It is with sadness that we learn of the passing of a Branford treasure, Jane Rosenthal.
A philanthropist, businesswoman and community icon who even ran for State Representative in the pre-Woman's Liberation era of the 1940's, she will be missed by so many. Rosenthal is best known as the proprietor of the Owenego Beach Club & Inn and for donating her Kirkham Street property to help bring about a Branford affordable senior housing complex, Rosenthal Gardens.
Rosenthal was a past Sound Person of the Week. Her April, 2011 Person of the Week story, by Senior Staff Writer Pam Johnson, follows here:
Branford has many treasures and one of them is Jane Rosenthal.
On Saturday, May 7 (2011) Jane opens the gracious grounds of her Owenego Inn & Beach Club to the eighth annual Shoreline Walkathon, benefitting non-profit Community Dining Room (CDR). The family oriented, fun day of special events and entertainment includes a two-mile trek past the area's beautiful views of Long Island Sound.
An active and longtime CDR benefactor, Jane opens Owenego's outdoors annually to hundreds of Shoreline Walkathon participants who walk, run, or stroll to raise money to help feed local families in need.
This year, Jane is the Shoreline Walkathon's "Grand Dame Marshal," says CDR Executive Director Pat Kral.
"Jane is a longtime supporter of the CDR and the Branford community at large," adds Pat. "Jane and the Owenego have hosted our walk since its inception and for the past several years, our annual Volunteer Reception to honor our over 100 active volunteers."
Jane also opens the Owenego to many other groups devoted to delivering charitable support. The Branford native (her maiden name is Williams) is a third-generation resident whose girlhood home was in the Brushy Plains Road area.
"It was an area of small, lovely farms," Jane recalls. "We had apple and quince orchards and beautiful gardens."
Snowy winters called for horse-drawn sleigh rides with her parents and sister Nancy. Warmer days were spent exploring on horseback.
After graduating high school (Branford High School, '42), Jane graduated from Marymount College in New York and, "when I came back to Branford, I got very involved in politics."
In the late 1940s, Jane Williams ran for Connecticut General Assembly and was undeterred when she wasn't elected Branford's state representative. After marrying Branford attorney and Democratic Town Committee Chair Connie Driscoll, Jane continued in local politics, serving for many years as District 1 voting registrar.
At the Owenego, Jane's touch helped transform the couple's small enterprise into an iconic destination.
"This place was a very old inn when Connie bought it," says Jane, who lives on site. "It was a private club. Connie was the one who started the beach club and that helped it to grow."
Jane took on managing the property and was involved in every aspect-from running the kitchen to perfecting the fresh floral arrangements for which this now-honorary Branford Garden Club member's known. She's also known as the "lady in the hat" and still enjoys donning a delightful chapeau to greet members.
"I knew every one of the members by their names-and their children, too. The teenagers would grow up, get married, and come back with their kids. It's always been a safe place with a family friendly environment," she says.
These days, Jane oversees operations with help from family including John Bloomquist, Frank Bloomquist, and Janie Peck.
"We all love it a lot and it's maintained wonderfully," says Jane.
Jane and Connie enjoyed 31 years together, many shared at the Owenego, before he passed away. Jane was then blessed by a second marriage to Dr. Richard "Dick" Rosenthal, with whom she shared 27 years before his passing. A few years ago, Jane donated their Kirkham Street property to establish Branford's Rosenthal Gardens, a seniors' affordable living complex.
Back in the day, Dick was a "shop doctor" for nearby industrial works including Malleable Iron Fittings Company, owned by the Rosenthals' neighbors, the Hammer family. Today, Jane's former Georgian manor, just beyond the corner of Kirkham and Main, now houses five apartments and additional units occupy its surrounding grounds. The Branford Garden Club renovated some slumbering gardens and the property's stunning revitalization continues to progress.
Jane's simply delighted by the results.
"It's beautifull. Have you seen it?" she asks. "I would like to live there myself!"