• Ed Mead’s Interview

  • Interview with Ed Mead
    Irish Heritage Society of Milford Charter Member and Past President and Vice President
    Tuesday, September 20, 2017

    Milford Irish History Project Committee members present: Bernard Keilty, Nancy Smith, Maureen Richetelli, Sheila Johnson, Sheila Danehy and newest member Amy Lacey

    Main Interviewer: Sheila Danehy

    Interviewer: How and why did you first join the Irish Heritage Society?

    Ed Mead: I didn’t hear about the first meeting, but when the Irish Heritage Society got involved with the Oyster Festival, my father-in-law had joined, and some other people I knew like Marty from the parade, so I joined at the Oyster Festival, and I was interested to see how the club would evolve, and to find out if you could research heritage and then carry on music and the cultural parts of the club.

    Interviewer: What are some of your early memories of the club experience?

    Ed Mead: We marched in a lot of parades in the beginning: Milford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Mystic. We went to Yonkers, where Maureen Richetelli was from. Her grandfather was the mayor there, and there’s a park in their name called Coyne Park. I remember that was a very nice bus trip. Some of the early things were a little rough.

    Interviewer: What was your personal, first leadership role in the club?

    Ed Mead: After I joined, I was already on the Milford Zoning Board of Appeals, and so I had a good idea of what was going on in the city in different buildings, so we started a building committee back then, trying to look for a place, for a clubhouse, and we scoured all over Milford for years and years and years trying to find a place to rent, to buy, to build, to renovate. And there was just nothing out there that we could really afford, that would fit our needs at that time, so that was my first involvement.

    Interviewer: The first Milford Irish festival was held nearly five months after the club was founded. What are your recollections of this event.

    Ed Mead: After I joined at the Oyster Festival, I talked to Marty Hardiman and I got on a committee. I was on the beer committee, and I worked that day for the first time. Then planning the first Festival from August to September. It went very well, and we were well received in the city, and then we just grew from there every year.

    Interviewer: The club continued to grow, obviously we’ve grown exponentially. What are your feelings about that and about our future?

    Ed Mead: I know that the membership has grown to now up to twelve hundred people but the amount of people that do the work and volunteer and help run the club and everything is only a minimal model of what the whole membership is…like ten percent, if that, or maybe fifteen percent, and that’s just disheartening. You know, some people just come here for the bar and not for the cultural aspects and not to help out and, you know, after doing all the work that I’ve done in the past, it just seems that more people should be stepping up to help in the club and make it grow from there and have different people doing it; more leadership roles to take over other jobs.

    Interviewer: It seems you were tremendously involved with choosing this location for our clubhouse at 131 Bridgeport Avenue, Milford, Connecticut, and you were instrumental in getting the remodeling done. Can you tell us about that?

    Ed Mead: Yes. We had been looking for a clubhouse. We were going to rent the little yacht club’s clubhouse down here by the Devon Bridge, and we had talked and we were going to rent it, but in the meantime, this building that we’re in now had been on the market before, and the owner was trying to sell it on his own. We had looked at it or somebody had looked at it like a year or two before we ended up purchasing it, but the price was too high, and we didn’t have a lot of money, or enough money in the bank account then. But then the same Sunday we looked at the Yacht Club building, we came here afterwards. I wasn’t there for the first meeting, but we met with the owner, and we ended up paying a price that was really, we thought, low, so most of us wanted to jump on it, because it was the building and the house behind it. We bought it for like four hundred fifty thousand dollars and he originally wanted like five hundred fifty thousand, I think. And we were going to pay three thousand dollars a month rent at the other place, and this is ownership that we’d have; we’re building equity, becoming more sound in the community and helping revitalize Devon. We cleaned up this whole building and got a lot of riff raff out of the area which the police department is happy about and we have a good rental income, and fixed our house up nice, and it fits in well with the neighborhood now. And we’re moving forward with other projects after that.

    Interviewer: Who are some of the people that were helpful during that construction phase of things?

    Ed Mead: Well after we bought the building and we started looking further, it was in worse shape than we thought, so we took out the whole bar area, the whole big heating system, and we tore off floors and we moved walls. We put new walls up. We put in the bathrooms and raised the ceiling. Now there’s three ladies’ restrooms where before there was only one that even I wouldn’t have gone in. The men’s room was terrible, and we now have a way to get down into the basement with a safer set of stairs before there were just little holes in the floor with a little hatchway. So, we have a new heating and air conditioning system; we have new lighting; we have a lot of new electrical. Brian Murphy was one of the big helpers on that. He put down a lot of the hardwood flooring and did a lot of the tiling. Declan Conway built the bar area from scratch. Kevin Fox and Bill Park were our electricians, and John Torgersen was instrumental in helping out. Peter Purcell did painting and Tony Yarowitz did a lot of painting. I mean, those were the main core people who did a lot of the grunt work, the heavy lifting, and who were instrumental to get things up and going.

