Kong, Israel and Dubai. He is only one of three retailers on the board…the rest are comprised of other experts in the industry as well as experts in the fields of compliance, finance, education and research.

“We have two in-person board meetings each year. One is always held in Carlsbad and the other in various locations around the world. This year we met in Botswana, Africa…the largest diamond producing country in the world.”

John was born and raised in this profession. “We are the fourth generation in our family business. In 1898, my great-grandfather, known as M.A. Green, opened up our first storefront in Waterbury. Interestingly, in years prior to that, he originally started in the business selling jewelry from a horse and cart!”

The second generation of Greens came to Hartford in 1932 and took over a company called, at the time, Lux Bond & Lux Jewelers. In 1933 it became Lux Bond & Green, and in the 1960’s, after John’s dad bought a store called Philip H. Stevens (sellers of fine china, glass and jewelry) and merged the two stores into one, it became ‘Lux Bond

Green & Stevens’, located on Pratt Street, eventually turning into Lux Bond & Green.

“I was always intrigued with jewelry and gemstones,” he explains, “at 7 years old, I started out as a gift wrapper in the family’s store. If I wasn’t in school, I was helping out at the store.”

Currently Lux Bond & Green stores are in 8 locations, six in Connecticut and two in the Boston area (they are the official jewelry sponsor of the Boston Red Sox). Their flagship store is on LaSalle Road in West Hartford center.

“Even with 8 stores, we like being a ‘family business serving a local community’,” he says. John and his wife, Norma Jean, have four kids, Dan, Debbie, Allie and Charlie.

“Our company and our family have been leaders in the jewelry industry. We are passionate about it and are lucky enough that the industry has recognized us for what we do. We are helping the world, one community at a time,” he says referring too much of the world profits from the diamond mining industry given right back to the people of Africa. “A lot of good happens with profits made from diamonds, whether here in our own community or around the world.”


So, what’s trending for this year’s holiday season? John says colored stones are very much back this year. “A woman wearing reds, pinks, greens or blues…it’s very much a part of her fashion wardrobe.” But, there are some jewelry items that are forever timeless. Lux Bond & Green is the #1 diamond engagement store in all of New England. “We always keep a full supply of good quality diamonds and settings. While we do have bigger inventory during the holiday season, we are pretty consistent throughout the year.”

Also, this month, you’ll find many special holiday gift items, such as Santa cuff links and many specials under $100 celebrating the season.

“The old slogan of my great-grandfather was ‘M.A. Green-Famous for Diamonds’. We continue to keep that tradition!”

Tips to help you shop this season…

• Gold is a perfect metal in jewelry because it will never rust, tarnish, or corrode, and it is very strong. Furthermore, gold is extremely malleable, allowing it to be made into virtually any shape. Because of this, gold jewelry comes in all shapes and sizes.

• Platinum is pure, an expression of integrity, a reflection of inner truth. Platinum’s purity endows it with a brilliant white luster. Due to this luster, platinum helps to reflect the true radiance of diamonds.

• Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product.

• Each setting has its own personality. Knowing your way around these selections will help you determine which setting suits your personal style and tastes. Find out more about settings at: http://lbgreen.com/Education/Settings


“Our company and our family have been leaders in the jewelry industry. We are passionate about it and are lucky enough that the industry has recognized us for what we do.”


People and Pets

Don’t forget about your furry friends this holiday season!

By Lisa Lelas

Photography by Ira Nozik Photographers

Despite this being the season of joy, the holidays can bring stress to all of us, and pets are no exception. When routines are disrupted and new activities occur, your pet may be the first to notice.

More than half of all families in America today are pet owners. It’s important to give pets special attention during the holiday season. Many will get stressed with the added hustle and bustle of holiday guests and new routines. Always provide plenty of food and water and a quiet room where they can escape the social commotion and get some Z’s.

While the holidays are a popular time for welcoming a new furry friend into your home, make sure your entire family is on board with the decision. Surprises are not best for the pet involved. Consider opening your heart to the many homeless animals waiting for adoption right now at your local animal shelter and/or donating pet food and supplies to the shelter.

With the premier of this new annual feature, West Hartford Magazine welcomes you to send in a favorite pet photo pictured with you or as part of your family. Deadline for submission is June 30. Selected photos will appear in next year’s Holiday issue.

Submission details listed below

Photo Submission & Contest Rules

Send us your favorite pet photo pictured with you or as part of your family and your photo could be chosen to appear in our next Holiday “Pets & Their People” feature story!

Deadline for submission is June 30, 2014.

Send to: Operations@westhartfordmagazine.com, and put “Pet Photo” in subject.

