By Rita Christopher / Zip06.com • 07/21/2021 8:30 AM EST
Do lions eat lobster? Maybe not on the plains of Africa, but here in Connecticut they’ll at least cook some lobsters on Saturday August 7 during the Essex Lions Annual Lobster Bake. The event, at Main Street Park in Essex Village, takes place rain or shine.
Denise Dudak, from Madison, will be in the thick of it as she is the co-chair of the event, along with her life and lobster partner, Tom Langlois.
Perhaps, because she will be on her feet to make sure everything goes smoothly, Denise will be wearing her usual work shoes, sturdy construction boots.
This is because Denise has her own business, Forbearance Power Line Construction, which not only repairs power lines but also builds patios and retaining walls as well as landscaping and installing lawns and gardens. She is accredited as a master gardener and, in addition to her long list of licenses and certifications, she includes technical and safety expertise.
“A lot of women spend on dress shoes. I would buy a good pair of work boots before high heels. I wear heels for two hours and work boots 14 hours a day, ”she explains.
In addition to her own business, Denise also works for Asplundh, the company specializing in tree pruning and removal for utility companies.
There aren’t many women working in the kind of jobs Denise does, although her daughter, Erin Nott of Killingworth, also works as an assistant project manager for another construction company.
Denise admits she has faced some skepticism from her male counterparts, but says her expertise allays doubts.
“For the most part, people are respectful. They can see that I know my stuff. I earn respect and I also give them respect, ”she said.
Denise studied nursing after graduating from Daniel Hand High School and began her current career when a professional colleague noticed her interest in occupational medicine and safety. This led to a nursing position in occupational medicine with what was then Northeast Utilities, now Eversource.
She appreciates not only the difficult conditions in which the workers of the external public services work, but also their commitment in their work.
“I see people on Facebook making fun of Eversource, but these are men who risk their lives,” she said.
She recalls a situation where people had worked to restore power for a week in freezing weather with ice and snow. The workers did not stop, even on Christmas Eve.
“They wouldn’t leave until everyone turned on the power,” she said.
Last winter’s slow work schedule had an unexpected benefit. Denise and Tom usually take a while and travel to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, but last year, due to delays and cancellations related to the pandemic, they were unable to arrange return flights.
“I spent hours and hours on the phone; we could go to Honolulu but not go home, ”she said.
They spent 10 weeks in Kauai.
“In the end, we just relaxed and enjoyed it,” says Denise.
Denise, who now lives in Deep River, has been a member of the Essex Lions Club for 24 years; she was club president as was her sister Katie Keleman, assistant tax collector at Westbroook. Membership has become a family tradition. Katie Keleman’s husband Joe and son Andy are also members of the Lions. (The Westbrook club teamed up with the Essex Lions several years ago.)
Today, Denise is president of the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation. Funding eye disease research has always been at the heart of the international mission of Lions clubs around the world since Helen Keller spoke at the first International Lions Convention in l925 and challenged the group. to fight against eye diseases by becoming Knights of the Blind.
In Connecticut, the Eye Research Foundation funds eye disease research at the University of Connecticut and participates in other eye-related medical programs. Locally, Lions pay for both eye exams and eyeglasses for residents who cannot afford them.
“It’s a great feeling to be part of the community,” says Denise. “Helping people, making someone smile, that’s part of my heart. Lions are one of my passions.
Denise says making the annual lobster pastry requires not only the efforts of Essex Lions Club members, but also their families and other caregivers. The menu includes lobster or steak, corn, potatoes. Bill’s Seafood in Westbrook contributes coleslaw; the desert is ice cream bars. Iced tea and lemonade are included in the price of the meal, but those who want something stronger can bring their own drinks. There is a cash raw bar with a shrimp cocktail, clams and a clam chowder.
Denise has no trouble reciting the menu. On the evening of cooking the lobster, however, she will have a hard time finding a time to eat it.
“I’m usually too tired to eat the lobster I paid for,” she admits. “I pack it up and bring it home and pick it up and have a lobster salad the next day.”
Essex Lions Club Lobster Bake
The Essex Lions Club Lobster Bake will take place rain or shine on Saturday August 7th at Main Street Park Essex Village. The raw bar opens at 3:30 p.m. dinner is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are available on the Essex Lions Facebook page or the Essex Lions website www.essexlionsclub.org and at the door on lobster cooking day.