Allen Groves Berrien
A lifelong Milford resident, Allen Graves Berrien was born on December 27, 1932 to C. Gordon Berrien and Helen G. Berrien and died on April 13, 2020. It is so fitting that he passed on a stormy weather day. Few things brought him more joy than a good storm, it was almost as though he arranged it.
He is survived by his brothers: David N. (Judy) Berrien of Tallahasee, FL and Peter L. (Judy) Berrien of Dennis, MA; by his children: Allen D. Berrien of Falls Village, Nancy (Stephen) Bennett, of Milford, Laurel (William) VanWilgen of Branford, and Leigh Bak of Milford; his grandchildren: Andrew Bodick, Katharine Mix, Stephen Bak, Emily Bak, Kate Briggs, Elizabeth Berrien, Heather Berrien, and Douglas Berrien; and by Florence Berrien, his former wife, mother of his children, high school sweetheart, and lifelong friend.
Allen graduated from Milford High School in 1950 and served in the US Navy from 1951 – 1955. Upon his discharge from the Navy, he worked at Pratt and Whitney while attending Quinnipiac College where he obtained his Associates Degree.
He was the owner and operator of Milford Boat Works which was founded by his father in 1946. Allen may not have been the founder, but he and Flo, together with his longtime business partner Barry Peale, grew the boatyard into the amazing facility it is today. Until the day he died, one of his favorite things to talk about was what was going on at the boatyard. If we were doing something wrong, he'd let us know.
He was a consummate boat handler. At first, it seemed to be just bravado but it turned out he was just so darned confident and skilled. He did scare the you-know-what out of his family many times with said bravado.
His sailing skills earned him many awards throughout Long Island Sound and beyond. Many Berrien dogs got to drink from the abundance of silver-plated trophies that he collected over the years. He got a big kick out of that…dogs drinking out of silver-plate and kids drinking out of jelly jars.
Sea Scout Ship 25 was formed in his living room nearly 60 years ago. From that time until it was disbanded about ten years ago, it provided many young men and women with an education about being on the water, sailing and adventure. Allen remained in touch with many of the original Sea Scouts.
Allen served for many years as a volunteer firefighter in the City of Milford, ultimately serving as Captain of Arctic Engine Company Number 1. Flo and his children all remember the sound of the Plectron going off in the middle of the night, and Dad racing off to a fire. We all super-enjoyed that magnetic blue light he stuck on the roof of the car, especially when he let us go to a fire with him. How he ever had the energy to get up and go to work the next morning still puzzles us.
He was an early board member who volunteered tirelessly for Connecticut Marine Trades Association in its infancy. He was very proud of his work with the marine trades, especially in establishing a boat show and in lobbying for legislation about anything involving the water. He co-founded CHUM (Concerned Harbor Users of Milford) with his dear friends Al Hotchkiss and Ken Neff. Together they brought many issues important to the vitality and environment of Milford Harbor into the eyes of the public.
He served as Harbormaster in Milford, served on the Harbor Commission for many years and worked hard to form Milford's Harbor Management Plan, the first of its kind in the State of Connecticut. He was instrumental in the planning and building of Milford's Lisman Landing Marina, the public marina in Milford. When he got frustrated by the slow-moving wheels of planning for the marina, he engaged a local architect and just paid for the plans. Allen just believed in getting things done.
He was an active and devoted member of Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church and served on numerous committees there including the Board of Trustees and was instrumental in forming the Foundation for the church. Ironically, he wasn't born a Methodist; he was raised a Congregationalist. Every Sunday morning, his Mom would clean him up and send him off to Sunday School at the "Big White Church". Until he came home with a perfect attendance award from the Methodist church, she was none the wiser. It turned out the Methodist church was a shorter walk. Bingo!
He never met a restaurant that he didn't feel deserved his utmost devotion and attention. When dementia forced his move to assisted living, we found the Styrofoam packing still in his oven… ten years after it was installed. He struggled with how to leave a proper tip and was generous to a fault. Since Mom always did the math when they were married, Dad just thought it best to round up. If the bill was $21, he'd round it up to $40! Quite a few happy servers out there!
He served on so many committees and boards that it's really hard to remember them all. I think what we'd like to remember is that if he believed in something, he would work to make it happen. What more to share about Allen? He was a voracious reader, an unbridled sharer of opinions, a devotee of corny jokes, loved gardening and trees, and was as hard a worker as was ever born. He was a tough employer but always fair. He loved all dogs and shared a special bond with his own dogs throughout his lifetime. Additionally, the man just plain loved to drive. Not your typical Sunday afternoon drive mind you. Proof? When he volunteered with the International Executive Service Corps, he drove to Guatemala, not once but twice.
All of these things made Allen an amazing man and a memorable character. It would be wrong to ignore the fact that when you added dementia to his strong personality traits, the outcome was "challenging." This made his later years difficult for his family, friends, and caregivers (and downright torture for him as his independence slipped away). To that end, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the amazing care provided to him by Shana Hylton, which allowed him to remain in his beautiful home for as long as possible. Special thanks to Dean Swanson of Woodbury, former operator of Hill's Service Station at the corner of Lafayette and Broad. We lovingly referred to his tenure "visiting" at Dean's as "adult daycare." Dean is truly as good a friend as can be had.
Thanks as well to the amazing staff at Wesley Village who provided care and comfort to Dad and finally to Dr. Susan Kashaf of the West Haven VA Hospital. Words cannot describe how special she was to Allen, she "got" him, and that wasn't always easy.
If you feel the need to honor Allen in some way, please do something nice for someone. If you're reading this, you probably already do nice things, just do something even nicer.
Cody-White Funeral Home in Milford is assisting the family with arrangements and there will be no services at this time. The family will plan an event in the future where we hope more "colorful" stories about him can be shared. To leave online condolences, please visit www.codywhitefuneralservice.com