By Our Presence, We Grieve Those Who Have Been Killed

By Allie Perry, Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice

If you happened to walk by New Haven’s 1905 Civil War memorial at the Broadway triangle New Year’s Day 2018 at 6 p.m., you might have wondered why, in freezing cold temperatures, a group of eleven was gathered around a cairn of field stones. They were there giving witness and calling attention to the on-going violence of the U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, by adding yet another stone to the cairn. Each stone is a memorial, inscribed with the number of U.S. service people who died in the previous month in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the approximate number of Iraqi and Afghan civilians killed. Each month the cairn gets higher and heavier, as the cumulative death tolls go up.

This monthly observance began in December 2007. Stephen Kobasa proposed the memorial and secured the New Haven Board of Park Commissioners’ permission to construct it. Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice provided the leadership, inviting local faith communities to lead the monthly rituals. Over the decade since, members of many New Haven area congregations have participated, including: St. Thomas More, First Presbyterian, Amistad Catholic Worker, Center Church, the University Church, Unitarian Society of New Haven, the Zen Center, Shalom UCC, Church of the Redeemer, Congregation Mishkan Israel, United Church on the Green, First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven, St. Paul and St. James, Ascension Catholic Church in Hamden, St. Thomas Episcopal.

At that first gathering, stones were placed, retroactively, documenting every month since the March 2003 start of the U.S. war against Iraq. Initially the inscribed numbers included deaths only in Iraq. As the hostilities in Afghanistan escalated, we started inscribing the stones with data for Afghanistan as well.

The permission granted in 2007 was for a temporary installation, to be dismantled when the wars end. Ten years later the violence continues, the wars persist, and, on every first Monday of the month, a group still gathers. By our presence, we grieve those who have been killed, we denounce the violence, and we renew our commitment to work fervently for the end of war and for justice and peace. Join us.

Mary Johnson, March 29, 1922-Aug. 13, 2017

It is with great sadness that the Progressive Action Roundtable Planning Committee informs our readers that Mary Johnson, a founding member of PAR and leader, strategist and active participant in most of PAR’s committees, has passed on.

We dedicate this issue of our newsletter to Mary. Without her guidance, ideas for informing the public and each other of rallies and events, optimism in the struggle for justice and her persistence in fighting for people’s rights throughout the years, there may not have even been a Progressive Action Roundtable. We all owe so much to her.

Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

Mary was directly active in many of the organizations that are PAR-affiliated. She was also active in most of New Haven’s progressive organizations. She most likely was a founding member of many.
She was a great political and personal influence on many. PAR encourages our readers to send in their reminiscences of her. In the words of Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

A memorial is being planned for her with details upcoming.

Mary Johnson’s voice was heard

The following are excerpts from the article in the New Haven Independent. Our thanks to Joan Cavanagh for working on this tribute. The full article can be read at www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/obituaries/entry/mary_d._johnson_95.

The white-haired schoolteacher was always polite when she confronted politicians, business leaders, or anyone else standing in the way of social justice. She didn’t yell at them.

She did press her case. And she didn’t let up. She was a fixture of New Haven protest politics for a half century, back to her days demonstrating against the Vietnam War and getting jailed in the 1970 city teachers strike. Since then she has marched against foreign military interventions, for a nuclear freeze, against military contracting, for striking workers and union-organizing drives, and for racial justice and preserving downtown bus stops, among many other causes….

Mary Johnson’s family was an important part of her life, but an equally significant part was her ongoing labor, peace, civil rights and social justice activism and the relationships forged in the course of that work. One of her earliest experiences was as a neighborhood activist who initiated the formation of the West Hills Community Council in the mid-1950s. She described it as a group whose goal was “to make [neighborhood] life better, independent of politicians…to make politicians work for you on neighborhood issues.”…

Although she had been involved in some anti-nuclear arms race demonstrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mary said that the Vietnam War propelled her further into peace work. During the 1960s and 1970s, hers was a familiar face on all-night bus rides from New Haven to Washington, D.C. for large anti-war demonstrations. In the 1980s, she continued to travel to Washington to protest United States intervention in Central America, and was arrested in April 1986 with others in the rotunda of the Capitol building for sitting in front of a bust of Martin Luther King and reading from the speech he made having decided that “the time had come” for him to publicly oppose the war in Vietnam. Periodically, they said in unison, “That time has come for us in relation to Nicaragua.” After a weeklong trial, charges were dismissed.

