May 29, 2002

2 Banks Robbed
Webster 5 - Webster & Dudley

At approximately 1:15 p.m. Tuesday a man walked into the Webster Five Cents Savings Bank on Thompson Road, Webster. Ignoring the many security cameras, he handed a teller a demand for money note saying he had a gun. The suspect is about six feet tall, in his early twenties and fled the bank in a gray pickup truck.

About two hours later, another robbery took place, this time at the Webster Five Cents Savings Bank on West Main Street in Dudley. At presstime these were the only facts available. It is possible that the same man committed both robberies.

Both banks have excellent photos of the thief and of his vehicle.

Mrs. Jacqueline Puliafico at the piano, directing her BHS Alumni Choir and Friends in concert Sunday evening surrounded by the new stage drapery dressings that the benefit concert provided.

BHS Alumni Choir & Friends
Fill Webster’s Town Hall with Music

By Florence Kuzdzal
Choirs of the world - rejoice! A new star has been added. The Bartlett High School Alumni Choir and Friends has reached a pinnacle of success.
The Reverend Mother brings the house down!

To plan a concert, choose the music, stage the rehearsals is a project in itself, but to have to renovate the place where the concert is being held at the same time is something most men would shy away from. Not our Jackie. She will put on her boots, pull up the straps, don a hard hat if necessary and plunge right in. Never giving a thought to what lurks behind the walls, or in the ceilings above and how to make everything complete by a deadline while at the same time choosing her musical scores and the artists to perform them.
Color of paint, or angle of light, fabric for drapes or budget overrides - a mind boggling endeavor.

I was privileged to meet with Jackie on Friday afternoon as she put the final touches to the preparations for Sunday’s concert. Ed Bazinet, one of her star performers was busy pacing off the stage and checking the lighting. Linda Bazinet and Dianne Smith were cleaning and polishing every chair that had been put out. It was at this meeting that Jackie spoke of those behind the scenes and their dedication to and pride in the project.

Years of neglect had left the auditorium and the stage in deplorable condition. Backdrops were torn, the piano was desecrated with coke canes everywhere, and the paint was peeling. John Sielawa and his crew unearthed 3 layers of paint before they could begin. Did you know that the ceiling would appear dark if it was painted only one color? Because of the configurations of the panels, Jackie chose a heavenly shade of blue to accent the base color. This same shade of blue was used to paint the lower walls of the auditorium. John and his men painstakingly applied gold accents to the ornate framework surrounding the stage giving an elegant simplicity to the entire room.

Concert halls are usually curtained in deep reds or greens. Jackie chose a royal blue velvet for the stage curtain and gray for the backdrops. She went further to enhance the auditorium with shades of royal blue velvet valances on all the windows. The Major Theatre Equipment Co. from Boston were so impressed with the final outcome that they will use this small town project as a prototype for other concert halls.

The stage floor was refinished by local people, the New England Floors of Webster and the result was spectacular. Throughout the interview Dianne Smith kept appearing with a sheet of paper full of questions and details. Little did I know she was suffering from an acute case of laryngitis. She should have been in bed with a warm cup of tea and honey, but no way, the choir came first as explained by Mrs. P, as she is affectionately called.

Jackie informed me that the initial estimate of $15,000 was soon exhausted and the final figure would go over $30,000. There was rigging left hanging that was a danger to anyone who ventured on the stage. Take it down, Jackie commanded, and down it came. Everything at an added, unseen cost. When the budget was going dry, Evelyn Heller, a long time friend of Jackie’s and a patron of the arts for many years, came to the rescue. She made the calls and civic minded residents of Webster came through with donations. Now Jackie received her boost and she was unstoppable.

My interview was coming to a close. Jackie spoke so rapidly and with such enthusiasm that I could not pen the words fast enough. I left the interview excited about Sunday’s performance.

I arrived about 7:30 p.m. and the parking spaces around the auditorium were already at a premium. The hall seats approximately 1600 people and there was not an empty seat to be found. Bishop Daniel P. Reilly was expected to attend and I know he loves Jackie and her music, so this night’s performance had his favorite number in the repertoire.

Sisters from the parochial schools in Webster arrived followed by Monsignor Czarnecki from St. Joseph Basilica. Father Joseph Szwach from St. Andrew Bobola Parish in Dudley, Father Thomas Tokarz, a Webster native and Father Michael Roy from Sacred Heart Parish were seated in front in the reserved section. Mrs. Irene Martel, Robert Miller and Jan Kujawski were in attendance representing the Town Fathers. Lorraine Kujawski was escorted by her son, Rep. Paul Kujawski and there were too many more to enumerate. The town’s people and friends from surrounding towns were there to witness this event. Just before the lights flickered to announce the start of the concert, Bishop Reilly and Rev. Robert Johnson arrived much to the delight of the crowd.

The lights dimmed and the royal blue velvet drapes parted. The audience beheld a vision as 14 men in white tie and tail as well as most of the 39 women dressed in basic black and pearls appeared. Such class, it took your breath away. This was Webster, small town in comparison to the big cities, yet one could literally imagine sitting in a great concert hall in any one of those big cities.

