Donald Sumner Farrington

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Groton - Donald Sumner Farrington, of 92 Front St., Noank, died peacefully on Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, surrounded by his family.

Don was born on Sept. 28, 1925, to Earl A. and Edith (Virtue) Farrington, in Sommerville, Mass. Growing up in Vermont, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943, and after attending the Naval Submarine School in Groton, was assigned to active duty on the USS Apogon (SS-308) in the Pacific Theater.

After the war, Don earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Vermont and a master's degree in social work from Boston University. He dedicated the next 40 years of his professional life to working in the human services field. He spent 10 years as superintendent and then executive director of Spaulding Youth Center in Tilton, N.H., a provider of educational, residential, therapeutic and foster care programs and services for children and youth. During this time in 1958 he married Rose-Marie Manes of Chicago.

In 1964, Don, Rose, and their three children moved to Noank, to be "near the salt water and sea air". Inspired by the new national recognition of the issues of poverty and mental health, he started as the director of the Southeastern Connecticut Mental Health Association, and then became the executive director of the United Community Services in Norwich for the next 25 years. His legacy there of involvement with mental health, school health, dental, and senior services for the children and the elderly includes the creation of the Norwich Child and Family Development Program, which efforts combined with other local agencies resulted in an innovative and comprehensive approach to preventing the effects of poverty on young children. Don was instrumental in other major program startups and management such as the United Way, Home Health Aide Services, Dental Clinics for Disadvantaged Children, Primary Prevention in Mental Illness, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Information and Referral Services, Adult Day Care in Norwich and the shoreline area, and Hospice.

Those who worked with and knew Don during his professional career remember his passion and drive, balanced by his sense of humor and sensitivity.

Other professional and community involvement include helping create and becoming the first president of the Council of Agency Executives, and doing the same for the Council of Human Resources of Southeastern Connecticut. He served as vice president of the Northern Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and was a charter member of the State Advisory Council to the Department of Children and Youth Services, and the Board of the Voluntary Action Center for Southeastern Connecticut. He was a member and past president of the Norwich Rotary Club, the executive board of the Backus Hospital and past president of the Thames Valley Council for Community Action and the Uncas Advisory Council as well as the Southeastern Connecticut Mental Health Association.

Don loved his family and the outdoors, and for many years he enjoyed taking family and friends on sailing cruises up and down the New England seacoast, ski trips on New England slopes, and hiking trips on the Appalachian Trail and in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. His memorable outdoor achievements were being navigator on a regularly successful local 37' one ton racing vessel, crewmember on a 48' racing sailboat in the 1972 transatlantic Race of Discovery and on a 1993 transatlantic delivery aboard a 44' sailing sloop, hiking all 48 4000+ foot mountain peaks in New Hampshire, and winning his class on the family's 27' sailboat Apogee in the 1974 fall Off Soundings sailing regatta. He was a member of the Ram Island Yacht Club.

An accomplished photographer, Don regularly submitted photos to regional newspapers while covering human interest stories and local events.

Music was an important part of Don's life. He began playing the 4-string tenor banjo at age 50. He enjoyed traveling to jazz festivals around the country, and sang and played banjo in the banjo/guitar/tuba trio Three Sheets To The Wind, and longstanding local jazz groups Mom's Apple Pie Banjo Band, and the Rock of Ages Jazz Band.

Even after retirement, community involvement continued throughout Don's life. In 2002, he co-founded the musical duo "Banjo Buddies" and they were consistently booked for ‘gigs' at nursing homes in the area. Don was instrumental in helping the grassroots organization "OSCA" (Our Shoreline Community Association) grow and expand in this area. He was a member and was on the OSCA board of directors.

Donald is survived by his wife, Rose-Marie; and their children, David and his wife, Leopoldine, of Bordeaux, France, Judith "Jody" Farrington of Noank, and Jennifer and her husband, Raymond Hoffmann, of Ridgecrest, Calif. He also is survived by his five grandchildren, Kristen, Sophie, Amanda, Z.J., and Eden.

A memorial service is being planned for February, 2014.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Noank Historical Society Red Building Fund at P.O. Box 9454, Noank, CT 06340 or "OSCA" at P.O. Box 287, West Mystic, CT 06388.
Published in The Day on Dec. 29, 2013
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