Mary also continued her peace activism more locally. She was a member of Spinsters Opposed to Nuclear Genocide (SONG), a New Haven based women’s affinity group, joining them in demonstrations at the local military recruiting station as well as at General Dynamics Corporation’s Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton. During the 1992 Christmas shopping season, she was arrested with another activist at a Bradlees store in East Haven for placing stickers which read “Don’t Buy War Toys” on items such as G.I. Joe figures. This latter incident reveals much about Mary’s character. She and other participants managed to walk out of the store without being stopped. One member of the group, Stephen Kobasa, was, however, roughly apprehended. When Mary saw this, she returned, waiting for police to arrive. “The Bradlees Two” were initially charged with “criminal mischief in the first degree,” a felony, but the charges were reduced in court and the case was settled….

Mary joined the New Haven Federation of Teachers in 1967, and she was a member of the Executive Board until her retirement. In 1970 and again in 1975, teachers who were perceived as leaders were sent to jail for contempt of court for defying injunctions not to strike. In 1970, Mary was the only woman among the 14 jailed….

Mary was active in the United Farmworkers’ Union movement as part of a New Haven committee that leafleted, picketed, and passed out information about the boycott of Gallo wine (made from grapes picked by non-union workers). After UFW organizers were called back to California in the mid-1970s, she continued the local support committee, producing at her own expense a handwritten newsletter about the struggle, which she hand-delivered throughout New Haven….

Over the years, Mary was a prime mover in many other organizations such as the May Day Celebration Committee, the Coalition to Stop Trident, the Pledge of Resistance, and the New Haven Coalition Against War in the Gulf.  She marched and was arrested in support of Yale union Locals 34, 35, and GESO (the Graduate Employee Student Organization, now Local 33.) She was active in the movement to pressure Yale to divest its holdings from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s….

In the 1990s, Mary worked with a group of citizens who were outraged that the City of New Haven, under pressure from a re-developer, removed several key bus stops from the central downtown area to make that portion of the city more “attractive” to tourists visiting Yale. She was also an ongoing, active member of several groups including the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council, the New Haven Federation of Teachers Retirees Chapter, the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, the Coalition for People, the Middle East Crisis Committee, and People Against Injustice.

After a 15-year struggle, the City of New Haven returned all but one of the downtown bus stops, and, on Mary’s 85th birthday in 2007, many of her friends joined her at Mayor John DeStefano’s office to demand the return of the last one to Church and Chapel Streets. DeStefano complied….

Even as her health declined, Mary continued to help coordinate the work of the Coalition for People, the Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter, and the Labor History Association. In her last years and months, she still advocated vocally for single payer health care, making phone calls to elected officials and getting her friends to do the same. She passed away on August 13, more than a year and a half after entering hospice care.

A Tribute to Mary Johnson

Pat Florio, Coalition for People

We mourn the loss of our dear friend, Mary Johnson, who passed away on August 13, 2017. She was the founding member of the Coalition for People and President for many years. She was a New Haven labor, peace, civil rights and social justice activist. A teacher in New Haven public schools and active member of the American Federation of Teachers, she devoted her personal time to many causes, such as the Coalition for People, Progressive Action Roundtable, People Against Injustice, Middle East Crisis Committee, efforts to organize Yale union locals 34 and 35, the anti-Vietnam and anti-Iraq War movements, efforts by the Coalition for People to restore downtown New Haven bus stops (which was accomplished in 2007), Greater New Haven Central Labor Council, and the Greater New Haven Labor History Association. Survivors include her sister, Jane Toles, and her daughters, Mary Johnson, Elizabeth Johnson and Martha Johnson. Her ex-husband, Carl Johnson, passed away in 2001. Mary will be greatly missed. She was a true friend and had the natural ability to convey to you that your friendship with her was important and special. She tried to make this world a better place and she succeeded in many, many ways.

