Joe and Kay Calvanese were born and raised in Southington. They were involved in the Southington Community, through political and civic organizations. Giving back to the community was a large part of their lives. Kay Calvanese was a tireless and generous woman whose service to Southington was appreciated and recognized in both the private and public sectors. Born in May of 1926, the former Kathryn Zilly attended schools here graduating from Lewis High School with the Class of 1944. She graduated from Fannie A. Smith School in Bridgeport with a degree in Elementary Education. Prior to her marriage to Joseph Calvanese she taught kindergarten for three years at the former Holcomb School.
Mrs. Calvanese then turned her efforts to raising a family and helping her husband with the expansion of the Aqua Turf Club, where Kay’s Pier was named in her honor. Kay was active in Parent-Teacher Organizations, helped form a ski club for neighborhood children, "The Plantsville Skiers." Mrs. Calvanese was also active in the Southington Association of Retarded Citizens, and the Home-School Association of Southbury, another group devoted to providing services to the mentally disabled. She was a communicant at Mary Our Queen Church and volunteered at Bradley Memorial Hospital. Her hospital work inspired her to co-found the Bradley Memorial Hospital Thrift Shop, with Ruth Forgione, in hopes that its proceeds could benefit service and technology at the medical center. Mrs. Calvanese and Mrs. Forgione were co-recipients of the 1978 UNICO Gold Metal for their charitable efforts in Southington.
The contributions made to the community by Joe and Kay Calvanese live on today through the work done by the Calvanese Charity Foundation.
After the untimely passage of Kay Calvanese in February of 1982, her family established a scholarship in her name to be given to a Southington High School student who was pursuing a nursing career. The scholarship has been given each year since its inception in honor of Mrs. Calvanese.
Although well known in Connecticut as a successful businessman and entrepreneur, Joseph Calvanese Sr. never forgot his Southington roots. Mr. Calvanese was a native of Southington born in November 1920. He graduated from the former Lewis High in 1939. During World War II he served with the U.S. Army and earned the Bronze Star. After the war Joe returned home to Southington and started a landscaping business with his Dad and brother Anthony. After his retirement from Calvanese Nursery Joe founded The Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. Friends and associates remembered him as a good role model who enjoyed hard work and giving back to the Southington community. He was a member of the American Legion Kiltonic Post 72, The VFW post 9766 and the Elks Club 1669. He was a longtime member of the Isabella Council 15, Knights of Columbus. He was on of the founders and directors of the former Citizens National Bank in Plantsville. From 1977 to 1979 he was a member of the Town Council and for many years he served on the Park and Recreation Board.
Mr. Calvanese liked collecting antiques and obtained unusual items that he would incorporate in the design of the Aqua Turf Club. For example, the wooden alleys of a near by bowling facility damaged in a flood were transformed into a dancing area inside one of his banquet halls. The beams of a historic building that was going to be demolished were used in the construction of a building at the Aqua Turf Club. What started as a retirement project, a family Swim and Tennis Club, has grown into the widely known Aqua Turf banquet facility. The facility today is owned and managed by Joe and Kay’s sons, Joe and Chris Calvanese.
The man known as the father of the Aqua Turf Club died September 15, 1994 at the age of 73. Upon the death of Mr. Calvanese a foundation was created so money could be raised to fund a broader spectrum of the Southington Community. The contributions made to the community by Joe and Kay Calvanese live on today through the work done by the Calvanese Charity Foundation. The Joe and Kay Calvanese Foundation was granted a 501 (c) (3) status on February 21, 1996 by IRS.
Below is a partial list of some of the first contributions the Joe and Kay Calvanese Foundation has made to the local community:
A brace for a child afflicted with a bone disease
Nursing scholarships (started off at $500.00 and is now up to $1500.00 per student)
Employment Development Center
Jonathan Briggs fund
Southington Public Library
Good Samaritan Fund
Lebedowski Memorial (Southington Care Center)
Cairns Brothers (helmets for the fire department)
Southington Valley Midget Football League
Southington Community Theater
Southington Visiting Nurses
Bread for Life Soup Kitchen
St. Paul Catholic High School (renovation of science lab)
Southington Police Department defibrillators and emergency response radios for cruisers,
Handicapped Playscape at Panthorn Park
Landscape at Milldale Passive Park
Handicap ramps at Crescent Lake
Funds for Children Entertainment Series
Ramp and plantings for Plantsville Green
2 dug-outs for Panthorn Park Girls Softball
YMCA Capital Campaign
North Center School Homework Assistance Program
Science Center (outdoor) Derynoski School
Trailer for Police Dept. for car seat & bike safety
The mission of the Calvanese Foundation is to help the community as a whole. Projects thus far have touched on almost every segment of the Southington Community from the less fortunate, handicapped, and ill, to the senior citizens and youth of the town. Projects, which benefit the entire town, have been funded in part or in its entirety by the Foundation such as IRIS Helmets for the Fire Department, portable defibrillators for the police cruisers, a portable stage for the Parks & Recreation Department, and the YMCA Capital Fund. For a complete list of Grants see the Grants awarded section.