2016 Summer Art Enrichment: another success!

2016 Summer Art Enrichment: another success!

The Society enjoyed another successful Summer Art Enrichment program educating youngsters with an array of professional artists as instructors.

The organizers expanded the program and again added a new teacher, Lilly Rand Barnett. There were three different teachers involved in five weekly sessions of instruction and 46 participants were instructed. Each session also got a tour of the Seven Hearths Museum thanks to Curator Marge Smith.

At the end of each week, there was an art show presenting each child’s work and parents, grandparents and friends enjoyed seeing all the work on display.

“We are pleased by the high quality of art instruction that is being provided through this program,” said trustee Lynn Mellis Worthington, one of the volunteers who helped organize the program.

“It was so nice to see George Laurence Nelson’s property so active with lots of young artists flowing with creativity.  He and Helen would be so happy and proud to see the program we have developed ” said Melissa Roth Cherniske, another one of the trustees that helped organize the program.  

Barnett, who is the art teacher at Sharon Center School, instructed students in a wide variety of artistic mediums.  Some of the projects included sewing of 3D sculptures, embroidery, painting and plaster mask making. She offered both a morning and afternoon session for different ages.  Each of the students got their own sketchbook and a challenge to continue to draw in it during their entire summer.  

Cheryl Moore, chairman of the Art Department at South Kent School, returned for her third year and instructed 5 to 7 year olds. Once again her young students explored color in a variety of ways, including using a variety of watercolor techniques.

Andy Richards, chairman of the Visual Arts Department at The Gunnery school in Washington, led sessions in drawing and painting. His sessions always include a critique element, in which students analyze each other’s work and he provides guidance and encouragement.

Following the sessions, the Society surveyed the parents to get feedback on each class. One parent wrote, “My daughter talks about this camp non-stop. She had so much fun. She was very excited to learn to sew and really enjoyed the art show at the end of the week.” Another parent wrote, “He loved working with different media and creating projects using multiple methods. He also loved seeing the Historical Society and learning about it.”

The Society is thrilled to have the Art Barn in use to allow children to develop their artistic skills.  George Laurence Nelson gave art lessons in various forms over the years and so we believe our art instruction continues his legacy.


“Camps of Kent” Wins Award of Merit

Camps of Kent” Exhibit Wins CLHO Award of Merit


The Kent Historical Society 2015 Exhibit, “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer” has been honored by the Connecticut League of History Organizations with their Award of Merit. The award letter declared, “The Committee highly commends the Kent Historical Society for creating an exhibit that explored this previously undocumented aspect of the town’s history. The committee was impressed with the amount of original research that was conducted and the extra effort that was made to reach out to the community to collect and share the stories and artifacts of both the camps and the campers who came to Kent.”

Marge Smith and Melissa Cherniske co-curated this exhibit  and did a tremendous job, particularly guest curator Melissa Cherniske. Her personal experience and passion for the camp experience shone through every facet of the exhibit.

For more information on the award-winning exhibit please click here.


Talking with Patsy Stroble

Talking with Patsy Stroble
by Brian Thomas



Patsy Stroble grew up in a family of skilled, committed cooks, so it’s hard for her to remember a time when she wasn’t creating in the kitchen. As an adult, she says, “I’ve always cooked for my family, and enjoyed baking.”

That’s an understatement. Until it closed in 2007,  Stroble’s bakery was a fixture on Main Street in Kent for 30 years. Who knows how many tens of thousands of pies, cakes, cookies, scones, rolls, bread loaves, and other dainties passed from her ovens and out the door at 14 North Main Street?

Stroble generously agreed to hold two baking workshops to prepare the period-themed treats for the April 17th Musicale and Spirited Tea Party held by the Kent Historical Society. All the savories were baked by the workshop participants. For many, it was going back to the time when they could satisfy their sweet tooth with a visit to Stroble’s bakery.

“We moved up here,” she remembers, there weren’t many bakeries around. “I took some classes over at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, just to see if I was on track. I had great fun doing that. But I was pretty much self-taught.”

So with her two college-age daughters, Kari and Laura, she turned a cottage on their property in Sharon into a bakery. After about a year and half, they moved the irresistible baking vibes down to Kent, to where 109 Cheese now is, at 14 North Main Street.

Empty for years before the bakery warmed into life, the building is historic and fascinating. Her business started in the newer section, which had a modern cement slab, but as she expanded into the rest of the structure, the other sections had no slab at all. She installed stairs to make use of the upper floors. Eventually Stroble used almost every corner of the building.

Remnants of an old grain elevator lurked in the attic, a relic of the era when the building had been a grange. “You pulled on a rope. It was big, kind of like dumbwaiter. When I left, the wooden cogs for the hoist were still in position.”

Before turning to her baking business, Stroble worked at several different kinds of jobs, including laboratory work for Sloan Kettering in Rye, New York.  Her training was in biochemistry, and at that point people were looking at enzymes as a possible solution to cancer.

Was it a leap from the lab to the kitchen? Not really. She finds her biochemistry training useful in baking. “I was always very happy doing what they called bench work, choosing and manipulating ingredients, and the baking worked right into that.” It turns out that preparing wonders in the kitchen is benchwork of a kind, too. In biochemistry and in cooking, workers in the lab discover new, valuable things, sometimes by accident. Patsy Stroble says, “Both are creative processes.”




Pearl Harbor Day

Pearl Harbor Day
Not Just Another Day Anymore

By Dianne Lang (an abridgement)

As a baby boomer who missed World War II by a few years, I never thought much about how the war had impacted the older generation who lived through it.   No one spoke much about those times, and I felt disconnected from that period in history.  