If you arrived sad or depressed, your mood was instantly changed as the group presented When You’re Smiling. After the first chorus the remaining members of the group came down the aisle from the rear of the hall, shaking hands and greeting the seated guests, adding a dimension to the opening number. The repertoire of music ranged from Boogie Woogie and the Blues to excerpts from Broadway musicals. Soloist Susan Hughes entertained with Summertime followed by the Trio of Ursula Faber, Joyce Johnson and Marlene Piehler with three numbers.

Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue was rendered by the men of the choir on the floor of the hall as they flanked the piano. Five foot two - could they be just singing this to their director, Jackie? After all, she cannot stand much taller than that.

The curtains parted once more to reveal 39 women dressed as nuns. With fabric supplied in part by Cranston Print Works and the talents of designer Dorothy Belanger, a choir member, the outfits were authenticated with long rosaries supplied by the Sisters of St. Anne’s School. The vision they presented brought the house down. Jackie appeared dressed as a nun carrying a huge sign - REVEREND MOTHER. She informed Bishop Reilly that she was indeed Mother Superior, much to the delight of the audience. The “nuns” rendered music from the movie Sister Act. Rendering solo parts in the medley were Nadine Lada, Mara Salvaggio and Dianne Smith. Their songs and tempo ranged from Angelic to Devilish and the audience responded with a thunderous applause and standing ovation. The first to stand were the Nuns in the audience. The sisters and the clergy were especially thrilled with this portion of the concert as was evident by their facial expressions and laughter. The men of the choir joined the “nuns” in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Climb Every Mountain. Intermission followed and the comments were positively glowing.

The 2nd half of the evening’s performance began with The Lake Song. Written in the 1930s using the famous name of Webster Lake, it was formerly sung by the three Heller brothers, Hyman, Sam and Abe, at functions and benefit shows in the area. The program book provided the lyrics so that the audience could participate in the singing.

The men appeared next in a special number choreographed by Ed Bazinet. They danced to the tune of Top Hat, White Tie and Tails. They could pass for Rockettes with their high strutting routine. A medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes from the plays followed. Solo performances were by d Bazinet, Helen Tetrault and Ben Craver, Veronica Jacobs and Douglas Stewart rounded out the program.

One could not even begin to imagine the thrill of the youngest musical artist, Lindsay Puliafico, granddaughter of Charles and Jackie Puliafico and student at the Pomfret School would bring the very soul of the audience to attention with her rendition of Pie Jesu from the Requiem. A favorite of Bishop Reilly’s, he sat there mesmerized as this young lady with vitality and beauty of voice sang her heart out. She is truly gifted and a credit to her parents and grandparents.

The choir rendered songs from The Phantom of the Opera and then America the Beautiful. The voices crescended to a fever pitch. Such a fitting tribute to the Memorial Day concert. The last selection of the evening, Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung by the entire choir and the audience. The audience went wild with their applause. Bishop Reilly rose to personally escort Jackie, a.k.a. Reverend Mother, from the stage to a session of popping flash bulbs, hugs and presentation of flowers from the choir members.

We, the people of Webster, owe Jackie a debt of gratitude. What more fitting tribute to this woman and her choir than for the town fathers who oversee the town activities to assure her that this magnificent auditorium now restored to concert hall status, will be maintained for future generations.

Students of the high school who have, up until now, held their proms in various halls, will now consider returning to the tradition of having the prom held in the newly renovated auditorium.

To Jackie and her choir who spent numerous hours rehearsing for this event goes our deepest thanks. We eagerly await the next Jackie “P” production.

Prom time in Webster, Dudley and Oxford

The Bartlett Prom was held at Indian Ranch Friday evening. Pictured above are some beautiful girls who attended. Oxford was held the same night at Mechanics Hall and The Shepherd Hill Prom was held last week at Mechanics Hall - a great time for students to shine.

Oxford High School Queen and her Court

More Photos in School section

Click on the Colonial Sign for their web site.

Veterans Remembered On Memorial Day

Webster and Dudley veterans were joined by civic groups, bands, churches, scouts and individuals on Monday in recognition of Memorial Day, a time to remember and reflect on how and why we are a free nation. A Memorial Mass was held on Sunday in St. Louis church to which all veterans with their colors participated. Following mass, the group proceeded to Holy Trinity Cemetery for a ceremony.

The annual Memorial Day parade traveled from Route 12 to the Webster Town Hall where a ceremony took place.

Grand Marshall for 2002 was Robert Rock, a veteran of the US Army. He has been active in veterans affairs, serving as the veterans agent of Dudley for many years. It is a fitting tribute to a man who is devoted to his country and town.

The parade route was filled with onlookers waving flags and cheering for their favorite group. In the wake of 911, Americans everywhere are eager to show their devotion to their country and a time like Memorial Day is a fitting time to reflect and to support our troops and what they do to protect our freedoms and our way of life. God bless America.

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