A Tribute to Margery Mills

Pat Florio, Coalition for People

We mourn the loss of our dear friend, Margery Mills, who passed away on May 11, 2017. She was an active member of the Coalition for People and served briefly as Secretary. She participated in the Coalition for People’s long struggle to have New Haven’s downtown bus stops returned to the New Haven Green (which was accomplished in 2007) and participated in organizing efforts to have a National Single Payer Healthcare system. She will be sadly missed by her son, Franklin D. Mills; daughter, Elizabeth S. Amendolagine (James); and many caring friends and neighbors. She was predeceased by husband, John H. Mills; son, Allen R. Mills; brothers, Donald R. Ball, Norman C. Ball Jr., and Erle T. Ball; and sister, Gertrude M. Ball. She also worked at The APT Foundation and The Mother’s Project from 1993-2004. Margery contributed articles to the New Haven Register and Inner-City News spanning the years 1988-2012. She held various positions with numerous CT organizations which included: the Greater New Haven African American Historical Society, National Council of Negro Women, Inc., African American Women’s Summit, Dixwell-Newhallville Senior Center, Stetson Book Club, the New Haven NAACP, East Haven Historical Society, Read to Grow, Coalition for People, and the New Haven Elderly Services. Margery will be greatly missed as she was a vibrant, smart, loyal friend and colleague.

In Memoriam Louis W. (‘Bill’) Berndtson, Jr., Feb. 18, 1934-July 31, 2017

Joan Cavanagh, Former Archivist/ Director, GNHLHA

Louis W. Berndtson, Jr., immediate past president of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association, passed away on Monday, July 31, 2017 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

A member of the LHA Executive Board from 2000 until 2016, Bill played multiple roles with dedication, enthusiasm, and skill: treasurer, web master, “go-to guy” for all crises, and self-described “I.T. Geek.” He spearheaded the effort to produce a labor history mural for the entryway to the newly renovated Augusta Lewis Troup School, and co-wrote and edited an award-winning booklet describing the life of the school’s namesake. He also proudly contributed to the successful attempts to legislate a curriculum of labor and working-class history in Connecticut’s public schools, which passed and was signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in July 2015.

Growing up in the Cottage/ Lawrence Street area of New Haven, Bill graduated from Commercial High School. One of his teachers there thought he was “too bright” not to go to college, and personally enrolled him in Southern Connecticut State Teacher’s College in 1952. He did not finish, although, as he said later, he didn’t actually “quit,” he just took a long sabbatical, returning to get his degree in Psychology with a specialization in Mental Health at age 65.

In 1959, after a short stint in the army, Bill went to work as a lab technician at the Yale Medical School. Here began his career as a hard-working union organizer who never actually got to belong to a union. By the time Local 34 finally achieved victory, he had moved on, but his commitment to economic and social justice continued. He became active in the Democratic Party, and got a job with the Unemployed Workers Council of the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council for about a year after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Eight years ago, when he accepted the Labor History Association’s Augusta Lewis Troup Award, Bill said that he had first been motivated to fight for a union because of the personal need to care for his own family, but soon he became a magnet for all the stories of other workers and their stories became part of his own. This kind of empathy and insight guided his life.

Bill’s family has asked any who may wish to make donations in his memory to the Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven CT 06513).

A White Oak for Theresa Carr | New Haven Independent

This year marks the third anniversary of New Haven activist Theresa Carr‘s death. The following was submitted by community member and former Spinsters Opposed to Nuclear Genocide (SONG) member Joan Cavanagh, a friend of Carr.

On Saturday, May 20, the City of New Haven and the friends and neighbors of Theresa I. Carr dedicated a white oak tree and plaque at Jocelyn Square Park (Humphrey, East, Walnut and Wallace Streets) in memory of this life-long activist for economic, social, political, and environmental justice.

Source: In Jocelyn Square, A White Oak For Theresa Carr | New Haven Independent

Dedication of White Oak Tree and Plaque For Theresa Carr

by Joan Cavanagh, a friend of Theresa’s

On Saturday, May 20, at 2 p.m. in Jocelyn Square Park (Humphrey, East, Walnut and Wallace streets), the friends of Theresa Carr and the City of New Haven will plant a white oak tree and erect a plaque in memory of the long-time New Haven activist.

