MONROE, Conn. -- Nancy Zorena, a driving force in bringing Monroe’s history to life and a builder of a portfolio of community service inside and outside the classroom for more than 40 years, has been selected as Monroe’s Citizen of the Year for 2016.
She is to be recognized at a Town Council meeting May 23 starting at 8 p.m. A reception will be held before in the Land Use Area with refreshments and music, starting at 7:15 p.m. The public is invited. Reservations are not required. There is no charge.
First Selectman Steve Vavrek, whose 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.
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, the Meeting House and the East Village Schoolhouse. She has also worked to conserve 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 including 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.
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. Their daughter, Katie, lives in Arlington, Va.
A committee representing a cross-section of Monroe’s community life selected Zorena in a closed ballot.