Please include your name and address. You must be a West Hartford resident to submit. Don’t forget to include a photo caption of pet’s name, age, breed, and any family members included in the photo.

Four notable ‘pets and their people’ from the area offer a few words of wisdom on taking good care of your pets this holiday season!


Nicky, an adorable 2-year old terrier mix, shares an important message with everyone this holiday season:

“A short while ago, I was petrified, roaming the streets of West Hartford with no where to go. The Animal Control Center took me in, giving me food and a warm place to sleep. I am now happy go lucky, playing with my toys and awaiting a new home and loving family to adopt me! Please don’t forget about us this holiday. My furry friends and I at the shelter all need permanent homes!”

Thanks to animal control officer, Karen Jones, Nicky at least now has a temporary roof over his head. Despite sometimes being depicted as the bad guy in Disney movies, Karen assures us that animal control officers really have compassion for animals in their community. Rather than having a stray animal endanger itself or others, they are taken into their facility and cared for.

“We feed them and advertise to find their owners. Our number one mission is to find the owner. Only then, after waiting a period of time, we will put them up for adoption.” Karen reminds pet owners that all dogs in Connecticut must be registered in their town. No license registration is required for cats. There are many animals waiting to find permanent homes. Interested parties can log onto www.petfinder.com with links to local pets in the community or throughout the state and farther. Each pet listed has photos and a description of their personality or needs. There is a $50 adoption fee, which includes a voucher for spay/neutering and some vaccinations.

“Now, with the internet,” she explains, “getting a pet is so much easier but it doesn’t mean it comes without head-aches. People are getting animals they’ve never met. They have no idea what their behavior is or how they would blend in with their family. And people should not forget that there are so many pets available locally right here in the West Hartford community.”

Karen adopted her own pets from a shelter, too. Her dog, Giada, a Mastiff mix and Dharma, her cat, came from her facility. “Even my first dog as a child came from a shelter. ‘Dusty’ was a collie-shepherd mix I got when I was about 12 years old. I loved collies because of ‘Lassie’!”

“If anyone is considering a new pet for the holiday, make it a group decision.” Karen says to make it your grocery list (priority list) of what’s important for your family, whether a dog that is active, quiet, good with kids, and so on. “Like shopping for cars. If you have a family of 5, a tiny sports car is probably not the best decision.”

The animal control facility in West Hartford has many different animals for adoption throughout the year, aside from dogs and cats, including bunnies, guinea pigs, exotic birds, parakeets, and reptiles. The town of West Hartford does things right, according to Karen, “the animal control facility here is part of the town’s law enforcement.” As a division of the West Hartford police department, animal control officers are armed. They undergo extensive background checks, must pass lie detector tests and be finger printed. “It’s a long process,” admits Karen, “but one worth the time!”

“I love my job!” she smiles, “I always knew I wanted to work with animals and wildlife. I especially love dogs.”


With a degree in biology and looking for a job, Karen responded to a help-wanted ad for an assistant animal control officer at the West Hartford facility along with 300 other job applicants… and she landed the job. Karen, now the senior animal control officer, has been at her job for 19 years. The Animal Control center is a division of the West Hartford Police Department. www.petfinder.com

Best advice from Karen for adopting a new pet: “The personality of the pet needs to fit the personality of the family to make a life long success story. We want it to be a win-win situation for all involved!”



Meet Tyson O’Brien. Tyson is a big lovable 7-year old yellow lab that helped inspire the creation of überdog!

Many might say that other people helped them kick start a new career. For Dan O’Brien, owner of überdog, a pet care facility, inspiration came from a different source. He explains, “the catalyst for my business was my dog, Tyson and his needs.” When he and his wife needed to find pet daycare for Tyson, they were unhappy with the facilities available in the area. Soon after… überdog was created. What started out as a necessity for Tyson turned into a wonderful gift to the community.

“People in West Hartford have very high expectations. We know they want the very best for their pets. We don’t let them down.” Dan says.

¨überdog is an ever-expanding facility offering overnight care, grooming, and ‘play-care’ during the day. Currently, under expansion, the center will soon boast 13,000 square feet.

“It will soon be the largest pet care center in Connecticut.” Dan says, “We were simply running out of space.”

“It’s the alternative to typical kennels. We don’t believe in an old fashioned stale environment. Everything is over-sized at überdog. Plenty of room for each dog to run and play. There are even luxury dog dens with people beds, complete with chandeliers!”

überdog is unique in that each dog has its own indoor and outdoor play area. “We let dogs out by groups”, he explains. Divided into age, breed or size, careful that each dog in a playgroup gets along well with the others. All pets are supervised by “wagologists”, trainers that are all fully experienced and knowledgeable in pet first aid, CPR and animal behavior.

