Wolcott Historical Society News - October 2022
By Florence Goodman
As children we tend to be unaware of the people who are the driving forces of change in our community. I never thought about the influence that one resident could have in the development and improvements to our town library system, but now I realize that Alexander Nole was a library advocate for many years. On September 12, 2022, Alex celebrated his 105th birthday. An amazing accomplishment for an amazing man! I have known Alex, his wife Julia and their children since the mid 1950s when they first moved to our neighborhood. I babysat for them for many years, and I watched their children grow up, but I truly didn't appreciate his dedication to making sure our residents would someday have a first-class library.
Growing up in Wolcott in the 1950s was a great experience for me. Our neighborhood was filled with kids of all ages and our summers were spent playing outside. Our mode of transportation was walking, or biking and we were allowed to travel quite a distance without our parents worrying about us. One special memory I have is our (Nancy and I) weekly walk to the Town Hall to visit the one room library located there. It may have been small, but it was filled with our favorite books that we could borrow. As I think back on those library days, I can't help to think what an impression those books had on my education. My mom was an avid reader and I know she passed her love of reading on to us. I remember the first library that she helped set up at the end of the hall in the original Alcott School. That too was a special library experience. At that time in my life, I didn't realize that our town library originated in the Congregational Church in 1828 and in 1924 when our new Town Hall opened it was moved there until 1957. Then came another change because of renovations at the Town Hall so the library was moved into the basement of the Center School which was used at that time for town offices. Sixteen months later, when Town Hall renovations were completed, the town offices that were housed at the Center School relocated to Town Hall leaving the entire building available. In 1959 the library was moved from the basement of the Center School to their new home upstairs. They now took over the entire building. The Center School served as our public library until the present library was opened on Bound Line Road.
By 1966 the Center School Library was growing rapidly; library book circulations climbed to a new high of 18,601 and 369 new borrowers were enrolled. Library hours were increased to 32 hours per week. The Combined PTA Library Committee was a strong supporter, which continues today; now called the Friends of the Library. Space was at a premium at the Center School library so First Selectman, Edward Bagley had the old vault emptied to add floor space, but this was only a temporary fix. A meeting was held with the State Librarian to discuss inadequate space issues and availability of State and Federal grants. Soon a Library Study Committee was established with Nicholas D"Agostino as Chairman, John H. Washburne as Vice-Chairman and Mrs. Florence Marino as Secretary. The other members were Reverend Sherman Andrews (Episcopal Church), David Herbst, Mrs. Ann Donahue, Alexander Nole, Robert Ducham, Richard Opper and Dr. Charles C. Sasso, Jr. They would discuss the need for a new public library and make recommendations on location and the size of the library.
In the1967-68 fiscal year a Library Building Committee was established, and Alexander Nole served as chairman. The members were: Francis Byrnes, John Keating, Joseph Ciarlo, Mrs. Gloria Lanosa, Mrs. Geraldine D. Cullen, Martin McCallum, Gloria D'Agostino, Dr. Charles C. Sasso, Jr., Robert Ducham, Edson Seymour, Lucian Helaire, Mrs. Isabelle Way, David Herbst and Earl L. Wooster, Jr.
Our library became a reality in 1970. Volunteers agreed to help move the books from the Center Street location to the new Bound Line Road location starting on October 17, 1970. The Center Street library closed on October 16th and the new structure opened on its formal dedication of October 25, 1970, that over 1000 people attended. Alexander Nole, stated it was, "a dream come true." First Selectman, Edward Bagley, said, "a momentous step forward in the life of the town of Wolcott." He also remarked that there had been controversy over the design of the building, but he believed it turned out to be a "forward looking structure" that reflected the attitudes of the townspeople. The building budget was $375,000, but Wolcott only paid $275,000 because of a $100,000 state grant.
In 1994 the Library's Youth Room was named for Alexander Nole whose 30 plus years of hard work and dedication helped to make our present-day library a reality. When I think of the Wolcott Public Library and The Friends of the Wolcott Library, I can't help but think of Alex Nole.
Alex has spent many years volunteering in other town organizations as well and maybe that is what has kept him healthy and active all these years. He is still living at home with some help, but what amazes me most is that he still has his memory of all these wonderful experiences. Many family members and friends of Alex helped him celebrate his Birthday at the Town Hall on September 12th and Mayor Dunn presented him with a proclamation. It was a special day for this wonderful man and his family. Life passes us by too quickly, but not for Alex; he has been fortunate enough to live it to the fullest.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Alex and his wife Julia, (who passed away on February 17, 2004, at the age of 85) were Patriots' Day honorees in 2018. They were a caring couple who instilled the importance of love for family, community and country to their three children MaryAnn, Alexander and Phyllis.
Julia served in WWII as an Army nurse from November 30, 1942, to January 28, 1946. She was stationed on various hospital ships and various camps in California. She also served in New Caledonia, the Philippine Islands and in New Zealand. While she was stationed on the Philippine Islands, she was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant.
Alex served in WWII in the Army from February 18, 1943, to September 24, 1945. He served as an ordinance clerk in England in the 446 Bomb group in the 705th Squadron-B24 heavy bombers. His job was to load the pyrotechnics and bombs onto the planes. He was also responsible to report on all activities of his squadron. Alex's bomb group was reported to be the best in England, and they led all the bombers on D-Day.
Alex Nole, a helpful and caring individual who not only loved his family, but his community; he is the epitome of community service. We thank you Alex for your willingness to give of your time to improve the lives of others in our community.
(Information for this article was taken from "The Town of Wolcott Annual Reports from 1966, 1969, 1971", Waterbury Republican American articles October, February 1968, 1970, August 1989, December 1989, 1992, June 1994, August 6, 1995, 2005, "The Wolcott Congregational Church 1773-1948" by Rose E. Wakelee, 1948," The 175th Anniversary 1796-1971" by John Washburne, "The Meeting House Atop of Benson's Hill" by John Washburne)
Alex Nole, Mary Hunt and Margie Smith in 1980.
Alex with Mayor Dunn as a Patriots' Day honoree in 2018.
Julia Nole was an Army nurse in WWII.
Alexander Nole served in the Army in WWII.
Alex's family: Alexander (Sandy), Cofi Smith, caregiver, Marianne, Alex and Phyllis at the Town Hall on September 12, 2022.
To view past installments of the Historical Society News, click here.