New Member Profiles

Peg Darrah

Peg was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith but found herself searching for something more. Starting in high school, she attended many different faith traditions including Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal. After her marriage, her husband and she were both active in the Episcopal Church for more than 47 years.

All her life, she loved to read and always knew she wanted to become a librarian. As a child she was a constant reader and also very forgetful so soon figured out that if she became a librarian, she wouldn’t have to pay all those overdue fines that were bankrupting her childhood. After getting a master’s degree at Simmons College, she began a long career of library work: from academic libraries, The State Library, public libraries , then high school and later a middle school library. She also attended the University of New Hampshire which is where she met Cressy Goodwin and his wife Jeanne almost 60 years ago while in a square and folk dance group.

Her hobbies include reading, swimming, gardening, and traveling. She and her husband travelled extensively in the U.S. and were lucky enough to spend time in each of the fifty states before his death in 2013.

Her greatest joy is spending time with her children and grandkids. She shares with many of you the stress of taking a year out without any hugs and kisses! What a glorious Mothers’ Day that was!

Each year since 1969, Peg mailed out Christmas cards and over the years other people in diminishing numbers return theirs to her. Two years ago, on one of these cards, was a note from Cressy Goodwin. Except for Christmas cards, she hadn’t heard from him in decades! Jeanne had passed away years earlier and he suggested they get together. We did just that, and now they have both families to enjoy and celebrate with as well.

Peg first started coming to UUS:E a few years ago, and finally decided to sign the book this past June (with all the COVID precautions in place!). Now, Cressy and she have found real companionship and a spiritual home together and here at UUS:E.

Gina Mango

Gina moved to Connecticut in 2016 after living in Pennsylvania for 14 years where she attended college and graduate school, earning a master’s degree in Social Work. She grew up in Massachusetts until leaving for college and will always think of the Baystate as “home.”

As a child, Gina attended seven years of Catholic school and was baptized Protestant and attended a Congregational Church. In high school Gina was introduced to a Unitarian Universalist Society and, for the first time, felt a sense of belonging within a religious community. She remembered these experiences and, although she continued to attend various Christian services and lightly explored and educated herself about other religions, she never really connected with or felt able to personally align with and endorse the full message and interpretations presented to her other than within Unitarian Universalism.

Gina lives in Manchester where she works as a clinical consultant in the behavioral health unit of a disability insurance company and also has a private psychotherapy practice. She is hoping to bring her passion for mental health and children and families to this community.

We are UUs, continued

Steve Simon

Steve studied Chemistry at Lehigh University, Cleveland State University and Wayne State University receiving his PhD in 1975. His passion for environmental work began as a graduate student when he helped organize the first Earth Day event in Cleveland after watching the Cuyahoga River burn.

He is now a retired scientist/engineer with over 45 years of environmental experience and is currently volunteering for climate advocacy with Elders Climate Action where he is chair of their national policy committee. For over 12 years, Steve worked in many Russian districts and former Soviet Union countries on nuclear waste and non-proliferation for the DoD. He and his wife Ann lived in Moscow for two years.

Steve is a recovering Catholic, and he and Ann first discovered Unitarian Universalism in the early 80s while living in Las Vegas. They became very active in the small UU Fellowship where their two young children doubled the RE program. Ann and Steve became interested in modern Shamanism when visiting the UU retreat center, The Mountain, in the 90s. They have both taken numerous courses from the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and the Four Winds Society. Steve is interested in starting shamanic drumming/journeying circle at UUS:E.

Robin Byrne

Robin grew up in Huntington, Long Island, but her family longed to live in a more rural setting and moved to Connecticut in 1966. There, they enjoyed a large garden, and raised a few chickens, a couple of pigs and some sheep.

She grew up a Congregationalist and, when her children were young, taught Sunday school at Westfield Congregational Church in Danielson, CT. She longed for a spiritual connection, but realized she was really agnostic and has disassociated herself from the church for about 20 years.

She has a BA in fine arts and was a passionate public educator in the Brooklyn, CT school system, teaching in a middle school setting most of her career. With her fine arts background, she loved incorporating art in her classroom environment. Her last two years of teaching were at the elementary school after which she retired and downsized to a small home on a sweet lot in Ashford, CT with plenty of space for gardens and chickens and plenty of local farms nearby. She also continues to explore her artistic expressions in retirement.

She had hopes of doing some traveling but has gone nowhere since the pandemic hit. An avid reader, who is particularly drawn to realistic and historical fiction, she admits to reading and listening to too much news. She loves gardening, DIY, walking and hiking and is oftentimes seen with a rescue dog or two.

And in retirement, Robin also began seriously looking for a spiritual home. Over the course of several months, she visited many churches and came to UUS:E in December 2019, two months before the pandemic began. She loved that service and was taken with its lovely music. She continued to come to UUS:E and was able to attend more in-person services before they went on-line, and she knew then that she had found her spiritual home.

We are UUs, continued

Ann Simon

Ann was born in Dobbs Ferry, NY and grew up in Moorestown and Princeton, NJ. She and Steve spent most of their married life in Las Vegas and Virginia, but have lived all over, including two years in Moscow. They spent almost four years in Indiana before coming to Connecticut. Where they stayed with their son and his family in South Windsor until, in February, they found their home in Vernon.

She taught High School (English, Developmental Reading, World History, AP Psychology) and college (English and Technical Writing), because why stick to one prep when you can make yourself crazy? She was also a technical editor. When she and Steve lived in Moscow, she wrote a quirky novel, “Jaguar Sees: the Lacquer Box” and has a couple of humorous blogs floating around out there.

She and Steve have been married 50 years and were at Woodstock together. They have two children. Their daughter is Dean of Graduate Students and a Professor of Neuroscience at Ball State University. Their son is a Professor of Health Economics at UConn. Their parents are inordinately proud.

Ann is an introvert. Her interests include travel, quilting, reading and generally puttering around. She is a balletomane and wishes someone would offer daytime adult ballet classes. She is on the lookout for a couple of cats, so if you have extras, let her know.

She grew up as a Reformed Jew and since has grown into a Jewish/Shamanic/Unitarian community. Her spiritual dilemma is staying tethered rather than letting go.

Maureen Flanagan

Maureen grew up in a large, Irish Catholic family. She was raised in Manchester but has lived in Tolland for the past 20 years. Prior to moving to Tolland, Maureen spent 10 years living on Dartmoor in the southwest of England, where her daughter Michaela was born.

Maureen’s career as a Probation Officer started in the UK with the Devon Probation Service. Upon her return to CT, she landed a job as a Juvenile Probation Officer. She just celebrated her 21st anniversary working for the state, and she is currently making plans to retire from state service with the goal of applying her skills and experience in a different setting.

Her long journey to her UU home began after the death of her dad in 2014. When her father was no longer able to drive after a stroke, Maureen felt it was her duty, and privilege, to accompany him to weekly Mass at St Bridget’s church in Manchester. When she continued to attend church after her dad’s passing, she realized that the patriarchy of the Roman Catholic church, and the tenets of Christianity as a whole, were in conflict with her beliefs. She made a decision to take responsibility for her own spiritual practice, rather than being led by some misguided sense of obligation. Maureen participates, joyfully, in the Sacred Women’s Singing Circle, the UUS:E choir, and the Social Justice group.

Maureen is at her happiest when she is on top of a mountain, especially if it was hard work to get there! In between hikes, her two dogs make sure that she is walking…a lot. Raising her daughter as a single mother has been the greatest joy of her life.