One of the nice things about the Ridgefield Historical Society team is that it crosses generations and areas of interest, and includes both founding members of the organization as well as those who moved to town in very recent past. This month, we introduce Nancy Selander, who has held just about every position on the Ridgefield Historical Society Board and serves as Corresponding Secretary today.
How long have you lived in Ridgefield?
I’m a New Hampshire native and my husband grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. (That’s Nancy and Dave above traveling in Uzbekistan.) We moved to Ridgefield in 1978 to escape the taxes in New York. My husband’s company had also relocated to Stamford so it made sense.
When did you first get involved with the Ridgefield Historical Society?
It wasn’t until I retired in 2003 that I became involved with the Town’s Graveyard Committee through Sue Law (also on the Historical Society Board). Before that I worked in New York for The Rockefeller Group for about 10 years and before that at Pitney Bowes in Stamford for many years.
In good weather, Sue and I documented the tombstones in Mapleshade Cemetery. When it got cold out, Jean Timpanelli (vice president of the Ridgefield Preservation Trust, which saved the Scott House, and went on to become the Ridgefield Historical Society) suggested we enter the graveyard data we had collected into Past Perfect, the online archive of the Historical Society. So every Tuesday and Thursday, Sue and I would go into the Scott House in the morning to enter data. After several years, Kay Ables, Ridgefield Town Historian and RHS Board Member, suggested that I join the Historical Society board as 1st Vice President.
What is your current role, and what other roles have you held?
Presently, I’m the Corresponding Secretary, but I’ve had every position except Recording Secretary.
I was president for about five years. For several other years, I filled in as treasurer. The Historical Society traditionally had two treasurers, one who did the work of paying bills, handling checks, and reports for the board. The other who did the detailed financials for the accounting firm along with IRS requirements. For many years, these positions were held by Pat Kearney and Georgianne Kasuli, respectively. Sadly, both passed away rather suddenly, so I took up the in-house work and filled in as co-treasurer until 2020.
Tell us about your work with the Graveyard Restoration Committee — and how it intersects with the Historical Society?
The Graveyard Restoration Committee is a town committee, but we are housed with all our documents at the Scott House. Probably that came about because Jeanne Timpanelli was very involved in both organizations. Because our records are located at the Historical Society — much information is right in the main floor library — many visitors come to the Scott House looking for information about where their relatives are buried. It’s not uncommon for us to go with a visitor to the cemetery to help them locate the tombstone.
Last year, as part of the 245th Anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Ridgefield, the Town hosted a ceremonial funeral in Mapleshade Cemetery, honoring the skeletons that were discovered in Ridgefield in 2019 and believed to be soldiers from the Battle. What was that like for you?
It was a big event with lots of planning and preparation to ensure that the Cemetery was befitting the occasion, and also so that we could manage the crowd without damaging the grounds. But what did surprise me was how really excited the re-enactors were about the burials. They had never done one like this before. They researched it extensively and practiced the whole burial, including the separation of Patriots and the British into two groups. Since the funeral ceremony was on the Sunday of Battle of Ridgefield weekend, we expected many of the reenactors to go home before the event; but almost no one did!
Do you have a favorite era of Ridgefield history?
I compare history to travel. Every country you visit has its uniqueness. Likewise, every historic era you research has its own unique qualities as well. I love everything we do at the Historical Society. As with visiting new countries, every era and period of history comes with its own surprises, customs, and characters.
What advice and recommendations would you give to new Ridgefield residents?
Get involved in the town. For many years, my husband and I worked full time and commuted long distances to work. Since we retired, we’ve had such fun getting involved and learning about the people and history of our town. We both spend a lot of time preserving and maintaining our town’s cemeteries, which are absolute treasures. You can learn so much by just wandering through and reading the gravestones. Plus, they are peaceful and beautiful.
If you haven’t visited any, you should! You’ll be surprised at what you find.