überdog runs on a very transparent policy. There are look-in windows and even webcams so people can check in and see their dog while on vacation. Just as people can get stressed when schedules get busy, Dan reminds us, “over the holidays, people don’t always take into account that when they travel or have extra guests and swarms of people at their home for parties, dogs get stressed out also! Give them a vacation too! They need quiet time. Time to rest.” Just ask Tyson!

He warns pet owners to keep an extra eye on their pets this time of year. Dogs can get sick from drinking tree water and table scraps.


Need a special holiday gift idea? überdog has gift certificates available…think about giving your pooch a fun weekend retreat while you have a house full of guests or need to do some holiday traveling.

überdog, 635 New Park Avenue in West Hartford. www.myuberdog.com.

Dan admits he was always an animal lover but never had a pet growing up. “The first thing I did when I moved out was to get a dog.” Tyson came into his life at that time. Now, seven years later, his family also includes his wife, Isabella and their two sons, 2-year-old Finn and 3-month-old Tate.



It is estimated that 52 percent of all households in America have pets and although Bella and Phinneas are two very happy English Labs, pictured with their family, there is an increasing number of pets that are homeless and available for adoption.

Jason Humphries, owner of Bella and Phinneas…and Pet Supplies Plus, offers advice for people thinking about getting or giving a pet as a holiday gift: “Families need to think about the well being of the pet for the life of the pet. Think about their medical expenses, exercise, nutrition, spay/neutering…everything. This should not be a decision made on a whim.” Because there are so many pets in need of homes in shelters throughout the community, he doesn’t want to rule out taking in a pet as a holiday gift, as long as it’s a family decision.

When the snow starts falling, Jason reminds pet owners to use pet-safe snow removal products, such as Safe Paws, for melting ice on your walkways. Always keep fresh water out for your pets and never leave them out in the cold, whether in your yard or in a parked car.

Jason proudly works with several local pet charities, including making regular pet food donations to the Hartford Food Pantry.

Providing the community with healthy, reliable pet friendly supplies and services has been Jason’s mission for almost 20 years. Known as ‘the neighborhood retailer’, Jason explains they take care of their neighbors with the best products at great prices. “We even have carry-out service, where we’ll carry bags right out to your car!” With almost 9,000 square feet and over 60,000 products, Pet Supplies Plus is more of a grocery store for holistic and health food supplies for pets. If you are looking for virtually any brand, chances are good that they will have it. For example, in a regular grocery store, Fancy Feast, the number 1 selling cat food in the world typically carries 12 flavors. “In our store, we have 57 flavors!” he says.

Everything you need for your dog or cat can be found at the store, including some small mammals and reptiles, such as fresh water fish, bunnies, and iguanas. “We don’t sell dogs or cats,” he explains, “but we promote local adoption agencies for new pets.

We also have licensed vets and technicians that visit the store for affordable vaccines.”

“There is a full supply of gift ideas for pets now throughout the holiday season,” Jason says, noting that business picks up this time of year because even non-pet owners shop for their pet-lover friends. “We have a wide selection of Christmas and Hanukkah themed toys for dogs and cats, as well as a great apparel selection and our exclusive ‘made in America’ section of rawhide products.”

Jason opened the first New England franchise back in 1996, and was the youngest franchisee at the time, being just 27 years old. “My wife, Marcie and I were living in

Michigan when I was introduced to Jack Barry, the original founder of Pet Supplies

Plus. I had been contemplating a career change and I saw this as a good opportunity. We came out to Connecticut on a fluke and loved it. We’ve lived here in West Hartford ever since!” Soon after the grand opening of the West Hartford store, and one in Manchester, he opened several more stores around the state. Most recently, last month, he opened another store in Wethersfield. But it doesn’t stop there, as Jason has his sights on more locations throughout middle Connecticut and the shoreline. Between his stores, Jason employs more than 150 team associates, assuring an extremely knowledgeable, fully trained staff available at every location.

Pet Supplies Plus is located in West Hartford at Bishops Corner, 2480 Albany Avenue. Open Mon-Sat 9-9, and Sundays 10-6. www.petsuppliesplus.com

“Marcie and I have always had a love for animals. I remember my first childhood pet was Dickens, a Yorkshire Terrier.” Now, Jason, Marcie and their two teen daughters, Stephanie and Ilana share their home with Bella and Phinneas, as well as 2 cats,

Americat and Ashley.



Sally and Shelby are two very appreciative rescue dogs. They have found the perfect family! A mom and dad with three active hockey-playing boys…life couldn’t be better! And to top off their lucky charmed life, mom is an animal doctor!

