Local columnist picked as festival’s Hometown Hero

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

When people hear the name “Bob Montgomery,” they think of the columnist who has been writing at the Bristol Press for 29 years.

Although he has been a devoted writer, Montgomery also has been a devoted volunteer for all kinds of local organizations—from the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame to the Salvation Army Advisory Board to TEAM Bristol.

That’s why the Korean War Veterans Association named Montgomery as Bristol’s Hometown Hero last Wednesday.

“There’s so many good people in Bristol,” said Montgomery, who was surprised when he received the Hometown Hero nomination. “To be included is a great honor.”

Montgomery said he started to get more involved in the community when he began as a columnist for the Bristol Press in 1989.

“You make contacts and from there, you get involved,” said Montgomery, who always wanted to be a writer. “It just kind of grew.”

For years, Montgomery has immersed himself in the history of Bristol. A Bristol native, Montgomery not only served as president of the Bristol Historical Society, but he also served as the city’s municipal historian.

Recognizing Montgomery’s devotion to history, several mayors on both sides of the aisle re-appointed the historian.

“I’ve always been interested in Bristol history, even as a kid without even realizing it,” said Montgomery, who retired from Bristol Public Library nine years ago. “I always had a love of Bristol and a curiosity about Bristol.”

One part of Bristol’s rich history that always appealed to Montgomery was sports. In 1997, he co-founded the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame (BSHOF), which has a mission to “honor, document, preserve distinctive contributions and achievements to the sports heritage of Bristol.”

“I always talked about having a sports museum,” said Montgomery, who co-founded BSHOF with the late John Fortunato.

Whether honoring the top student-athletes from Bristol’s three high schools or inducting individuals and organizations into the Hall of Fame, Montgomery said a highlight BSHOF has been getting to know people he has never met before—like Andy Palau, a multi-sports coach who gave the late Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi his first coaching job.

“That was a thrill—there were people I idolized who made Bristol sports what it was,” said Montgomery, who was honored by the city of Bristol in 2010.

A 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, Montgomery remains an active member of BSHOF, which is located at the Bristol Historical Society and the Dennis Malone Aquatic Center.

“We have a lot of good people on the committee who have made the most diversified hall of fame in the state,” said Montgomery, a member of the Bristol Tramps for 25 years. “I’m very proud of it.”

Besides athletes, veterans are another part of Bristol’s heritage that Montgomery keeps close to his heart. A Marine Corps Reserves veteran who served during the Vietnam War,

Montgomery is involved with different activities and events that give back to veterans, such as showing local students the World War I monument on Memorial Boulevard and hosting the Veteran’s Day program at F. N. Manross Memorial Library.

Noting how he knew many classmates and friends who left Bristol to serve during the Vietnam War, Montgomery said getting involved is a way to honor all veterans—whether they served in a war or not.

“They took a chance. They put their lives on the line to fight for freedom,” said Montgomery, a new member of the Korean War Veterans Association. “I have so much respect for them.”

But Montgomery’s involvement does not end there. For the past 10 years, he also has served on the Salvation Army Advisory Board and remains an active member of the United Methodist Church where he maintains a flower garden.

He also is the founder and current member of TEAM Bristol—a core group of volunteers that organizes affordable events that bring the community together, including the annual Bristol Stomp Dance and the Bill Englert Auto Show.

“This group is family,” said Montgomery, who received a humanitarian award from the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol Family Center in 2013.

Established at least seven years ago by the original Mum Festival Committee, the Hometown Hero event puts the spotlight on a local citizen who has given back to the Bristol community in one way or another. Since its inception, the event has become a major highlight of the historic Mum Festival, where the community formally honors the Hometown Hero.

Montgomery will be formally honored on the first evening of the 56th Annual Mum Festival, which kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 21.

American Legion Post 2 also will honor Montgomery by hosting a Hometown Hero breakfast on Sunday, Sept. 24 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Held at Post 2, the breakfast also is open to the public, so folks can meet the Hometown Hero.

“He defines what Bristol is,” said Hometown Hero Chairman Neal Supranovich, who serves a historian for Post 2. “He rolls up his sleeves and jumps in.”

The father of three children and the grandfather of eight grandchildren and two more on the way, Montgomery said Bristol has been a great community for his family.

“Bristol has been a great town to grow up in—for myself and my family,” said Montgomery.

Bristol Press columnist Bob Montgomery is this year’s Hometown Hero.