By Sheila Mason Gale
August and Maria Grab grew up in Wehr-Oeflingen Germany near the Swiss border. They moved to Connecticut and eventually bought a farm in Canterbury in 1919 and had four children, John, Charlie, Annie and Hilda. Many of the Grab decedents still live in Canterbury today. The youngest, Hilda, married William Veit and they lived with August and Maria in the big farmhouse located just north of the intersection of Tracy Road and Cross Road.
William was a butcher in Plainfield and Hilda was a homemaker, but found time to be a member of the Canterbury Board of Education. Together they had five children: Kenneth, Marilyn (Latham), Glen, Karl and David. Today Karl lives in New York, but the other four children still live in Canterbury.
David Veit remembers growing up on the farm and that there was a lot of work to be done. They had chickens, pigs, beef and dairy cows. As a kid he spent time Henry Tetreault, the Becott children and his cousin, Noreen Grab. They did the usual fun things kids like to do like swimming in the summer, sledding, ice-skating and ice hockey in the winter.
David was in the first kindergarten class when the Dr. Helen Baldwin School opened. He also remembers when he was in the fifth grade. Mrs. Alva Lovell was the teacher on May Day (May 1st). It was a tradition for the students to put together a basket filled with goodies for the teacher, bring it to school, knock on the door and then hide and watch her find the basket. After discovering the May Baskety the children would go inside for a regular day at school. David’s class, of about twelve students, had other ideas. They didn’t just hide, they left the school, went down by the Quinebaug River and had a day off. Nobody got in trouble.
David liked sports and played baseball and basketball. He also played trumpet in a school band. Mr. Dennison taught the music classes in the Dr. Helen Baldwin School boiler room. Malcolm Wibberley also taught band after school.
As a teenager David got a hydroplane boat from his brother Glen and would race it on the Quinebaug River. They would race from Jewett City to above Butts Bridge. He remembers racing against Ron Gluck from Plainfield.
David went to Griswold High School. A few of his fellow students who still live in Canterbury are Joanne (Sheriden) Miller, Karvi Ruuskanen, Helen Coombs, Ruth Bassett, Martin Gluck and Julius Vapper. He then went to Ellis Tech to study tool and dye. The preciseness he learned here would help him later on in his woodworking hobby. At eighteen he was hired by the owner of Phillips Garage in Plainfield to drive a school bus. His route covered Jewett City, Canterbury and Voluntown.
His community service started early when at sixteen he became a member of the Canterbury Volunteer Fire Company. He worked his way through the Company and held several positions: Secretary, Vice President and President. He agreed to take the Fire Chief position for one year, and every year he would tell his wife, Linda, he was going to take it for just one more year. Well, that one more year became fifteen years—the longest any Chief has held the position.
Speaking of Linda, he met her when his brother in law, Jason Lathrup, said I bet you can’t get a date with Linda. Jason lost the bet and they have been married for 43 years.
David was one of the men in the Fire Company who was instrumental in helping Canterbury have its own ambulance. He pointed out that the response time would be quicker and be beneficial for Canterbury citizens if we had our own ambulance. The Fire Company agreed and in 1974 Canterbury got its first ambulance. David became an EMT and also drove the ambulance as needed.
David became a Selectman from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, First Selectman, Bob Manship, talked him into becoming the Public Works Director. He enjoyed the work and held the job for 20 years.
David continued his public service throughout the years by serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission, Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, CIP Committee, Ambulance Director, Tree Warden, Sexton and President of the Cemetery Association.
In his retirement, Dave is able to spend more time on woodworking projects. He not only creates pieces, but he also restores heirlooms. Mary Bergeron has a high chair that she estimates to be 100 years old. The family heirloom was used by her father, then her and her children. David repaired it and restored it to its original beauty.
With regard to his many years of community service, David said “the best part of the job was working with the public”.