NB Politicus

Attorney Geragosian Remembered As Passionate Defender, Advocate For Social Justice

Posted in Hard Hittin' New Britain, In Memoriam, New Britain, New Britain history by nbpoliticus on August 3, 2022


Attorney Harold J. Geragosian, 94, whose “one-man general law office” served scores of New Britain clients and organizations from the 1950s to 2018, died on August 1.

Long before the creation of Neighborhood Legal Services Attorney Geragosian’s civil and criminal law office, located for many years on West Main Street, served public employees, churches, unions and other organizations with an unfailing and tenacious commitment to justice and helping those in need. “Harold was devoted to legal aid and represented countless individuals regardless of their means,” stated his obituary. Geragosian’s cases and appeals included representing clients on up to the Connecticut and United States Supreme Courts if necessary. Respected by his peers Attorney Geragosian was elected President of the New Britain Bar Association in the 1970s.

“Harold was a believer and a fighter,” wrote Attorney John King, formerly the City Corporation Counsel and former New Britain Democratic Town Chairman upon Geragosian’s passing. “He kept me up all night one more than one occasion during the Civil Service hearings nearly 40 years ago as he passionately defended his clients.”.

In the community Geragosian served on the boards of Connecticut Legal Services, New Britain EMS and supported progressive candidates and causes at local, state and national levels. Geragosian’s son, John, served the city’s 25th District in the Connecticut General Assembly and is the state Auditor of Public Accounts.

For Geragosian, alongside his wife, Realtor Harriet Geragosian, social and economic justice work have lasted a life time. In 1957 Geragosian, proud and recognized for his Armenian heritage, offered his law office as a meeting place to members of the city’s Puerto Rican community. In addition to helping Puerto Rican residents fight discrimination, Attorney Geragosian helped draft the charter to establish the Puerto Rican Society. His contributions to founding the group were honored in July 2007 when the Society marked its 50th anniversary.

Attorney Harold J. Geragosian and Realtor Harriet Geragosian at a 2011 campaign fundraiser for former Alderwoman Shirley Black. (courtesy of New Britain Democratic Town Committee)

On more than a few mornings Harold and his wife Harriet (Unique Realty) would start their work days as octogenarians with breakfast at New Britain Diner. If you were ever lucky to get a seat at his table Harold could regale you as he did me with stories of his days as a law student at Boston University, lawyering before city commissions and courts and offering wry takes on politics and politicians past and present.

Harold Geragosian, to borrow from a famous quote by the Methodist John Wesley, “did all the good he could, for all the people he could, in all the ways he could, for as long as he could” in his native city of New Britain. He was one of those extraordinary citizens and neighbors who made you a better person for having known him.

Condolences to Harriet, his son, John (Audrey) Geragosian, his granddaughter, Molly, and his grandniece, Terra Michalowski and the many friends of the Geragosian family Services and Obituary

Donations in Harold’s memory may be made to Connecticut Legal Services, 62 Washington Street, 4th Floor, Middletown, CT 06457. https://ctlegal.org/

John McNamara

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Looking Ahead: Stanley Quarter Park Makeover, New Playground Take Shape For Spring

Posted in CCSU, environment, New Britain history, Parks and Recreation by nbpoliticus on March 15, 2020

The early days of Spring require all of us to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings in public places in the effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic.  But there are things to look forward to with warm weather ahead including a visit to the city’s parks when it is safe to do so.  Stanley Quarter Park, one of the city’s gems, will be be even better in 2020.  Improvements to the city’s popular Stanley Quarter Park at Blake Road and Stanley Street near the Central CT State University campus are nearing completion in time for spring and warm weather months.

The $1.2 million Parks & Recreation Project, approved by the Common Council in August 2019,  adds family and child friendly features: a new picnic area with grills, waterside exercise equipment and games and a gazebo overlooking the park.

Notably the project replaces a poorly landscaped and aging playground near the Boulevard entrance and adds a new parking lot next to existing basketball courts.

 

For decades Stanley Quarter Park has hosted the city’s Great American Boom, a regionally attended July 4th celebration. It has also been a site for CCSU’s men’s and women’s track & field teams. In the 1960s and through the 1970s the city even operated a ski slope along Blake Road with a rope tow and night lighting that made it popular in the winter.

 

A newly-landscaped playground is one of the major improvements at Stanley Quarter Park that will be heavily used by children and families when the playground is completed.

View from a newly constructed gazebo overlooking the pond at Stanley Quarter Park.

by John McNamara

Remembering Senator Joe Harper: “One Of A Kind”

Posted in In Memoriam, New Britain history by nbpoliticus on May 23, 2018

By John McNamara

Joe Harper, New Britain’s  former state senator and a local Democratic Party leader for a generation, died May 20th at the age of 69.