Dr. Lauren Mascola, of Pet Care Veterinary Services, says she was one of those girls who always had the dream of someday becoming a veterinarian.

“I definitely was a child who loved animals but I wasn’t sure I could do it.” She explains, “I went on to be a psychology major at UConn but didn’t love that. One summer I worked at an animal shelter in Nantucket and fell in love with the idea.”

From there, she enrolled at Tufts Veterinary School and eventually captured her dream. Lauren has been a veterinarian now for over 17 years, taking over her Pet Care clinic, here in West Hartford, in 2005. “It’s important to give your pets special attention during the holiday season,” the doctor reminds us, “dietary indiscretion is much more prevalent during this time.

Holiday plants, decorations and party food platters should be kept away from pets so they are not ingested. Put lights up a bit higher on your Christmas tree to keep your cats away from them. Also, I don’t recommend tinsel or sparkly garland, which can cause intestinal blockages if pets chew on them. Keep in mind that pets sometimes drink the water from the tree, which may cause it to dry out quickly, leading to a fire hazard.”

The holiday season is a time when many families welcome guests, who may feed your dog food he’s not used to. Food allergies in pets are also on the rise. Be careful and diligent with pet food choices. Never feed them grapes, raisins or onions which can be hazardous to their health. Uncooked cookie dough and chocolate can also be harmful to an animal’s digestive system. Lauren suggests all pet owners keep the toll free phone number to the Animal Emergency Control Center handy, 1-800- 213-6680 in case of any unforeseen pet emergencies.

Giving a pet as a holiday gift only works if the whole family is on board with it. “You can’t surprise somebody with a pet,” she states, “Do your research ahead of time. Know what kind of pet your family can handle. Parents of younger children need to be aware that they will be the ones who take care of it. But, that said, we should remind people that are many animals in shelters right now that need homes.”

Pet Care Veterinary Services, located at 64 Raymond Road in West Hartford.


Thinking back to her childhood, Lauren fondly remembers her very first family pets, “Max”, a Doberman and “Cinderella”, a Weimarana, and has made sure her own children would also experience the joy of family pets. Lauren and her husband, John Swift have been married for 16 years, and with their 3 sons, Cooper, Baur, and Easton, they share their home with Sally and Shelby, as well as a cat named Dory.


Peter Dante

Secrets of A Comedic Actor

by Erin Zeidenberg
photography  courtesy of by Mark Aston , Joan Dante  & Peter Dante

On the day of our interview, Peter Dante’s morning began with meditation and prayer, as it does almost every day of his life.  Immediately, I’m intrigued by his casual style and find myself relaxed as he engages me in conversation about the usefulness of quiet time and reflection.  “Prayer is a way to connect.  It helps keep things balanced and real.”  Honoring a genuine existence is what Peter Dante is all about.  Although he is unhesitatingly comfortable in his own skin, he does not like the word celebrity or being referred to as one.  “Celebrity has too much that goes along with it.  There are actors and there are celebrities.  People want to be celebrities but they aren’t honest and sincere.  I’m simply a guy from a small town who likes to act and sing and enjoy life.”

Such a modest statement coming from an actor who has been bringing laughter and joy to the masses for well over a decade.  In the mid 90’s, Peter had a small part on The Jeff Foxworthy Show and Larry Sanders Show.  In 1998 he appeared in the films ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘The Water Boy’.  From there he continued his comic relief in Happy Madison productions such as ‘Little Nicky’, ‘Mr. Deeds’, ‘Grandma’s Boy’, ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’, ‘Strange Wilderness’, ‘Jack and Jill’, and ‘Big Daddy’, for which he was nominated for a GLAAD award (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Peter has fond memories of growing up in West Hartford and connects the fine balance of his life today to his roots that were cultivated just four miles west of Hartford.  “West Hartford is a beautiful town with great neighborhoods and great families.  There was a sense of loyalty to what you had and what you did. I learned that very early on.”  Being the fifth of six children, Peter quickly figured out a way to shine by being involved in both sports and the arts.  “I was always trying to follow in my older brothers’ shoes, who were athletes, and my brother, Tony, who loved to sing.  I found the Elmwood Community Center and started doing plays at a young age.  I was also in the choir at Duffy Elementary and Conard High School.  It was a great balance for me.  I played basketball with friends and then did the Best of Broadway.”  Peter’s early work experiences included landscaping, caddying for his father and other members of the Wampanoag Country Club, and roofing alongside his brother-in-law, Jim Carroll, JP Carroll Construction.

