BERLIN - In every story shared on Sept. 7, themes of hard work, volunteerism and humbleness were present at the Italian Independent Political Club.
That’s because they were stories about Bob Dornfried Sr., 75, a Berlin resident who served in the Korean War, provided handyman and building support to several residents and was involved with community organizations like the Berlin Little League, Lions Club and Italian Club.
He was recently honored with the establishment of a Lifetime of Volunteerism Award in his name.
“When I thought about Berlin and its many great volunteers, I could not think of one person who did more in this community, than Bob Dornfried,” said Bob Zipadelli, organized the award ceremony.
More than 100 residents came out to honor Dornfried, including Mayor Mark Kaczynski, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Gary Barwikowski of the Berlin VFW, Bill Petit of the Berlin Little League, Jeff Matson of the Berlin Lions Club, and Councilor Peter Rosso of the Italian Club.
They all spoke of Dornfried’s humbleness and contributions to their respective organizations.
With Dornfried’s wife, Peggy; daughter Diane; sons Bob, Joe and Jim, and grandchildren also in attendance, the audience, which included former Mayor Art Powers, former Town Manager Denise McNair and Berlin Lions President Lenny Tubbs, shared stories of Dornfried good works.
“Mr. Dornfried, you always did what you could for the town of Berlin,” said Aresimowicz while presenting a General Assembly Official Citation, after Kaczynski presented a Town Council proclamation. “I jokingly called you Mr. Berlin. Truly, if half of us were as dedicated to this town as you were, Berlin would be amazing.”
“Every building that Berlin Little League has in this town of Berlin has Bob Dornfried’s expertise behind it,” said Petit, who shared stories of Dornfried wanting to meet at 6 a.m. the next morning after being asked to help with a project and outmuscling kids when lifting shingles up to a roof, while never taking a penny.
“When Bob got involved with a project, it was a plus, because Bob knew what he was actually doing,” said Rosso, praising his work at the Italian Club.
In the latter half of the program, an open forum was held allowing audience members to share their own thoughts and memories of Dornfried.
“It didn’t matter if it was snowing, Bob was there. Employees wouldn’t be showing up, Bob was there,” said a colleague from the Hospital of Central Connecticut, at which Dornfried was a volunteer. “When he took that job or role, that was his, he had that responsibility and he never let it go by.”
Following words from Zipadelli, the plaque listing the names to come of all the recipients of the Bob Dornfried Lifetime Volunteerism Award, which will hang in the Town Hall rotunda, was unveiled. Dornfried’s daughter then read a letter written by Bob, as he can’t speak due to his battle with ALS.
“As the youngest I had many heroes growing up, especially my older siblings and we were close in many ways,” said Dornfried, the youngest of seven siblings, who needed to help one another with chores from sunrise to sunset, growing up on the Dornfried Farm on Edgewood Road. “I never expected any acknowledgement as we were taught that this is what being a good person is supposed to be. And I’ve tried to follow that model all of my life.”
On the top of the award are emblems from the Berlin Little League, the VFW, Lions Club and Italian Club. The award will go to a member of the organizations on a rotating basis, before ultimately going to any resident of Berlin. The first recipient of the honor was Petit.
“I am so honored, to be on a plaque that Bob Dornfried initiated and to be the first recipient of the plaque for volunteerism,” said Petit while fighting back tears. Petit has been involved with the Berlin Little League for 41 years, coaching teams to the state championship in 1986 and 2004, a team on which Dornfried’s grandson was a member. Petit also helped establish a challenger’s league for children with special needs to play in.
“I thought it would be maybe 25 people,” Dornfried wrote on a pad after the event. “Unbelievable, honor,” he wrote as to how he felt about the ceremony.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Dornfried graduated from Berlin High School in 1949 before joining the U.S. Army in 1952 as a machine gunner and squad leader in the infantry of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion of the 15th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division during the Korean War.
He was award a Bronze Star, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Korean Service Medal and Combat Infantry Badge.
Coming back to Berlin, he worked out of a building company, Dornfried Builders, for several years, where he helped with several projects throughout regarding the Berlin Little League and with several residents throughout town.
Serving on boards and donating 17 gallons of blood, he was a member of the Berlin Veterans Commission, charter member of the VFW and post commander for nine years, quartermaster and trustee. He was also a member of the Berlin Lions club for 44 years, as a past president, Berlin fair president during those years.
He also was a member of the board of directors at the Italian club, where he was named the club’s Man of the Year in 1996, and worked on the boccie courts and building addition.
He was a member of the Berlin polish club, charter member of the south Kensington volunteer fire department, and former asst. chief and worked with the boy scouts. He was a Driving force in helping O’Connell drive being named after friend from Korean War passing away. Of all his contributions, he was most proud of his military service, his daughter shared after the ceremony.