Spotlight on Charlotte Barrows
Jenny Deferari often helped her parents in their small grocery store in Bridgeport, CT. At least once a week, a Lebanese grocery wholesaler named Frank Kaidy came to the family store to supply it with produce. Not only did Mr. Deferari purchase Frank’s goods, eventually Mr. Deferari gave his daughter's hand in marriage to Frank. After marrying in Bridgeport, the couple moved to Danbury, where Frank resided. They gave birth to their first daughter, Virginia, at Danbury Hospital. When Virginia was three years old, the Kaidys welcomed their second daughter, Charlotte, on February 5, 1927.
Charlotte recalls how wonderful it was to grow up in Danbury, ""Danbury was a very small town of only 15-20,000 people. It was very nice. Everyone knew everyone. The highlight was sitting in a parked car on a Saturday night on Main Street, watching people go by.""
Charlotte attended St. Joseph's Elementary School, where her second grade teacher immediately recognized her aptitude and promoted her to third grade. Charlotte graduated from Danbury High School in 1943, at age 16. After graduation, she attended the Junior College of Bridgeport (presently, the University of Bridgeport) to pursue an Associate’s degree to become a certified medical secretary.
After graduating, she worked in various hospitals, relocating as required, to gain as much experience as possible to improve her employment status. For example, Charlotte moved to Staten Island, NY, when she had an opportunity to work at Halloran General, the largest army hospital in the world. Charlotte admired the work of this VA hospital, which treated WWII veterans.
Each time Charlotte chose to change jobs, it was always for a better job opportunity. One of her final positions as a medical secretary was in the pathology department at Danbury Hospital. Although Charlotte enjoyed the work, she quickly realized that there were few opportunities for advancement, and changed careers to become an executive secretary. She obtained a longtime position at Consolidated Controls in Bethel (formerly Flight Refueling), as Executive Secretary to the President, Joe Engelberger, who is known as the Father of Robotics. She relocated for a short time when the company moved to Washington D.C. She worked at the company until her marriage in 1962, and then returned to her career there in 1979 until she retired.
However, life for Charlotte was not all work and no play! In the 1940s, she and her girlfriend decided that they would travel together and met with a travel agent, who organized an incredible trip to Mexico. They traveled for three or four weeks by bus, staying in hotels along the way. Charlotte laughs when she recalls how he handed each of them a fistful of bus tickets for their trip, which they used all the way from Danbury to Mexico City, and back. They loved Mexico, which was due in large part to the friendliness and hospitality of the Mexican people. Although Charlotte enjoyed every moment of her trip, her mom was not as keen about her young daughter's trip. ""Today, I understand why she was apprehensive. I don't think that two single girls would take that kind of trip today. We did it without speaking a single word of Spanish! Today, I think that a trip like that would be too dangerous for two young single girls."" That first adventure turned out to be just the beginning! Among her many expeditions were several trips to Europe, some by sea and others by air. Each trip has provided her with countless cherished memories.
Charlotte was always a physically active person. So, when she wasn't traveling, Charlotte was either walking or dancing. Charlotte loved dancing and enrolled at Arthur Murray to keep abreast of all the newest dances. On her last day of class, she met Jack Barrows, who was attending his first dance lesson. They hit it off immediately and began dating. And, as you may have guessed, many of those dates were spent on the dance floor—a passion which continued throughout their many years of marriage!
From the time he was a young child, Jack was never seen without a pencil and paper in hand. ""He would rather draw then eat!"" Charlotte laughs. Jack attended the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. After graduation, he worked in advertising as a graphic artist. At the time he and Charlotte married, he began a position as a visual materials specialist for the Norwalk school system, a role he held for 18 years until venturing out on his own as a freelancer. With his talents as a portrait artist and cartoonist, he developed a special niche sketching on-the-spot cartoon portraits at local arts events and children's birthday parties. Jack was also well-respected in the community for his drawings of historic Danbury buildings, which were featured in a local calendar. Some of his prints still grace the walls of Danbury Town Hall today.
After a period of dating, Charlotte and Jack were married in 1962, at St. Gregory's Catholic Church. They built a house on a parcel of land that had originally been part of a 59-acre peach orchard and grape vineyard purchased by Charlotte’s father in 1910. In subsequent years, Charlotte’s father had developed the land into building lots, cutting streets in a grid fashion and naming them sequentially – First Street, Second Street, etc. Charlotte laughs when she thinks about her parents’ lack of originality in picking street names. The longest street, Virginia Avenue, was named after her sister. And, as Charlotte notes with chagrin and amusement, there was supposed to be a Charlotte Street too but the plan never materialized. After the deaths of Charlotte’s father and mother, Charlotte and Jack became the third generation to live in the family’s Hospital Avenue homestead.
Charlotte and Jack gave birth to two sons, Paul and Bruce. Paul resides in San Francisco where he works as a research librarian for the Federal Reserve Bank. Bruce, who entered the job market during the advent of personal computers, has enjoyed a successful career as a software engineer. He is currently employed at Pitney Bowes and lives in Danbury.
While her sons were growing up, Charlotte remained at home to raise her boys. While raising her sons, Charlotte realized that the Danbury school system did not provide programs for accelerated learning, so she advocated for programs to meet their educational needs. When the boys graduated from school, she resumed her career at Consolidated Controls, which later became part of the Eaton Corporation.
Following her retirement, Charlotte took on a role as chairperson of the Danbury Commission on Aging at the senior center. Charlotte always listened to the concerns of seniors and did her best to advocate for their needs. For example, seniors expressed how difficult it was to find contractors without being scammed. Charlotte worked with others to research and compile a list of reputable area contractors to allay their frustrations. One of Charlotte's last agendas was to advocate for appropriate housing for seniors. She observed that luxury housing and low-income housing are available to seniors, but senior housing for those with middle incomes did not exist in downtown Danbury. She partnered with Lynn Waller to speak on the local Danbury cable channel, to advocate for senior housing. This resulted in units built on Foster Street. It was a victory, but Charlotte believes that more is needed.
Charlotte and Jack were married for 33 years until Jack died from lung cancer in 1995. Of her life, Charlotte says, ""I was always on the go. I was always on one committee or another and found it very satisfying to be involved. It was very interesting to me because I was able to meet a lot of people and I liked that.""