While she lived on Walnut Street Theresa was instrumental in restoring the park and received recognition for her work in 2005. Throughout her life, this self-described “Marxist-Leninist lesbian feminist” was an activist for economic and social justice, peace, and the preservation of our planet.
Theresa died of cancer on March 27, 2014 at the age of 59. Her last words were “Keep doing our work.” Especially in these times, when economic injustice, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, war-making, the dismantling of social welfare and environmental protections are the clear goals of our highest-ranking government officials, the meaning and importance of her instruction (and if you knew Theresa at all, you know that it wasn’t a mere suggestion) cannot be exaggerated.

Theresa would be 63 on May 23. This event is occurring the weekend before so that out-of-town friends can more easily attend. If you knew Theresa well or slightly, have just heard about her or simply would enjoy learning about and remembering a remarkable life while sharing a picnic in our beautiful park on a (hopefully sunny) spring day, please join us!

There will be a flyer in the May PAR newsletter about the event. Please feel free to email or call me with any questions: joan.cavanagh@gmail.com, (203) 668-9082.

In Memoriam Bill Hackett

It is with great sadness that the PAR Planning Committee informs our readers about the death of Bill Hackett. In the mid-to late 90s, Bill edited the PAR newsletter. Years later he again edited the newsletter when he was on the PAR Planning Committee. He left the Planning Committee four years ago to move to Nevada. Even thousands of miles away, he wanted to see what was happening in New Haven and kept up his subscription to PAR. Bill worked with many Nevada peace and progressive organizations and was a Nevada delegate for Bernie Sanders last year.

Bill was kind and empathetic and had a great sense of humor. He had a quiet way about him and was passionate about justice and fairness for all people. Planning Committee members are grateful for the chance to have known him and worked with him on PAR as well as other issues.

Our deepest condolences to all his family, especially his children, Holly and Patrick.

William C. Hackett formerly of West Haven, CT passed away on Feb. 17, 2017. The son of the late William & Agnes (Koenig) Hackett, Bill is survived by his children Holly & Patrick (Shayna) Hackett and their mother Terry Raffone. He is also survived by his sisters Charlene Hackett & Maureen (John) Bombace and many nieces & nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Kathleen Katz and brothers Thomas & James Hackett. Bill enjoyed tinkering with computers, horse racing, watching Jeopardy, trivia nights and political activism. He will be missed by those who loved him. A private memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to a charity of your choice.

Tony Dominski, Feb. 10, 1944-Sept. 8, 2016

by Susan Klein

A memorial gathering to celebrate the life of Tony Dominski will be held on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, 2-5 p.m. at the New Haven Peoples Center, 37 Howe St. Please come to share light refreshments and fond memories.

Tony arrived in New Haven in 1966 to study environmental science at Yale Forestry School. He joined the American Independent Movement, a local grassroots effort opposing the war on Vietnam and exposing the shortcomings of urban redevelopment. He led the effort to inject science into activism around urban ecology, and was a founder of the Science Action Group, which expanded the first Earth Day in 1970 into six weeks of actions called the Environmental Offensive, gaining national attention.

Tony taught at Pratt Institute and built a consulting firm that evaluated the environmental impact of urban and small-town development projects. He and pediatrician Morris Wessel published a groundbreaking study of lead poisoning in children, which helped force reduction of permitted lead levels in housing and the environment. In 1979 Tony moved to Santa Barbara, teaching at UCSB and becoming executive director of its first recycling enterprise. Later he moved to Tallahassee to evaluate environmental impacts for the state of Florida. He also wrote grants for Florida House in Sarasota, winning significant funding from Toyota for environmental projects.

Still consulting in Florida, Tony returned to New Haven and joined the Energy Task Force, which pressures the city and state to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. He helped save horseshoe crabs at three Connecticut preserves: Westbrook, Sandy Point, and Charles Island. In all his work, Tony constantly looked over the horizon, promoted the most far-reaching analyses and proposals for the environmental directions society must take, and brought people together with his thoughtful, cooperative and spiritual approach to life.

Tony was the first of twelve siblings. He married three wonderful women: Joelle Fishman, Donree Bruce, and Constance Amrita Joy. All who knew him cherished Tony for his offbeat, perceptive and irreverent sense of humor, infectious laugh and strong sense of caring for his family, friends and the planet.

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