Flashing back to third grade, Peter conjures up the memory of when he was first introduced to his life- long passion of lacrosse. “I remember being at recess. My friends had lacrosse sticks in their hands and they were like ‘C’mon you’ve got to try this’.  The following year I put the baseball glove down, picked up the lacrosse stick and haven’t put it down since.”  After graduating high school, Peter attended Hofstra University where he continued to play lacrosse.   “All of the parallels of lacrosse that I learned then, I teach now as life lessons.  Lacrosse is the smartest game for any athlete as far as team sports are concerned.  You need to be a student of the game to be great at it.”  Today Peter coaches a Professional Lacrosse Team called LXMPRO which tours the nation helping grow youth lacrosse.  In addition, he coached lacrosse at Loyola Marymount University and has been coaching both of his sons’ teams for many years.

Bubbling with pride, Peter discusses his favorite role of being a dad.  You may be surprised to know that Peter’s wife, Cynthia, is Brad Pitt’s manager and publicist.  Peter and Cynthia have two sons together , Jake and Lucas.  Jake is fourteen and already almost six feet tall.  He plays tackle football and hits homeruns on the baseball team.  “He’s a strong kid.  A beautiful boy.”  Lucas is ten, plays lacrosse, flag football and sings in the choir.  “He’s a great kid with a beautiful voice.”    On the night of the Oscars, Peter stayed home and cooked dinner for the boys while his wife attended the Academy Awards with Brad Pitt.

Peter met Brad when he was working on the Larry Sanders Show.  At the time Brad was shooting the movie California and needed an assistant.  “I was Brad’s first assistant ever.  I worked with him for two and a half years.  He’s a great guy from a small town in Missouri and hasn’t changed a bit.  He taught me a lot about the auditioning process and continues to be a huge part of my life.   He’s Jake’s Godfather and we continue to do a lot of stuff together.”

It was also during his time on the Larry Sanders show when Peter met Adam Sandler.  “I was playing basketball on Gary Shandling’s basketball court one Saturday when Adam walked up.  He asked me where I was from.  I told him I was from Connecticut .  He then told me he was from New Hampshire.  I said, ‘oh, you shoveled more snow than me.’  He laughed and said we should play one on one afterwards and we did.  From that day on we’ve been best friends.”  Peter and Adam continue to play basketball three times a week to stay in shape.  They also sing together in The Adam Sandler Jam Band.  It’s not a comedy thing.  It’s a real band that they perform in twice a year.  “It’s all intertwined with what I used to do growing up in West Hartford.  We sang in bands as kids.  My neighbor, Steve, and I used to perform at the Legion Hall and sing at house parties.”

PeteMrDeedsLast summer, Peter was on the Cape with Adam Sandler shooting the film “That’s My Boy” which premiers June 15th. Peter has a small part in the film as Tony Orlando’s son.  I asked Peter how much fun he actually has shooting these films.  He laughed and said, “We’re having the time of our lives or we’d never continue to do it.  But we’re also working hard.  Adam writes tirelessly and always worries about how much better he can make things.  The beauty of working with Adam, however, is that he gives you creative freedom between his writing.  If you come up with additions that are funny, he’ll add it.  He’ll change things on the spot.  He’s also great at giving you a back up story to help set the stage.  For example, in the ‘Wedding Singer’ my character gets a little kid drunk at a wedding.  Adam whispered in my ear ‘pretend you’re back in New England and you just got one of your cousins drunk at the wedding but stare at everyone like you’ll beat them up if they look at you.’  And that’s how it’s always been.”

With his affable brown eyes, disarming grin and ability to swiftly pull you into his force field, it’s no wonder why people like Brad Pitt and Adam Sandler enjoy being a part of Peter Dante’s world.  When he’s not being husband or dad, acting in films, coaching lacrosse, skateboarding, playing basketball or volunteering his time at a homeless shelter, Peter also writes and records his own music.  His current album is titled “Peace, Love and Freedom” which you can find on iTunes or peterdante.com.

Peter’s latest success is about his mother, Joan, who recently overcame her challenge with breast cancer.  You can sense Peter’s ardent love for her in his gratitude for her triumph.  “My mom’s loyalty to the Catholic Church and the way she’s been a dedicated mother her whole life  helped her beat breast cancer.  Her faith, good health, and bike rides around the cemetery, which we used to take together, have kept her free of cancer.”

It doesn’t take long to figure out that, like his mother, Peter’s most powerful talisman is his faith.  He knows life is a gift and what we do with that life is our gift back.  Each week Peter gives back by counseling those who have lost their way at the Blessed Sacrament Shelter in Hollywood, by nurturing his own children, by inspiring the youth in lacrosse, by writing and sharing his music, and by continuing to bring humor into our hearts and homes.