Speak with Kay Ables, Ridgefield Town Historian and Ridgefield Historical Society board member and you’ll hear a voice that is at once intelligent, engaged, and warm. Kay Ables loves Ridgefield history, and she wants you to love it too.
How long have you lived in Ridgefield?
We moved to Ridgefield in 1968 when I was pregnant with my daughter (now in her 50s!). My husband and I had met working at Aetna in Hartford years prior, and we were happy to return to Connecticut from New York, where my husband was working.
How did you originally get involved in (what was to become) the Ridgefield Historical Society?
When I moved to Ridgefield, I was a stay-at-home mother, and I did a lot of volunteer work for many years. Before the Historical Society was formed, we were the Ridgefield Archives Committee, collecting items and preserving the history of the town. But we had no place to store our stuff!
Jeanne [Timpanelli, at right] was the leader of our crew and she was indispensable. When the Scott House preservation project came up, we realized it was time. We were afraid to get involved because we knew we would end up leading it all, but we did it anyway.
How did you become the town historian?
I volunteered with Richard E “Dick” Venus, the first official town historian, for many years. He was wonderful — a real social historian. He loved people and had that Irish wit about him. His “Dick’s Dispatches” are so fun to read and share so much history.
When Dick died in 2006, he wanted me to take the position. He essentially bequeathed it to me. In the town’s 300+ history, we’ve had only two town historians and one relatively young historical society.
This may be obvious, but what has been your area of focus at the Historical Society?
Well, the history — of course. The town historian is here to research and answer questions about the town as well as research genealogy questions. We’ve also worked to share our history in interesting ways. We started doing the exhibits in the cases in Town Hall to share information and artifacts on our different eras, and one thing we focused on was getting the community involved.
Many people don’t care about history — or don’t think they do — but if we can get people to be involved and participate, they love it. The Town of Ridgefield is good at this. Some years ago, we did an exhibit and event on the Civil War era in Ballard Park. We had costumes and it was so entertaining — people loved it.
Do you have a favorite era of Ridgefield history?
I really love the whole history of Ridgefield, but if I had to pick a time it would probably be around the founding of the town, when we were figuring out who we were and deciding if we were going to be in the Revolution, and whether we were Patriots or Loyalists.
Do you have any favorite memories or moments of your time with the Town and the Historical Society?
One of the accomplishments that I am most proud of is the saving of the David Scott House and the creation of the Ridgefield Historical Society. To take this old, dilapidated house and raise money to move and restore it was very exciting. All of the rooms in the Scott House were endowed by donors, and when the house was re-constructed on Grove Street, I worked in the main room on the lower level.
It is dedicated to the Italian-Americans who were so important to the development of our town and I just loved working there.