Jeanette Weber Interview
This is Jean McMillen. Today I am interviewing Jeanette Weber. She is going to talk about the Congregational Church, the Salisbury Fall Festival, the Salisbury Forum, Noble Horizons Auxiliary, Women’s Support Services for Trade Secrets, and of course the Salisbury Association of which she is currently President. Today’s date is Jan. 19, 2022. This is file #49, cycle 4.
JM:What is your name?
JM:What is your birthdate?
JM:How did you come to the area?
JW:Well it is interesting. When we decided to have a second home because we had lived for many years in New Jersey and our children were off to college. Bob and I were looking around for different places. We remembered that back in the 1970s we used to drive through Salisbury. Our children were little then; on our way up to Vermont we would stop at the White Hart because the Harneys were managers there. Elyse Harney had the Country Store where the dining room is now. She had penny candy. So there was a little bribery with our children. They would get their little bags of penny candy and then be good all the rest of the ride up to Vermont. Bob always said, “If I could ever have a home in Salisbury with the beautiful houses, the church spires, the winding roads, the stone walls and as somebody who grew up in New York City, as he did, it seemed like a dream. So we started looking around here.
JM:When did you buy land?
JW:We bought our land in 1997, and we finished our house which he helped design, which was wonderful in 1998. So then we were weekenders for about 10 years.
JM:When did you become full time?
JW:In about 2007, actually it was 7 years ago that we sold our home in New Jersey. We slowly, after we retired, started spending more of our time here. That was when I realized that we did not know anybody when we moved here or built our home. I think one of the best ways to get to meet people and go get to know your community and what it offers is to volunteer.
JM:Oh you are so good.
JW:One of the things that I found is that this community did not have a Newcomers Club. It did not have a women’s club and it no longer had a garden club. I wasn’t sure a newcomer could start getting involved.
JW:I had to be a little creative in that so we went to the Congregational Church. I volunteered to help out with our Fall Festival. Lee Collins (See his interview for other of his activities) was in charge of it for many years (from the Congregational Church) didn’t put me on a committee, I became his co-chair. The next year I became chair of the Fall Festival for the church. I was immediately plunged into volunteering in Salisbury.
JM:That’s good. I am just going to go back for a couple of questions with the Congregational Church, who was the minister when you came?
JW:That was Dick Taber (2008) (See his interview)
JM:What committees were you on?
JW:Primarily I served for a number of years on the Christian Action Committee which is the benevolent committee of the church, working with giving our donations to non-profits in our town, and in the country and even internationally. That was another way I got to know a number of our organizations here in town.
JM:With Chairmanship of the Fall Festival, what were you involved in specifically?
JW:It turned out to be everything.
JM:I know that is why I asked you.
JW:At that time I was new in town and what I found as in many communities, in Salisbury if you put a notice out in a bulletin or send an e-mail, you do not get volunteers. You need to have that personal one on one contact. As a newcomer in town, I didn’t know people. That first year I ended up being chair, I did the publicity, I was the secretary, and I ran the children’s games. I remember making butternut squash soup for over 100 people to sell through the “Country Kitchen”. Fortunately by the next year I had met a lot more people.
JW:We definitely got a lot more volunteers.
JM:You really need a personal connection. You said to me that a lot of times you got involved in an organization because of your publicity skills. Is that how you got involved with the Salisbury Forum?
JM:Who asked you?3.
JW:Nina Mathus (See her interview) because I had met her by serving on the Noble Horizons Auxiliary. I got involved in the Auxiliary by just going to one of their Holiday Fairs and talking to someone and realized that I did have some craft skills. Of course I had been in one-to-one conversations. All of our organizations are always looking for some new people. I was asked to join the Noble Horizons Auxiliary Board which I served on for about 8 years. I did publicity for them. (See also interviews by Mary Barton and Joanne Elliot on Noble Horizons Auxiliary)
JM:When did you actually join the Auxiliary at Noble?
JW:Oh maybe around 2010. It was that time when I kind of plunged into a number of organizations.
JM:With the Auxiliary what did you actually work on, besides the publicity?
JW:I was also co-chair for several years for the Festival of Trees which about 10 years ago was really a big event. It was a lot of fun. It was a great way to meet I guess it was mostly women who were involved with all the wonderful decorations. We always had a great gala on the last night.
JM:What are your craft skills?
JW:Years ago I was very involved into sewing. Actually my first career in New York City was for a textile company. So I was into fashion, sewing and a little bit of quilting. We used to have in New Jersey a little holiday boutique where you would make little gifty items. It was held in people’s homes. It was fun, whether it was costumes for Halloween for our children or other items
Nina got me involved with the Salisbury Forum because she had been on the Board and had been doing some publicity. That was a wonderful experience.
JM:You were on the Salisbury Forum for how long? (See Franck de Chambeau’s interview)
JW: 9 years, they had term limits for 6 years, then I officially went off the board, but I continued to do all their publicity.
JM:Then you actually did a term and one half.
JW:Then I realized at the time that I must start limiting yourself. That was part of the reason why I started doing a little bit more focusing on my volunteerism.
JM:Now with Trade Secrets how did you get involved with that? (The major fund raiser for Women’s Support Services see Sue Kirber’s interview)
JW:With another friend I met here through the church asked me to be her co-chair. We were the scrounge committee which means we were the committee that had to gather materials for other committees and organize them.
JM:That is a lot of work.
JW:Actually it was physically quite demanding at the time, but it was fun. I think Women’s Support Services is an outstanding organization here in town.
