What We Gained, What We Have Lost
“As long as I can remember, finding out about the past and the town has fascinated me,” Dan Cruson told The Newtown Bee in 2014.
Dan, Newtown’s Town Historian, passed away this week, but has left behind his fascination of our town in a trove of information painstakingly and lovingly gathered — the places and the people who might have been overlooked were it not for the curiosity of our historian.
At The Newtown Bee, we have benefited from his knowledge of the town and eagerness to share that knowledge whenever a question regarding Newtown’s history arose. “Ask Dan Cruson,” was the advice freely given to Bee staff members, and one I took to heart as a new reporter in 2005. It was Dan’s valuable insight in our many interviews over the years that breathed life into this town for me, that made this town truly my “home” town. It seemed no matter the quest, Dan had an answer or knew where to find it. We leaned on his numerous books for details otherwise lost: A Mosaic of Newtown History, Images of America’s Newtown and Newtown: 1900-1960; as well as the oral histories collected with coeditors Mary Maki and Andrea Zimmermann — and the one focused on the historian himself (newtownbee.com/03282020/for-generations-to-enjoy-life-of-newtown-historian-daniel-cruson-recorded). We could be assured that whatever the information provided by him, it would be accurate and thorough.
Dan’s passion about uncovering a new aspect of the town’s history was palpable in conversation, and he was never loathe to keep that news to himself. Though his career as a history teacher at Joel Barlow High School may have ended with his 2005 retirement, his love of teaching was never-ending. Through lectures at the C.H. Booth Library, at Historical Society presentations, at private gatherings, through his detailed Rooster’s Crow newsletters; through guided walks in Newtown and Sandy Hook, and talks as he rode the trolley during the NYFS Holiday Festival; through any conversation struck up casually — we were recipients of his treasure chest of knowledge.
In deciphering the ephemera that came his way, Dan took pains to make his discoveries known in a user-friendly format so that Newtown’s history could be easily understood. It was his gift to help others develop a kindred love of all things historical.
It was never just a list of events and dates that swelled his notebooks or peppered his talks. His research delved into the personalities of Sandy Hook and Newtown. They did not need to be “important” people. His interest, as he once shared with this paper, was who they were “and why they did what they did.” By giving life to these personalities, he let them live on. He connected the dots from our past to our present.
A member of the Newtown Historical Society since the mid-1970s, Dan Cruson was the logical choice when the Legislative Council created the position of Town Historian in 1994. His shoes will be, as the saying goes, big ones to fill.
What is history without a historian to capture it? A more dedicated servant to history than Dan Cruson is hard to imagine; and Newtown, without Dan Cruson, is even harder to imagine.
We are humbly grateful for his contributions to Newtown. Thank you, Dan. Go in peace.