By KAITLYN NAPLES
Three years ago, the Mum Festival Committee kicked off an initiative to honor and recognize individuals in Bristol, who have put community and service before their own needs.
This year, an individual was chosen who is involved in a multitude of organizations, committees and clubs in the city, and is “constantly involved, behind the scenes, with everything,” said festival Chair Darlene Sawe
This year’s Hometown Hero is Tom LaPorte.
“He (LaPorte) is involved in so many committees and clubs, I think he is the epitome of what a Hometown Hero is,” Sawe said.
The Hometown Hero was created with the intentions of giving the people who go above and beyond, that recognition and honor, Sawe said. “It shows them that people do notice what they do for others.”
LaPorte is heavily involved in a number of activities, organizations and committees in the city, and is known for his Civil War antiques. One of the organizations that gives him the most satisfaction, he said, is being a volunteer at Hospice of Bristol Hospital.
“We just have general conversations, life reviews, and talk about living wills,” LaPorte said about his work at hospice. “That’s probably the most rewarding organization I’m a part of, but there are a number of others that I feel really close to.”
LaPorte is also an active member of the Bristol Historical Society, and has been for about five years. He said when he retired he started participating in programs or events he was interested.
“It started out as one or two things, and then it was like a snowball affect,” LaPorte said, adding that he just ended up becoming involved in several other things. “It isn’t just being involved just to be involved; it has to be things you’re interested in.”
According to Sawe, “Tom is unselfishly devoted to community involvement and he is always willing to help others.”
He is also involved in a continuous project in the Bristol Public Library’s history room. LaPorte said there are over 80 photos of Bristol from years past on display in the room, so residents can visit, browse the photos, and remember or see what Bristol used to look like. He is in the process of working on a new photo project on Lake Compounce, where an entire wall in the history room will be covered with past and present photos of Lake Compounce, showing how it has evolved over the years. LaPorte is also vice president of the Memorial Military Museum, located in the historical society building. He said that museum displays items brought back from past wars, which were donated by Bristol residents.
“That has really been an interesting and worthwhile endeavor,” LaPorte said.
He said being selected to be this year’s Hometown Hero has been “a humbling experience. It’s something, in my wildest dreams, I would have never expected.”
While he serves as this year’s Hometown Hero, LaPorte also will be this year’s Parade Marshal. He will be present at the crowning of Miss Mum, and also will be participating in the parade on Sunday.
“I think Bristol is such a great town to grow up in; there are so many things the city has to offer (from its parks to community involvement),” he said. “I feel so fortunate to be a part of this.”
By KAITLYN NAPLES