Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
They made their community a better place

Journal Inquirer
January 27, 2006
By: Paul Hensler

Years ago I worked with a guy who was very good with crossword puzzles, but I thought I had a clue and answer that would stump him. I sauntered up to his desk and challenged him: "Hawaiian goose." With no hesitation, he looked up and with a hearty smile belted out, "Nene!" (and correctly pronounced it as if to rhyme with say hey!).

These brain exercises came with a lesson, and Dave Chmielecki was quick to pass one along to me.

After once telling him that I preferred the easier crosswords, he admonished me by pointing out that "you don't learn anything unless you get your nose in that dictionary."

That was sagely advice that I took to heart, and I now have several lexicons that I keep within easy reach either at home or work in case I need to find a definition for that new or long-forgotten word.

Dave gave me a simple tip, but it was something he did to make a difference in my vocabulary - and my life.

Luckily for the denizens of Rockville, Dave Chmielecki delivered something more tangible and valuable to his town. Along with his wife, JoAnna, he was the apotheosis of how one should serve his community, and his exploits in Rockville politics, civic affairs, and volunteer work have been well-documented.

Together, Dave and JoAnna's modus operandi can be summed up in one word: caring. They cared enough to take foster children into their home while raising their own children and those they adopted. They cared enough to help feed the hungry. They cared enough to work toward making conditions better for those whose lives they touched.

While Dave's range of activities extended to work in local politics, he desperately wanted our state, our country, and our world to be a better place in which to live.

As a person who only casually followed politics until the early 1990s, I learned a bigger lesson from Dave when I realized that I had to pay attention to what's going on in our political system, and to hold dear the constitutionally granted rights that all Americans enjoy.

He believed in his convictions, which included peace and love nurtured by the ideal of putting others before yourself. Striving to help the less fortunate and appealing to a sense of fairness are the legacies that Dave and JoAnna wanted to leave behind with us all.

The manner in which Dave carried himself - even in illness, when he had every reason to quit but didn't - should remind everyone to make the most of our precious but short time here on Earth.

When it came to musical tastes, Dave was very conservative, and rock 'n' roll and pop music were not among his favorites.

But one tune of that genre leaps out because it is very apropos to the Chmieleckis.
Stepping out of character from their string of bouncy popular melodies of the 1960s Love Generation, Spanky and Our Gang released "Give a Damn," a song that profoundly spoke to the troubles of those times and that have to a large degree carried forward to this day. The lyrics implore us to "give a damn about your fellow man," because there is something that each of us can do to help others.

Though we mourn their passing, their community is a better place because of the example set by Dave and JoAnna Chmielecki.

They made a difference in other people's lives, and they did give a damn about your fellow man.

The writer is a resident of Ellington.