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Snapshot: Gina Pin



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Family: I’m married to my husband Marc, and we have two grown children — son Daniel and his wife Kelly, and they have two children, Amelia, who is 10, and Benjamin, who’s 7, and they live in Pennsylvania; and daughter Catherine and her partner Evan, and they also live in Pennsylvania.

Do you have any pets? We don’t have any now — I’m allergic to dogs and cats — but we had ferrets when the kids were little. Very interesting pets. Little thieves. They used to steal the keys, but they were very consistent. They would hide them in the same places in the house. Bucky and Jade were their names, and they were a lot of fun.

How long have you lived in Newtown? Five years.

Career: I’m retired. I was the assistant superintendent and head of school at Joel Barlow High School in Redding. That’s one of the reasons we moved to Newtown, in fact. We lived in Ridgefield, and we moved here after I had that job for a bit and it was wonderful, especially when there were late night meetings. Home was just a few minutes away after we moved here.

What do you like to do in your free time? I’m an adjunct professor at Manhattanville University. I’m also vice president of Newtown Woman’s Club, and I love all that philanthropy, whether it’s planting flags at the monument and honoring veterans, and so many other things that keep us very busy. I’m involved in church. I’m Catholic, and we attend St Elizabeth Seton in Ridgefield and St Rose here in Newtown. I grew up in Ridgefield and my family actually built St Elizabeth Seton Church; it used to be just a big field. In the 70s we formed a parish; we used to be part of St Mary’s in Ridgefield, so that’s always going to be home. My children had all their sacraments there, Marc and I were married there … it’s always going to be home. We’re official members of St Elizabeth Seton, but we help out at the St Rose carnival. We’ll be working in the food tent.

I’m also involved in Encounter School of Ministry, a phenomenal organization that’s kind of a Bible experience. I also teach catechism at St Elizabeth Seton. I’m a Eucharistic Minister of Mercy, which means I go and visit nursing homes and bring the Eucharist there. My husband is involved in a group called Off The Streets, and it puts people that are homeless into homes, and then we both participate in Spirit Builders, which builds ramps for handicapped people. So we joke that we help people get into a home, and we help them get out too. We have actually built ramps here in Newtown.

I’m taking guitar lessons with Jim Allyn, and I love hanging out with the grandkids. We have a pontoon boat on Candlewood Lake, and we all love being on that.

Do you have a favorite book? Anything John Steinbeck ever wrote. He’s definitely a favorite.

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your life? When I was a child, I’d experienced a lot of hearing loss that nobody knew about. I didn’t realize I was reading lips — children are so resilient. I grew up in New York and it wasn’t until I was age 10 or 11, when we moved to Connecticut, that I had an excellent teacher who realized it. I got surgery and can hear much better, and I think that beginning of childhood of not hearing well got me very in tune to paying attention to my surroundings and people. It made me very empathetic and aware of what was going on. It really shaped my career path. I taught special education, and then general education, and then college level psychology. I earned my doctorate at Manhattanville University, studying resiliency and mindfulness. I really think those early experiences had to shape this.

What is the most recent movie you’ve seen in the theater? In my book group, we saw Where The Crawdads Sing at Edmond Town Hall. There was a rerelease of Casablanca, and that was good too.

Favorite musician? James Taylor is my all-time favorite.

Favorite music genre? Folk, although I really love classical and rock. There’s no kind of music I really don’t listen to.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Follow my true north. Know what it is, and then follow it.

Do you have any pet peeves? Cell phone use where it shouldn’t be, like restaurants. You see whole families now and they’re all on their phone. It’s off-putting, and just puts up that wall of “Don’t say Hello.”

Favorite color? Purple.

What is something you cannot live without? My family.

What is your favorite thing about Newtown? The absolute love in this community. My grandson Benjamin is a cancer survivor at the ripe old age of 7. When we first moved to Newtown we had a lot of things that came with us, and we had to downsize further. So we decided to have a tag sale. Benny was going through his cancer treatment, and it was September, and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so we decided to have a tag sale where everything was free. So we took donations to put toward Benjamin’s gofundme, to help with his cancer treatment. There was one Newtown gentleman who came and walked around, and then he said “I don’t want anything,” and he left. Then he came back, and said, “I needed to go to the ATM, to take out money, to donate to Benjamin.” It was amazing. We ended up giving the kids a check for over $2,000. People wanted to hear his story. Newtown is just such a beautiful, loving community.

And it’s not a tiny town, but it so feels that way. I think The Bee also contributes to that small town feeling. It’s just that community feeling — taking pictures of kids and highlighting events. Even this column [Snapshot], it brings the town together, and introduces you to people. You read what people are involved in and think, “Oh, what a great thing that is.”

Do you have a personal credo? There is no one you couldn’t love once you get to know their story. I really live my life by that.

Gina Pin —Bee Photo, Hicks
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