Harper’s public service — mayoral aide, state representative, state senator  — is being remembered as “iconic” and legendary by former colleagues and state Capitol observers. Mark Pazniokas in the Connecticut Mirror aptly described Joe Harper as “a Falstaffian, old-school politician who zealously protected his New Britain district as a Democratic state lawmaker.”

That stemmed from Joe’s reputation as a consummate and crafty lawmaker.  His legislative career began as the 24th District State Representative. Reflecting his labor and progressive roots, he was a liberal firebrand in his two terms in the the House at one point calling for a state takeover of public utilities to rein in electric rates.  By the time he reached the Senate he knew how to wield his legislative powers as the Chair of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee with his House Co-Chair Bill Dyson of New Haven. Working with then Senate President John Larson and Governor O’Neill, Harper’s priorities over six terms usually prevailed to the benefit of his constituents in New Britain.  In that state senate triumvirate  of Larson, Majority Leader Cornelius O’Leary. and Harper, Joe was the strategist who drove the legislative train.  O’Leary and his close friend, Congressman Larson, would be the first to say so.

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Joe Harper at a rally for Democrats in 2010.

For Harper’s political “family” in New Britain Joe became an unofficial patriarch and mentor to contemporaries and those who would follow him into the Legislature and politics over the last 30 years.

Outside of the state capitol the “old school”  politics, going back to Joe’s time as an aide to Mayor Matthew Avitabile, included its share of Town Committee fights and  local contests tinged with the rough and tumble of ethnic politics.  And most of the time Harper won because he brought people together.

Former Town Chair John King recalls his election as Party Chair came in 1984 when Harper teamed up with unlikely allies Don DeFronzo and Mayor William “Billy Mac” McNamara to win 14 district races for town committee.   “Joe was a very good friend and mentor and was responsible for my becoming Chair,” recalls King, an ally of Mayor McNamara. Five years later, in 1989,  Harper was the driving force in the coalition that formed around DeFronzo in his successful bid to unseat the six-term Mayor McNamara.

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30 Years Ago: Joe Harper (back center) led New Britain friends and delegates, including Connie Wilson Collins, Emma Pierce and John McNamara, to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.  Harper, working  with SANE Freeze and the United Auto Workers, formed the delegation in the old 6th Congressional District in a display of his coalition building skills.

Following his legislative career, Harper’s work continued by serving as a deputy state treasurer, vice president of Central Connecticut State University and a vice president at the Hospital for Special Care (HSC).

In recent years Joe Harper, with care and support from HSC,  took on the disease of  obesity,  displaying extraordinary character and courage to overcome a personal health challenge that would not defeat him and never stopped his public service that leaves a legacy of benefits and accomplishments in New Britain.

To all who worked with him through the years on campaigns and policy making Joe Harper’s  loss is like losing a brother in your own family.

His gregarious nature and good humor brought a joy to politics that is increasingly harder to come by these days.  He was, in the words of 24th State Representative Rick Lopes ” one of a kind.”

 

 

Remembering Rev. King and 4/4/68 at MLK Park Monument

Posted in civil rights, New Britain history by nbpoliticus on April 6, 2014

New Britain’s Mary McLeod Bethune Club (MMBC) observed the anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 5th — a memorial  event  club members have organized for most of the 46 years since the civil rights leader was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

CCSU Anthropology Professor, Dr Evelyn Harris, the featured speaker at the King Monument Memorial held at the MLK city park at the corner of Stanley Street and MLK Boulevard, told a small gathering that New Britain’s King monument was one of the first memorials of its kind in the country. Participating in the program were MMBC President Chery Niccolls, NBPD Officer Marcus Burris, Master of Ceremonies; Music Soloist Linda Vickers with Marzell Jackson laying the wreath at the monument. Ward 3 Alderwoman Shirley Black and NAACP President Ron Davis shared remarks at the monument.

Other speakers, including longtime Club President Janice Edwards, recalled that the city’s King monument was originally located at East Main and MLK Boulevard on a traffic island, a target of frequent vandalism and even visits from local KKK adherents.  The Bethune Club organized residents to stare down the Klan nonviolently when they showed up and began the effort for a better site.

Alton Brooks, a leader in the effort to establish MLK Park, with New Britain’s finest.

With leaders such as Edwards, Alton Brooks and the late former Alderwoman Connie Wilson Collins pushing city government, the little corner park for the King monument was established further up the road. Today inlaid bricks recognize donors from the community who contributed to make MLK Park possible.

Police Officer Marcus Burris and MMBC President Chery Niccolls

 Democratic District Leader Mario Santos and Board of Education member Merrill Gay participated.

Duane Hinkson with sons Dillon and Devon and MMB Club Member Janice Edwards