There was a reunion of sorts June 21 at the New Milford Senior Center.

Friends and staff gathered that day to dedicate the center's computer lab in the name of Jim Palmer.

Mr. Palmer was the life force who drove the lab from its inception in 1999 to his death in April 2010. His dedication and tireless efforts provided computer literacy for hundreds of seniors in the New Milford area.

"I volunteered to teach in the beginning and Jim and I became close friends," said Ron Lathrope, who now heads the computer lab's steering committee.

"Jim was the chief honcho," Mr. Lathrope remarked. "He was the brains behind the whole thing. He organized and developed the teaching structure. He was a great guy."

On June 21, a plaque was hung in the lab and the name officially became the Jim Palmer Computer Lab.

It was a poignant occasion for Mr. Palmer's wife, Doris, and their son, Scott.

"It's great to have Jim remembered in this way," Mrs. Palmer said. "He loved it here and the people who were part of it. His work with the lab meant a lot to him.

"When he first came by, he was looking for a computer class to take -- but he got tapped to help out," Mrs. Palmer recalled. "His training in mechanical engineering kicked in and he jumped in with both feet."

Carolyn Haglund, the town's director of senior services, remembered Mr. Palmer as a "dedicated, loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to all."

"It is apropos to dedicate the computer lab for Jim's contribution," she said. "Dedication, it means `putting one's tireless effort to a purpose.' That was Jim."

The computer lab was started in 1999 at the Senior Center and soon became affiliated with SeniorNet, a provider of access and education on computer technologies and the Internet for adults age 50 and older.

In early 2008, the Senior Center broke away from SeniorNet due to increased membership fees, Mr. Lathrope recalled.

Teaming up with the New Milford Public Library and New Milford Parks & Recreation Department, the Senior Center lab kept going.

"Jim was a kick," retired director of senior services Anne Potter recalled. "He was such fun and he was so outrageous sometimes. I'd chide him and he'd look at me with that funny smirk and nod. That was Jim."

Mrs. Potter suspected, if Mr. Palmer had realized the scope of the project he was taking on, he may have balked at overseeing the computer lab.

"By the end of the first year, Jim and the volunteers involved in the initial planning had committed well over 1,500 hours," she said. "And it continued that way."

Yet Scott Palmer said his father's dedication to the center outweighed any amount of work required.

"It was the reason Dad got up in the morning," Scott Palmer reflected. "He did it because he loved it."

Cahterine Bachrach, a former Senior Center program coordinator, recommended and encouraged Mr. Palmer's involvement in the computer program.

"Jim was wonderful to work with," Mrs. Bachrach said.

"He was such a presence at the Senior Center -- there constantly encouraging students and teachers, leading meetings, all with his great sense of humor."

Computer lab services for seniors include help in enrollment for and review of MediCare Part D coverage and, in January through April, and and AARP program helping seniors fill out their income taxes on line.

For more information on computer lab hours and classes, call 860-355-6075.

For more photos,

Photography by Deborah Rose