To the Editor:
Last week our community lost an exemplary citizen and leader.
Hugh Penney, former Pastor of South Church in New Britain and a leader in so many spiritual, civic and social justice issues, was remembered at a remarkable memorial service last Saturday.
His time in New Britain was spent in a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of his fellow citizens. In the 1960s, at a time when new and controversial federal programs were being proposed to address the economic and cultural disadvantages of low-income Americans, Rev. Penney stepped forward to become the first chairman of the Human Resources Agency of New Britain.
He helped initiate landmark programs like Head Start, youth employment and job training and he gave the agency the standing and credibility it needed to form a strong foundation.
He served on the boards of numerous nonprofit agencies advocating for the needs of the homeless, the disabled, seniors and disadvantaged. He took these roles seriously and made a measurable difference in New Britain.
Penney’s concern for social justice, fair treatment, equal opportunity and mutual respect for all of our citizens were values he imparted to all with whom he worked. Wealthy or poor, white or black, healthy or ill, English speaking or not - all were equally important. His contributions were many and his efforts have left New Britain a far better place. His legacy to our city and its citizens is etched in the hearts and minds of thousands of individuals and their families, most of whom never met him. People like Hugh Penney are rare and we must consider ourselves fortunate to have had Hugh Penney among us for so many years. He was a humble and good man who left a very large imprint on our city.