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Winners of Annual Senior Writing Contest

Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation just announced the winners of its Annual Senior Writing Contest. The contest was open to seniors age 60-plus and required writing submissions of 500-750 words on a creative topic focusing on a special experience, person or period of time in their life.

Over 60 submissions were received from seniors living in local Connecticut and New York towns including Brewster, Pawling, Kent, Brookfield, Wilton, Sherman, Newtown, New Fairfield, Woodbury, Danbury, Southington, New Milford, Southbury, Litchfield and Ridgefield. The range of topics covered, and the style of creative writing used were abundant – making it challenging for judges to select winners. Therefore, it was decided to stray from the original First, Second and Third Prize award structure – and to work within a category structure as such:

Category (Writing Style and Story Detail Award): First Prize Winner: Robert S. Mellis “June 14, 1940”; Second Prize Winner: Art Carlson “The Bully” (Photo*); Third Prize Winner: Michael E. Garbowski “My Life Raft”; Third Prize Winner-Tie Ruth Crane “Tapioca Pudding.”

*Photo: Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation Resident, Age 95, “My story is about the bully who used to chase me around town when I was a kid. I’d like to thank him for helping me keep so fit through the years. I’m still up and moving – he’s gotta be about 98; I wonder if he could still catch me. I heard that he recently moved back to town!”

Category (Humor and Reader Engagement): First Prize Winner: Yvonne Price “The Odds Have It!”; Second Prize Winner: R. Joseph Knudsen “My Mom Married a Spy (and Never Told Me); Third Prize Winner: William Vibbert “My Army Life”; Third Prize-Tie: Susan Pasternack “Uncle Earls Famous Barbecue.”

Category (Life Lessons and Inspiration): First Prize Winner: Barbie Gradia “The Bus, The Ice and The Angel”; Second Prize Winner: Pam Southworth “Rescuing Bailey”; Third Place Winner: Jane Couch: “Thank You for Being My Friend.”

Art Carlson – 2nd place winner – Candlewood Valley Resident, pictured watching our staff

Due to the revisions in the prize categories, resulting in more winners, First Prize Winners Receive $100 Gift Cards, Second Prize Winners Receive $75 Gift Cards and Third Prize Winners Receive $50.00 Gift Cards.

“Conducting this contest has been a wonderful adventure” shares Melissa Marici, Community Outreach Director at Candlewood Valley, “most of the winning authors are over 80 or 90 years old and they enjoy writing as a hobby or have written professionally at some point in their lives. Interacting with the participants has been such a learning experience for me. Their lives have been so different from mine, even though I’m in my fifties. My goal is to have all of these stories published in a book so we can all learn from them and cherish them.

One of the contest winners, Pam Southworth wrote, “I enjoyed participating in this contest. Thank you for the wonderful idea – and the many hours it must have entailed to accomplish. I love the journal, the commendation and the gift certificate.”

To provide a peak into the wonderous stories submitted in this contest, local seniors shared tales of being chased all over town by the class bully, having their grandson act as their “life raft” after a devastating diagnosis of Parkinson, going for a long-awaited balloon ride, being a police officer arriving at a scene to find a boy under the wheels of an auto, embracing the importance of kindness after the Sandy Hook tragedy, reflecting on father-and-son traditions being outgrown as decades fly bye, capturing the absolute joy of fly-fishing in the sounds of the river, coming across friendly nudists while hitchhiking in Germany, videotaping The Night Before Christmas at their home only to forget to put film in the camera, finding out that their mother was married before she met their dad – and her previous husband was a spy!, and going off to war and facing a world that they still can’t talk about.”

A “Seniors in the Arts Soiree” will be hosted by Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation to honor all participants of this Writing Contest, as well as those who participated in their Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 Photography Contests. For more information call Melissa Marici 860-355-0971 ext 11 or email

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