2016 Nancy Zorena named Monroe’s Outstanding Citizen

Nancy Zorena, for more than 40 years a driving force in bringing Monroe’s history to life and a builder of a portfolio of long-term community  service inside and outside the classroom, has been selected as Monroe’s Citizen of the Year for 2016.

She is to be recognized officially at a Town Council meeting May 23 (Monday) starting at 8 p.m., preceded by a reception in the Land Use Area with light refreshments and music, starting at 7:15 p.m. The public is invited to join family and friends. Reservations are not required and there is no charge.

Steve Vavrek, the first selectman who office administers the award, says Zorena’s volunteerism and commitment to Monroe over four decades has been “extraordinarily far-reaching and compelling, setting a standard that is inspirational for all of us.”

Previous recipients, since the award was reinstituted in 2011, were Bernie Sippin, Karen Burnaska, Diane Mellen, Enid Lipeles and Debbie Heim.

“In a low-key, soft-spoken manner, Nancy imparts a relentless passion to everything that draws her interest,” says one colleague who serves with her on the board of the Monroe Historical Society. “She has inexhaustible patience to see things through so they become accomplishments, instead of getting bogged down in minutia. Her attitude is unfailingly optimistic, her views always thoughtfully reasoned. And it’s never about her. It’s always in the best interests of Monroe.”

Zorena’s 42 years as a volunteer with the historical society cover two terms as president extending over 12 years. She has been pivotal in preserving three iconic buildings that are part of Monroe’s historic legacy—the Bearsdsley Homestead (circa 1780), the Meeting House (circa 1811) and the East Village Schoolhouse (circa 1790)—and conserving the society’s collection of antiquities and artifacts, everything from farm implements to 19th century clothing to native American Indian arrowheads.

A “Hands on History” one-room schoolhouse she helped establish in 1986 to give schoolchildren the learning experience of the Colonial classroom has been replicated by historical societies across Connecticut. In Monroe the model has evolved into a camp that has run for 25 summers.

She ran fundraisers like the society’s Christmas Fair and Tag Sale that generated revenue year-after-year and contributed to the research for three books the society has published—“Monroe Through Time,”  “Images of America: Monroe” and “The Burr Sisters.” A fourth book, “A Glimpse of Old Monroe” by Ed Coffey, was published the year before the Zorenas resettled in Monroe in 1974 from Hamden.

In a teaching career spanning 35 years, Zorena taught at every one of Monroe’s public primary schools and was Monroe’s Public School Teacher of the Year in 1988-89 and the recipient of the Monroe Rotary Club; Service and Self Award in 2012.

She is also a member of the Friends of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, worked with the Monroe Junior Women’s Club to help create the Chalk Hill Nature Trail and served as a mentor to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts dedicated to Eagle Scout recognition and Gold Awards.

The Zorenas, Nancy and husband Brian, live in an historic residence overlooking Route 111, the Bostwick-Spring Homestead, a Federal-style residence (circa 1790) with five fireplaces, two with original beehive ovens. A daughter, Katie, lives in Arlington, VA.