Then everything changed.  My mother, Marie Camp, was contacted by Robert Valley, Volunteer Coordinator of the USS Oklahoma families. Information had been uncovered by a researcher that led him to believe that the remains of my mother’s first cousin, Ensign Joseph Parker Hittorff, Jr. could now be identified.  Previously knowing little beyond Joe’s name and that he died on the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor, I had a lot of questions.  My mother was able to give me some basic information as she is the family’s unofficial historian.  She remembered some visits by Joe and his family to her family home on Birch Hill in Kent.

Joe’s sister, Marion, then 98 and in a nursing home (now deceased), had referred everyone to my mother as Marion felt she could not cope with all that might need to be done.  We were informed that there were 27 “unknowns” buried in three grave sites.  While the identities of the individual remains were not known, the researcher found paperwork indicating the names of all who were buried in each of the three graves.  For some unstated reason, the anthropologist at the time refused to sign the necessary paperwork.  What was needed was a DNA test to help in the identification process.  After much red tape, we were able to coordinate with the military to obtain a DNA sample from Marion.

I began to try to find out as much as I could about Joe.  His picture showed a handsome, serious young man.  My mother had a copy of a hand-written letter from Herbert Rommell, a shipmate of Joseph’s on the Oklahoma.  He provided some details of that fateful day.  “When the alarm sounded, he (Joe) went to the engine room to get the ship underway.  When last seen, he was in the machine shop, which is right above the engine room.  The ship was hit by many torpedoes in rapid succession and keeled over rapidly.  Some of the men down there abandoned ship, but Joe decided to stay and attempt to get the ship underway, and he went back down to the starboard engine room.”  Herbert goes on to tell about what happened to himself and some of the others, but knew nothing further of Joe’s fate.  Rommell in his letter said, “Maybe these additional details will make you sad—and it would have been better if I hadn’t written—but they should also make you proud.  After all, we all must die, and what could be better, but for a fighting man to go in action.  What counts is not when we must go, but how we go, and how we have lived.  Joe was truly an officer and a gentleman.  He was a good fellow—would come with us to the Officer’s Club or to the town’s night spots—but he was always a credit to himself, to his folks, and to the Navy.”  

Further research indicated that Joseph was in the index of a book called Pearl Harbor Survivors by Harry Spiller.  Obtaining a copy, I was shocked to find an account of Joe’s last moments.  Ens. Adolph D. Mortensen authored the chapter on the Oklahoma’s fate.  He talked about the chaos in great detail, telling of the torpedo hits and the general confusion about what was happening to those below decks.  Although they had routinely practiced “man overboard” and other drills, no one had addressed when or how to abandon ship.  “For the first time that day I saw the division officer, Ens. Joe Hittorff and our Warrant Machinist, Bill Goggins.  Joe looked at me and said, ‘Abandon ship.’  I felt some relief.  Finally someone over me had said it.”  According to Mortensen, the ship was listing badly, and all the loose items and furniture were jumbled on the floor, making walking a challenge.  Hatches were difficult or impossible to open because the ship was rolling rapidly onto its side.  The water began rising, and only a few men were able to make their way out.  “We went aft, Joe Hittorff, Bill Goggins, and I past the ladder which led to the first deck.”  There was a small hatch opening, but men were lined up trying to squeeze through. “I turned my attention to making my way aft to Chief’s quarters.  Hittorff and Goggins were just ahead of me.”  They continued over to the port side where there were portholes, arriving there just as the ship quickly began to roll over and take on water.  Apparently the Oklahoma had been moored to the USS Maryland as they lay in port. Fearful that the Maryland would be pulled over by the listing Oklahoma, the decision was made to cut the tethers.  At this point, the Oklahoma went over rapidly until its mast hit the bottom.  “The water continued to rise inside and the ship continued to slowly roll.  I soon found myself treading water and watching the ship as it rolled slowly above my head.  I looked around quickly and could not see Hittorff and Goggins.  I assume that in time I averted my eyes and watched the ship.  They both slipped beneath the surface and drowned.  I was told later that neither could swim.”  A few men who were able to tread water were now trapped with a small bubble of air.  They managed to get a porthole open that was now below water.  Diving down and helping each other, they were able to push individuals down and out of the porthole where they then bobbed to the surface covered with oil.  At that point, they were either rescued in boats or swam to safety.

Many years passed while politicians debated, funding lagged, DNA labs were overtaxed, and officials were staggered by the sheer enormity of the task of identifying all of the Oklahoma remains.  On March 7, 2016 our phone rang. Totally caught off-guard, it was the call we had been waiting for.  Joe had been identified, and we would have a formal visit the first week of April.  I was happy that after 74 years and 3 months to the day, the family had gotten word that Joe was no longer missing in action.  We were nearing closure for Joe.

We have an extra spot in my mother’s family grave site here in Kent.  Joe will be buried next to his aunt and uncle overlooking the Housatonic River.  Just down the river a couple of miles is where Joe came up from his home in New Jersey on occasion and played as a youngster with his cousins.  Some of his father’s Hittorff siblings had houses next to each other on Birch Hill.  I also know our local veterans will see that his grave gets the proper recognition.  Our extended family all seems content that this seems the best solution of all the options.  Joe will be buried with full military honors in the Kent Congregational Cemetery on June 18, 2016 after his funeral at the church at 11:00.

As we were going to press, we received word that Marie Camp, a long-time and dearly loved friend of the Kent Historical Society, passed away. She will be missed.