ANSONIA — Gary and Judy Middleton are the Grand Marshals of the Ansonia July Fourth Parade to take place Saturday, July 1.
The request came from former Mayor and friend Jerry Koverman.
“It was a big surprise and a great honor to be chosen,” Judy said. “I said, ‘What fantastic things have we ever done?’”
The list is too long to fit into this story. They have both lived in Ansonia for 72 plus years and are still contributing to the small village. Gary owned a business, in Ansonia, for 35 years called Middleton Poultry, Inc. The company, started by his father Roscoe, in the 1930s, bought, sold and hauled live poultry. In 1947, his dad took a concrete building that was a three-story tobacco warehouse, and converted it into a chicken – growing operation.
“He had 12,000 chickens, which was unheard of; the largest in the United States at that time,” Gary said. “He got into buying and redistributing. We had the first semi-trucks in the United States to haul poultry. When we were in business here in town, many high school students worked for us. It was just a different world. If we gave our word about something, that was more important.”
He also belonged to the Ansonia Jaycees. Both Gary and Judy worked for Ansonia Local Schools. Judy was a “jack of all trades” there, starting as an aide, later helping to form community education classes, including the Ansonia Senior Citizens that is still going strong; then onto payroll and other duties.
“It was fun being around the kids, she said. I subbed later then gave it up to do my things,” Judy said.
Those things include enjoying family, cooking, eating, quilting, helping Gary with the yard work and making greeting cards. Gary was Transportation Supervisor and Bus mechanic for Ansonia Local Schools for 12 years, retiring in 2000. He still trains employees and remains certified. He also had a couple of other jobs around town. In addition, they are both very active in their church, Ansonia United Methodist. They help out with other churches doing community outreach, such as the food pantry and community meals.
“We started out serving more than 200 people at a meal, now it is a little under 100,” Judy said. “We have done this for about 13 years and are hoping to continue.”
According to the Middletons, there have been many changes in Ansonia over the years, but it was once a booming little town. Main street once had: a doctor, dentist, dry cleaner, two meat markets, three grocery stores, an appliance store and a drug store, Judy said. And nothing was ever open on Sunday. Big industry has taken a lot of that away.
“Back in the day, we knew everyone in town,” Judy said.
What has stayed the same?
“We are about it,” Gary said laughing.
And the July Fourth Parade. Judy recalled the time in the late 1960s when she and her best friend dressed their kids in swimming suits, put down a green rug, had a swimming pool, beach balls and palm branches to make the only float in the parade. All this time later, she and Gary will ride in the convertible as Grand Marshalls.
The Middletons have been married 58 years. They have three daughters, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Most of their family will visit them for the holiday, when they will buy chicken barbecue and watch the fireworks. For the Middletons, their secret to living well has been keeping busy, working hard and keeping family close, they said.
“It has been fun,” Judy said. “Life has gone by so fast, I can’t believe we are this old.”