JM:No, it is a Sharon based organization. That is why I don’t do much of Women’s Support Services: it is a wonderful organization, but I try to stick to Salisbury. It involves a lot of people.
JW:I believe they are moving to Lakeville.
JM:Good. When you were involved with Trade Secrets was it still at the farm on Hosier Mountain Road off Route 41?
JW: Yes at Lion’s Rock.
JM:When I lived up there it was a working farm, but it isn’t anymore. I have been to Trade Secrets: it is a wonderful fund raiser. It brings in a whole lot of people.
JM:I know you were on the scrounge committee but did you do publicity as well?
JW:No, I did not.
JM:No! Oh goodness!
JW:`Other than hanging posters which we all have to do for every committee.
JM:Oh sure Why did you get involved with Trade Secrets? Was it just because of volunteering or …
JW:It was friends that I had made here in town asked me to join her. I was beginning to as I said to learn more about various organizations and to meet people.
JM:Now with the Salisbury Association was it through a friend or was it because of your history or…
JW:It was through two people who had been very involved: One is Kathy Mera (see her interview) with whom I continue to co- chair the Fall Festival through the church and I do publicity for the whole town. The other one is Donald Ross (see his interview) who was President of the Salisbury Forum and then he became President of the Salisbury Association. Those were the people who asked me to join the Salisbury Association.
JM:When did you join?
JM:When did you become President?
JW:last year 2021 I have served on the board for two years and I was in charge of the Community Events (formerly the Civic Committee). Then I really established a Publicity and Public Relations Committee because I felt strongly that the Salisbury Association, an outstanding organization which was started about 120 years ago, has always done wonderful work here in our town, but they didn’t really share too much what they had done. They didn’t toot their own horn. I think today we need to tell our community what our various organizations do and how they benefit the community.
JM:Who asked you to be Chair of the Salisbury Association?
JW:Donald Ross primarily and Chris Brennan twisted my arm.
JM:I know what that is like. What is your goal for the Salisbury Association? What do you want to see happen?
JW:There are several goals. #1 to continue the outstanding work that they do in that we are a unique organization in the New England area in that we are a combination of the Land Trust, the Historical Society and Community Events. One of my goals for the folks of the Association is to be more community focused. This is what I mean by that: we have land under ownership, but a lot of easements. The land that we own we are now building more hiking trails so the community can enjoy them in the summertime or in the winter cross country skiing. We have installed benches to be able to sit in scenic areas. A project that is undergoing right now with the Railroad Ramble (the Bike Path) through town because we own a number of pieces of property along the railroad tracks. We are also working with other groups in town; for example the Salisbury Association, one of the teachers who is on our Land Trust (Avery Scoville) is having his students do an evaluation of the Railroad Ramble and what is the property along it needs.
The same thing with our Historical Society, of course we are dealing with Covid right now. One of the beauties of this community is our wonderful architecture. We could do a walking tour through town.
JM:Please remember Lakeville
JW:Oh yes when we say Salisbury; Salisbury is all 5 communities. (Salisbury, Lakeville, Lime Rock Taconic and Mt. Riga.)
JM:Oh I know but so often people assume that it is just Salisbury. When I was working with Lou Burgess at the Holley-Williams House giving guided tours, she did a walking tour of Lakeville. That has been forgotten over the years. I‘ve got to put in my bit for Lakeville.
JW:Absolutely With our Community Events we wanted to do more for example this year we moved our Holiday Concert into the Congregational Church so that we could space out people during Covid restrictions and offered it free. We had as many people as we could possibly have. We are looking for more ways to be more community focused.
JM:Tell me about the 1741 Award.6.
JW:That again is something that I was instrumental in coming up with because part of it is I also was the editor of our Volunteer Handbook which is a handbook published this summer. Kathy Mera started it originally. Laura Carlson and I put it together. It contains information about almost 50 non-profit organizations that serve the Salisbury area. It is a wonderful resource for people who might wish to volunteer or to donate. It will help people to have a better understanding of the community. That started evolving and got me thinking about how we can give greater recognition to organizations. I was thinking of an award: I did not want it to be the Salisbury Award. I looked at the weathervane on top of the Town Hall. There’s a wonderful illustration that James Clark came up with for the design for our certificate to call it the 1741 Award because that is the date when the Hartford Council, I believe, gave the town of Salisbury her charter. What we do is to plan each year to honor one individual and one non-profit organization for the service that they have done for our community.
JM:Who were the Individual and the organization to receive the award this year?
JW:For the individual was Katherine Chilcoat who is our Curator, but has been the Salisbury Town Historian for 9 years. She is just one of those wonderful people who are so talented. The organization we honored this year was the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service on their 50th anniversary and had an exhibit and a reception.
JM:You could not have picked two better people and organizations.
JM:Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Before we close is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered?
JW:I think when I first moved here not knowing anyone, I decided what is my best way to get to know people. I had mentioned to you before that I come from the Mid-west and in my career I spent a lot of time in the southern states and western states which are a little bit more open and friendly. New Englanders are wonderful when you get to know them, but they did not come knocking on our door with brownies and casseroles when we first moved here.
JM:We are reserved.
JW:I think it is through the volunteering where I made many wonderful friends. I have come to even greater appreciation as to what the community of Salisbury is about. Not only our gorgeous land, our history, our architecture, but the people who are here come from all different backgrounds. They are so talented and offer so much that it really is a very enriching opportunity to be able to live here, even though it is a little gloomy in the wintertime.
JM;Well you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Thank you so very much.
JW:Thank you. It has been wonderful, Jean