Whether you’ve lived here a short time or half a century, Cheshire can seem like a sleepy, quiet little town, without much going for it beyond being close to most of the state’s highways. Settled in 1694 as part of Wallingford, Cheshire broke away to become a separate town in 1780 – eight years before Connecticut would ratify the Constitution to become the fifth state of a brand-new nation. Between the Grange Fair, Strawberry Festival, and the annual Memorial Day Parade, sometimes it feels like we haven’t changed much since then. We’re a small town that doesn’t attract a lot of attention.
Or do we? Little Cheshire seems to be a hotbed for creating artists, writers, actors, athletes, celebrities, and more.
If you read the signs as you pass in and out of town, you’ll know that we’re the “Bedding Plant Capital of Connecticut” – our multiple large farms and greenhouses grow and distribute flower-bed plants to stores and markets throughout the state. You’ve probably passed by the Foote House on West Main Street – Samuel Foote was the 28th Governor of Connecticut, born the year Cheshire became a town. In 1823, Amos B. Alcott, born in Wolcott, became a teacher in Cheshire – his daughter Louisa May would go on to find greater fame.
Yeah, yeah, but those aren’t people *I* would know.
Then let’s look at some of our locals and graduates whose names are known not just in town. You have certainly heard of some of them! I know I’ve gone to school with a few, or their siblings.
- Emily Arsenault, author, The Broken Teaglass.
- Brad Asmus , Major League baseball player and manager for the LA Angels.
- C.E. Bauer, children’s author.
- Chris Berman, ESPN broadcaster.
- Jay Bontatibus, actor on several major soap operas.
- Paul Bussan, poet, Rage of Intelligence.
- Ev Cassagneres, biographer of Charles Lindberg
- Stephen L. Carter, author, New England White.
- James Conroy, author, Plucking the Eagle and others.
- J.M. Dattilo, award-winning author team of Joseph and Mary Dattilo, Time’s Edge series.
- Julia Denos, author and illustrator of children’s books, Swatch and others.
- Pat DePaolo, author, The Beijing Games.
- Dorothy MacNeill Dupont, painter, author, Selfsame Moon and Stars, and others.
- Ron Gagliardi, historian and author.
- Matt Generous, pro hockey player.
- Sunil Gulati, former President of the United States Soccer Federation.
- John Holmstrom, co-founder of Punk magazine.
- Pablo Iannone, short story writer.
- Mary Elizabeth Lang, poet.
- Brian Leetch, US Hockey Hall of Famer.
- Joy McHugh, children’s author, The Most Beautiful Tree in the Forest.
- Roderick Edward “Legs” McNeil – co-founder of Punk magazine.
- Stephen Melcalfe, playwright.
- Carmine Montalto, copywriter, marketer, product reviewer, Carmine Montalto Ink.
- Anjul Nigam, actor/producer, including the series Grey’s Anatomy and film Growing Up Smith.
- Susan Staneslow Olesen, author, Prisoner of the Mind series and others.
- Ron Palillo, actor, Welcome Back Kotter.
- Paul Pasqualoni, former Cheshire gym teacher, defense coordinator for the NFL (yes, he was my gym teacher for a year).
- Lonnie Quinn, actor, TV meteorologist for CBS NY (you’ve seen him covering the Macy’s Parade).
- Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, correspondent for The Economist.
- James Van der Beek, actor, Dawson’s Creek, Varsity Blues, and others.
- Wendy Xu, graphic novel author and artist (her book Mooncakes will be released in October).
– as well as several scientists and economists and inventors. With such a rich, diverse list of accomplished graduates and residents, remember to support educational opportunities in town, especially arts and sports! Even if all you do is look at a school art show, or check a book out from the library. Take an art class. Take a writing class. Check out the wide range of programs at the library or Adult Education. It’s never too late to start. You never know when the next star will appear!
If I’ve missed you, I apologize, our space is limited, and there are MULTITUDE of artists and authors in Cheshire!