Elsie Chapman never intended to be president of the Historic Wooster Square Association. She was just helping a founding member of the association navigate how to use email.
On Wednesday, Chapman led her last association meeting as president but assured her neighbors that she wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m not moving,” declared the 13-year Wooster Square resident.
Chapman has been at the helm of the association, she estimated maybe eight or 10 years. She took on a co-presidency with Beverly Carbonella, who was not only a founding member of the association but also a co-founder of the Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival.
“She has been president forever,” Chapman recalled Wednesday night. ” s we got more and more into email she asked me to help her with emails. ‘I said sure Beverly, I’d be happy to help you.’”
“Next thing I knew, I was co-president,” she said. “But she was the outgoing one. She was doing all this stuff and then she went and died on me.”
Chapman stayed on as president when Carbonella died three years ago. But like Carbonella, she’s a woman of many hats. She decided to step away from the association for at least a year to work on some other projects. She’s co-chairing a campaign to raise $2 million for the new Stetson Library and working with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
“I’m beginning to realize that it’s taking a toll,” she said. “I’ve got to step down for a bit. I’ll be active with the association but I won’t be on the board.”
On her last night as association president, she asked the association at the meeting at Wednesday night’s meeting New Light High School to remember Carbonella and Luisa DeLauro, who passed away six months ago at 103. DeLauro still holds the record for longest-serving alder, and along with Carbonella, was instrumental in making Wooster Square an historic district and establishing the Cherry Blossom Festival. The 45th festival is scheduled for April 22, and Chapman said if the weather holds out that organizers expect the turnout to be even better than it was last year. There is a pre-festival concert at St. Michael’s on April 21.
“The last cherry blossom festival had more people in the park than I can remember,” she said. “If the weather holds out, this year’s cherry blossom festival will be just as exciting.”
Chapman had more good news: fencing missing near Chapel Street for several years has been replaced. She said that before the end of 2018, the city has promised to scrape, prime, and paint the rest of that fence and replace two lampposts. An attempt to save the ash trees from the ash borer beetle that is attacking trees all over town. Chapman said the largest tree in Wooster Square Park is an ash tree.
“The piano project will come back,” she announced.
“Oh, God no,” a neighbor said. She said she didn’t mind the project, she just didn’t want it next to her house.
“The piano project is coming back,” Chapman reiterated with a smile.
The neighborhood has other new attractions that Chapman encouraged people to support including Wooster Square Coffee, in the original location of the former Fuel Coffee, Beauty Bar, in the last location of the former Fuel Coffee, and the city’s new bike share, Bike New Haven, also is in place.
With that bit of business taken care of, Chapman said, “It has been my joy to be president of this association but this is my last president’s report. Thanks for all you’ve done and we’ve done to make this a great community.”
Her fellow association members and neighbors wouldn’t let her off the hook that easily.
“She has given so much to this neighborhood, and this community,” association member Charlie Murphy said. “You have enriched our lives and helped to take care of this community.”
Members presented Chapman with flowers and a poem they’d commissioned by none other than Wooster Square Mayor Emeritus Peter Webster:
At the corner of Greene and Académe
Is a human who radiates life’s sweet dream –
You think your life has gone to hell, see
That human whose sweet name’s Elsie
And then, just sit and listen;
Soon, your eyes will laugh, then glisten,
As she declaims beyond compare
The glories of old Wooster Square
And how you live there, by the Park,
With secret mágics, dawn to dark,
With friends and leaves and dogs and birds
And stars and sun – despair’s absurd:
Pitch in, sing on, just strut your stuff
And soon you’ll find your brain’s got tough
But soft your heart, and strong and sweet,
Protected by these Wooster’s streets,
And by that rich community
That hands out lots of love, for free,
Whose love is guided by the heart
Where every loving thought does start:
She, like a dolphin thorough the sea
Diving, flying: sweet, sweet Elsie.