Gunnery celebrates holiday with town, presents award

The Gunnery in Washington recently hosted a town party and presented its Friend of the Green Award to the Lake Warmarug Association. Peter Becker, head of school, center, presented the award to association co-presidents Gail Berner, left, and Anne Block.
The Gunnery in Washington recently hosted a town party and presented its Friend of the Green Award to the Lake Warmarug Association. Peter Becker, head of school, center, presented the award to association co-presidents Gail Berner, left, and Anne Block.Courtesy of the Gunnery

The Gunnery in Washington recently celebrated the start of the holiday season by opening its campus to the community for its annual Town Party, and presenting the annual Friend of the Green Award.

The award was presented to the Lake Waramaug Association, which is celebrating its centennial this year.

The award is presented annually to an individual or group that has contributed to the well-being of the town of Washington through their volunteer efforts.

In the spirit of giving back to the community, guests were asked to bring food or cash donations, which were delivered to the Warren/Washington Food Bank just in time for Thanksgiving.

About 165 people attended the Nov. 18 party in Virginia Hamilton Solley Hall, which was festively decorated for the occasion.

Head of School Peter Becker provided a welcome, noting that the party provides an opportunity to visit with friends, neighbors and supporters from the town, and to recognize local organizations and individuals who have enriched the entire community by presenting them with the Friend of the Green Award.

“In the future we look forward to having many more opportunities to bridge the gap between our campus and the community through our new Arts and Community Center,” Becker said, referring to the 32,000-square-foot center that will house The Gunnery’s visual and performing arts departments.

As conceptualized and designed, the center will include a 415-seat theater that will accommodate the entire school community and guests, along with classrooms, studios, rehearsal spaces and a gallery to showcase the work of student and guest artists.

In presenting the Friend of the Green Award, Becker noted that the Lake Waramaug Association has worked to preserve the lake, protect its shores and steward the surrounding land for 100 years.

The association also collaborates with the Lake Waramaug Authority and the Lake Waramaug Task Force to maintain the water quality and overall environmental health of the lake, which is the second largest natural lake in the state.

“As a resident of this community, and the leader of this school, I see daily the impact the lake has on members of all the surrounding towns,” he said. “We are fortunate to count the lake as part of our ‘satellite’ campus, as we have ever since the early days of Mr. Gunn, and it is the home of our crew teams each spring and fall.”

“It is the jewel of our town and, like Washington Green, a place for us to come together as a community,” Becker said.

Prior to presenting the award to the association’s co-presidents, Anne Block and Gail Berner, Becker shared an excerpt from “The Master of The Gunnery,” a memorial of school founder Frederick Gunn, in which Lake Waramaug is described as “one of New England’s fairest sheets of water.”

In the time of Mr. Gunn, it was also “a spot of supreme felicity for Gunnery lads,” who would hike from campus on Friday night “with well stocked lunch-basket and bait-box” to go fishing on Saturday: “Once during our fishing at the lake, a big bass, maddened by the hook, fell into the boat at his first leap... They tell in later times how a school of large bass that had run down from Bantam lake in Litchfield gathered in Platt’s mill-pond, west of the Gunnery; how the owner of the only eligible spot for taking them forbade fishing on his land; and how one day a diminutive Gunnery boy, whose fishing prowess seemed limited to unwary ‘pumpkin-seeds,’ was allowed by the owner to drop his line in the favored spot, only to have his sport summarily interdicted when, at his first throw, he landed a three-pound bass.”

In accepting the Friend of the Green Award, Block said that the first president of the Lake Waramaug Association, Nelson Mead, attended secondary school at The Gunnery.

“I am often struck as I drive around the lake each evening by the fortitude and dedication of The Gunnery crew team, whether they are rowing on a chilly evening or running around the perimeter of the lake,” Block said.

As part of its centennial celebration, the association is seeking to plant 100 trees throughout the town and to preserve 100 acres surrounding the lake, by partnering with organizations and individual landowners.

It also hopes to build on the success of its centennial picnic, which was held in July with some of the 100-year families around the lake, including the Hopkins family, the Randall/Allens and the Tallmadge/Allins, by making it an annual event open to the public.

“We are humbled and honored by this award and look forward to collaborating with The Gunnery and the Washington community for many years to come,” Block said.

Past recipients of the Friend of the Green Award have included the Washington Lions Club, accepted by John Quist, president (2016); Sheila Anson, Washington’s Town Clerk and Vice Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission (2015); Laurie Lamarre and the Institute of American Indian Studies (2014); Joanna Torti of the After School Arts Program (2013); the fire department and Washington Town Hall employees with First Selectman Mark Lyons and Fire Chief Mark Showalter accepting (2012); Kirsten Peckerman, Steep Rock board member (2011), and Phil and Gretchen Farmer, board members of the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum (2010).