    Interviewer: And about how long did this project take you after purchasing the property to when you were sort of “ready to roll?” I understand it was very tight getting that C.O. in time for an event after like fifteen minutes?

    Ed Mead: Yes. That’s true. How long did the whole process take? When we bought it, we closed on July 31st, 2014 and we opened the bar for them (The Milford Chamber of Commerce meeting) I think mid-2015. Yes, you’re right. We did the house first. The reason we did the house first was because there was so much work to do in here, so we started to concentrate on the house by the first of September to get it up and rented by the first of January. We’ve had that rented ever since the first year and one of the original renters is still there.

    And then we had trouble but different issues with the fire department because the downstairs ceiling height is not the right height. So, we had to set up special doors. We found stuff on Craigslist, and we made our own, and then the fire department came back and re-inspected two or three times. There was an old alarm system in the building that we had to get disconnected and get re-inspected that Tuesday, and we had a Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday at five o’clock, and then got the C.O. at like two o’clock in the afternoon that day.

    Interviewer: Nick of time! Has being a member enhanced your interest in Irish culture, Irish history, and your own heritage?

    Ed Mead: Yes, You see, I was the only one really on my side of the family that did any type of research even before I joined the club, but after they started the genealogy group here, I came a few Saturdays, and I talked to Sheila Johnson and Kathy Kraftmiller and I got to a point where I couldn’t go any further. I knew my relatives were from upper New York State, so Kathy did some research for me and found out what church my grandparents attended and what cemetery they had been buried in. Last year, I went up there and found their graves and tombstones and thanks to Kathy the exact dates that I had written down were the exact dates there, so I found more people there. Some more of their children were there, too. It was good, and so I still have to do more work, but I’ll have to go back to Ireland, because I still haven’t found their home. I got Cork on the death certificate, but I want to know exactly where they were from.

    Interviewer: Why do you think the Irish heritage culture needs to be preserved here and out in the community?

    Ed Mead: Our culture should be preserved. What we’re doing here and in the community needs to be preserved, because we have to prove to people that we are more than just marching in a parade and having a bar. The festival shows that, but still there’s some areas that we can really expand on like the culture area could be better and having guest speakers here helps it to grow, more than just say, you know, the bands coming in here, and trivia night, and I know that brings the members in, but I remember one of the things that Maureen Moore put on when I was President. We had a lady doing a poetry reading at Lauralton Hall. Well, I wasn’t really into poetry, but you know I was present then. I helped set up the speakers and everything, and it was good, and I mean the setting was at the school and everything was really made interesting and that helps out a lot. Some have gone to the Irish Tenements in New York City and The Irish Hunger Museum in Hamden. I’ve been down in New York City a few times to the Irish Consulate Office. They had gotten statues from Quinnipiac’s Irish Hunger Museum, too, which used to be part of the college before they built a building. So the statures were on display down there, so we used to go down there once a year, to the Irish Consulate Office in New York City.

    Interviewer: You just mentioned having been President. Can you just give us a rundown of your positions here?

    Ed Mead: Yes, after the first set of officers started the club, then they had a general election. I ran for Vice President, Chris McEnerney ran again for President, and he won. I won the Vice Presidency, so we stayed on for two years for that, and then after that I ran for President. I was there for two years, then past President for two years, then I ran and won Sergeant at Arms. I was that for two years, then back to President for two more years, then past President for two years, and now I’m retired from all that.

    Interviewer: But you’re not going anywhere! Finally, if you had to pick one thing that makes you glad you joined the club, what would that be?

    Ed Mead: I think, for me, it’s about the 1200 new members we have or in the new friendships of people that I never knew before in the city, and from people that are from twenty years old to eighty-eight years old. I mean, it’s good to know people in the club and listen to their stories and become good friends with them and everything. Some of the people I’ve known from other parts of Milford are in politics and you get closer to them. One of them I will always remember is Maureen Richetelli and her husband. Her husband has passed now, but he was my driving instructor at Milford Driving School when I was sixteen years old. So, some of these connections go way back like I knew Maureen’s son Jimmy Richetelli when he was mayor, because I’ve been involved in politics so long. I think everything comes around and you get to have new friendships and meet new people.

    Interviewer: Thanks very much, Ed!